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PLEASE Can We Do Something About Slow Play

By: | Fri 12 Apr 2024

For this week's View From The Fairway, Golfshake's Derek Clements returns to an issue that still hasn't gone away on tour - slow play!

I HATE slow play. It is the scourge of the modern game at all levels, from the PGA Tour to the fairways of our own golf clubs.

The pace of play on the PGA Tour is funereal, and something simply has to be done to stamp this out.

Our surveys here at Golfshake constantly reveal that slow play is right up there as one of the issues that wind you up. I have stopped playing weekend golf because I simply cannot bear to be involved in a five-hour round. And I have finally accepted that four hours seems to be par for the course.

I want to highlight a couple of recent incidents on the PGA Tour that caught my eye.

I was watching the second round of the Valspar Championship and followed the progress of Akshay Bhatia

It was early in the round and he was playing a par four and left his drive some 110-120 yards from the green. When he got to his ball I decided to start the stopwatch on my iPhone. I have watched a fair amount of Bhatia. He is a player who gets on with things when he finally stands over the ball. But before that? Oh dear?

So he decided to walk up to the putting surface from where his ball lay. In the meantime, his playing partners had played their approaches. Bhatia then ambled back down the fairway, seemingly without a care in the world. He had a discussion with his caddie, pulled out his club and struck the ball to six feet. And the time taken from originally getting to the ball to striking it? Five minutes and 10 seconds.

This was from the middle of the fairway. The PGA Tour stipulates that players have 40 seconds to play a shot from the time they arrive at the ball. We all know that very few players ever adhere to this limit. And yet penalties for slow play remain as rare as hen’s teeth. And, of course, not a word was said to Bhatia. Why not?

He repeated this behaviour at the Houston Open and again in winning the Texas Open. He is a slow player and he needs to be taken to task.

And at the Houston Open there was another even more bizarre time-wasting incident involving Tony Finau and Alejandro Tosti.

They were playing with Belgium’s Thomas Detry in the final group during the third round at Memorial Park.

At the fourth hole, Finau and Tosti both hit approach shots that finished within a foot of one another. But who was away? Both golfers started pacing around the green, clearly thinking the other was further away. The balls were on a very similar line to the hole - and that always means that the golfer playing second had a clear advantage because he can watch his playing partner and get a better idea of the exact line of the putt he will face.

Tosti is a PGA Tour rookie. He is from Argentina and is known to be a pretty fiery character. He and Finau were unable to decide who should putt first, so asked Detry for his opinion and he reckoned that it was Tosti. He clearly disagreed as he started walking the line of the putt to get a read. He wandered back, crouched down and prepared to replace his golf ball. He eventually marked his ball again and walked towards Finau and the two men began talking.

Tosti stepped in to show Finau where he would be standing if he putted. Finau’s mark was to the left of Tosti’s, meaning the right-handed Tosti would have Finau’s marker in between him and his own ball. Eventually, they decided again Tosti was away, but Finau moved his marker one clubhead to the left.

Finally, after three minutes, 23 seconds, Tosti hit the putt. It rolled with perfect speed to the hole but missed to the right. He tapped in for a four. And once again, nothing was said to him about the time he had taken.

There is more to this story. At the very next hole, Tosti holed a birdie putt and seemed to make a point of fist-pumping in Finau’s face. Tony Finau is one of the most mild-mannered golfers on the PGA Tour.

There are several issues here. There is the slow play that consistently goes unpunished, and there is plain bad behaviour.

I do not approve of what Tosti did but he is by no means alone. 

I grow weary of listening to commentators having to apologise for any bad language we overhear during TV coverage. These players know that the eyes of the world are upon them and that children watch them play - and that microphones pick up their every word. So not only should they be taken to task about slow play but they also need to be fined for bad language.

I have said before that handing golfers one- and two-stroke penalties for slow play will soon sort out the issue.

And the problem is that their antics are replicated on the fairways of golf clubs the length and breadth of the land.

Most tour professionals do not shout "Fore" when they hit a wayward shot - and that’s because they hope that if a ball hits somebody in the gallery that it might rebound into play. They do not have to look for golf balls because when they miss fairways there are spotters who have already located the ball by the time the player arrives on the scene.

Slow Play

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Club golfers used to routinely yell "Fore" when hitting wayward golf shots. I know it is not my imagination that tells me this has become a dying art. 

And don’t get me started on lost balls. If I hit a wayward drive I will automatically reach for a provisional. Why doesn’t everybody do that? And when I look for my golf ball I will give myself three minutes to find it - if I haven’t located it by then I will play my provisional. Why? Because golf’s rules quite clearly stipulate that you have three minutes to look for a lost ball. NOT five minutes, NOT 10 minutes.

Oh yes, and if I feel that my group is holding up the players behind us, I will wave them through.

Standards have slipped but the PGA Tour and DP World Tour have the power to get things back on track - let’s see slow players being made an example of by penalising them. PLEASE! 

It should be Guy Kinnings' first task as new DP World Tour chief executive.

Related Content

What Golfers REALLY Think About Slow Play

Slow Play - How to Keep Things Moving on The Golf Course

18 Tips to Improve Pace of Play on The Golf Course

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