It's Time to Finally Address The Issue of Slow Play on Tour
Golfshake's Derek Clements shares his next View From The Fairway...
SOMETHING needs to be done to address slow play in the professional game - and it needs to be done now.
The pace of play at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore was funereal with several players put on the clock. But, as per normal, no penalties were handed out. Things were little better at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill - there, at least, the field could legitimately point to a testing golf course with actual real rough and properly fast putting surfaces.
Week in, week out we see top professionals - men and women - taking five hours and more to complete 18 holes of golf.
I don’t know about you but I have been in a situation during which I have played in competitions when it has taken this long to get back to the clubhouse, and it has driven me to distraction.
I remember playing in an 18-hole medal at Rushmere Golf Club in Ipswich. It took us five-and-a-half hours to complete the round. I started off playing really well but by the time we reached the 10th tee I had lost all interest in proceedings. We waited on every single shot and I found myself becoming more and more frustrated by it all, so much so that when we finally staggered off the 18th green I vowed that I would never again compete in a medal at Rushmere.
And I didn’t. Within a month I had joined another golf club.
Slow play is the modern curse of this great game of ours. What I cannot understand is that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LPGA Tour all have it within their power to impose penalties for slow play.
In May last year, Ian Poulter revealed that he had been included on a PGA Tour list identifying players who took an average of more than 45 seconds to play a shot. Poulter revealed that all players with a per stroke average of more than 45 seconds would be placed on the list.
In 2020, the tour introduced a raft of changes in its pace-of-play policy, the most notable among them being that it would punish individuals rather than groups as well as maintain the secret observation list for excessive shot times for players.
In addition to the per-stroke average time to play a shot, any player who receives two excessive shot times in a tournament - taking more than 120 seconds to hit a shot without a valid reason - would also land on the list for their next tournament.
The list is updated on a weekly basis. Those who land on it are meant to be monitored during rounds and subject to a 60-second timing limit for all shots, absent a valid reason for taking longer, and even if the group is not out of position. A player will receive a warning for their first bad time and a one-stroke penalty for their second.
For each additional bad time, another one-shot penalty will be given. Excessive shot times will also result in fines. For a second bad time, a player will be fined $50,000. Each additional bad time is another $20,000.
Well that’s the theory. But still rounds take five hours and more. For those who watch the game, whether it be live or on TV, it is a complete turn-off.
We see endless practice swings, huge debates between caddie and player about club selection and interminable time taken to work out the lines of putts. The PGA and DP World Tours have banned the used of greens books. The aim was to speed up play. It hasn’t happened.
Club golfers watch all this happening and then go out and copy them. Is it any wonder that slow play remains so prevalent?
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