Tours & News
10 Things About Slow Play
With pace of play discussion rampant, a quick summary of all things S-L-O-W in golf
April 11, 2013
How Different Tours Deal With It
Morgan Pressel's penalty at the Sybase Match Play has drawn the most notoriety, but she is actually the third player to be penalized this year on the LPGA, and five were penalized last year. Players on the LPGA have 30 seconds per shot. On the PGA Tour, they have 40 seconds per shot with an extra 20 seconds allotted for various situations. It's much more difficult to be penalized, though, since a player is first informed he is out of position (placed on the clock) and then given another warning if he exceeds the 40-second rule before a second offense finally draws a one-shot penalty. Glen "All" Day (shown) was the last player in a regular PGA Tour event to be penalized, at the 1995 Honda Classic (Gregory Bourdy was penalized in the 2010 PGA Championship). A player who is placed on the clock 10 times in a year draws a $20,000 fine.
Is slow play on tour Jack Nicklaus' fault?
You often hear how the Golden Bear was the role model for the generations of golfers to follow. That wasn't ALWAYS a good thing. While Nicklaus might not have been the first slow golfer, he was the first golfer whose methodical style of play was captured regularly on national television. The result is the countless number of golfers who think every putt needs to be studied from a half-dozen different angles. As Glen Day told Nicklausonce in a PGA Tour players meeting a number of years back, "Gee, Mr. Nicklaus, I was following your example a couple of months ago, and I got fined for it."
Blame Phil and Tiger, too
Jack may have started the trend of top golfers playing deliberately, and today's stars haven't helped, either. Perhaps more than anyone, Tiger Woods obsesses over the wind, seemingly always studying the tops of trees during his rounds. And then there's the constant "Phil & Bones Show." Mickelson's lengthy chats with his caddiecan be informative and entertaining to fans, but to other players on the course, they're a bit much.
Why We Love Rickie and Rory
Never mind their boyish charm or their creative ball-striking. The real reason we love Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler is they both play fast. No needless practice strokes, no prolonged discussions about wind direction. Both Fowler and McIlory are usually content with one practice swing before pulling the trigger -- the best examples out there that a golfer can be fast without losing focus.
Slow players we can't stand
When we compiled our list of the 18 Most Annoying Golf Partners, it became apparent that the real thing we don't like is partners who are slow. There's the Human Rain Delay (the guy who never picks up, even when putting for 10); Cell Phone Guy (the guy who HAS to take every call); Delusional Guy (the guy who feels compelled to wait on every par 5 so he can go for it in two); Mulligan Guy (no explanation necessary); the Plumb Bobber (the guy who painfully studies every putt); and Yardage Book Guy (the guy who deliberates for minutes between hitting a 165-yard shot or a 168-yard shot). Think about it: none of these acts on their own are so objectionable. But the fact that they get in the way of YOU playing is what makes them so annoying.
Our favorite slow player quotes
Many golfers have expressed frustration with slow play. Here, our three favorite quotes:Roberto De Vicenzo, after being asked about his dinner: "It was like Jack Nicklaus: very good, and very slow."Sam Snead: "You could smoke a whole cigarette waiting for Hogan to take the putter back."Paddy Hanmer, the stern secretary at Muirfield years ago, shouting at a member who was playing too slowly: "Are you waiting for inspiration, or have you been suddenly taken ill?"[Photo: Sam Snead watches Ben Hogan putt during a 1950's Masters Tournament]**
The No. 1 culprit for slow play is...
...not being ready. That's our opinion, at least. Most average golfers don't adhere to playing "ready golf." This doesn't mean to be oblivious of your playing partners and hit whenever you like, but it does mean stop being strict about figuring out who is away and whose honor it is on the tee. At the beginning of the round, your group should establish a more laid-back approachand stick to it. Bottom line: Like this shirt worn by Rory Sabbatini's wife, Amy, says, be conscious of how fast you and your group are playing and pick up the pace when you start lagging behind.
Why the AJGA gets it right
The American Junior Golf Association introduced its pace-of-play system in 2003, and modified it in 2011 by emphasizing ready golf. The first player in a threesome to finish the hole, for example, is asked to walk to the next tee box. The second player to finish replaces the flagstick after the third player putts out. This ready-golf initiative has helped speed up play; the average round for threesomes in 2011 was four hours and 21 minutes, a 10-minute improvement compared to 2010. Are the professional tours taking notes?
Thank you, Kevin Na?
Just as we have Pete Rose to thank for demonstrating the perils of betting on baseball, perhaps we owe Kevin Na a debt for bringing the issue of slow play in golf back to the forefront. Playing in the final group of the Players last year, Na's deliberate pre-shot routine -- standing over the ball for prolonged periods, intentionally whiffing, sometimes yelling at himself -- was so hard to watch, it raised the question of whether golf needs to be more forceful in enforcing pace of play rules. Even Na acknowledged his problem and said he's looking to correct it. But even if he didn't, he provided the most compelling example of why slow play can be a detriment.
Slow Play Is Not A Quick Fix
So if everyone is against slow play, why does the problem persist? Perhaps it's because there's no simple solution. At the recreational level, golf is an expensive sport -- both in a monetary sense, and in the time we set aside for it. With such a high value attached to the game, many golfers -- regardless of what they say -- don't want to feel like they're being rushed. Throw in tour golf where one hurried shot might be the difference between a seven-figure paycheck and something much less, and slow play is a lot like the weather: everyone talks about it, but no one is really willing to do anything about it.