One Golfer’s Opinion: In order to make “the clock” work, the PGA Tour Officials program needs to be redesigned.
Slow play is in the news again. Is anyone shocked? Slow play is clearly a significant detriment to the game and fully on display every week at the highest levels of our sport. Frustratingly, the lack of commitment shown by the PGA tour and PGA Tour officials to enforce current policies is leaving me (and many other golfers) increasingly tired of the discussion.
To be fair, slow play is not just a tour thing. Pace of play slows to a crawl at my home course as well with just $5 and $10 bets on the line. I sometimes wonder why all the uproar and apparent surprise when over 1 million dollars is up for grabs? I might read a putt from a few angles myself in those circumstances.
Yes, slow play exists at all levels of golf, but once again PGA tour players are front-and-center as clear examples of showing us what not to do. Johnny Miller, the sometimes controversial golf commentator, “told it like it was” once again during round 3 of the Valero Texas Open. Miller’s comments, concerning PGA tour player Andrew Loupe’s excessive pre-shot routine, “If every pro was this slow, I would quit announcing,” spoke volumes.
But here’s the problem, Loupe was never assessed a penalty, and for the better part of the round, kept pace. That fact alone should speak louder than his pre-shot routine excesses exhibit themselves. How is it possible for a player to take two to three minutes in shot preparation and execution and still keep pace? The answer is simple; the majority of all the tour golfers are taking just as long.
PGA TOUR POLICY
Here’s how the PGA Tour defines its pace-of-play policy:
“Under the guidelines for (USGA) Rule 6-7, a player is permitted 40 seconds to play a stroke. This 40-second time limit includes the first to play from the teeing ground, from the fairway and from around and on the putting green.”
“The PGA Tour rules for pace of play includes the 40-second time limit, but also allows an extra 20 seconds (for a total of 60 seconds) under the following circumstances:
— The first player to play a stroke on a par-3 hole
— The first player to play a second stroke on a par-4 or par-5 hole
— The first player to play a third stroke on a par-5 hole
— The first player to play around the putting green
— The first player to play on a putting green
“Under both sets of guidelines, the timing of a stroke on the putting green begins after a player has been allowed a reasonable amount of time to mark, lift, clean and replace his ball, repair his ball mark and other ball marks on his line of putt and remove loose impediments on his line of putt.”
WHAT’S WRONG THEN?
So the policy is set – but clearly is not being enforced. To even take effect; a group has to be first be noticed as out-of-pace and then the group is “put on the clock.” “On the clock” means all the players in the group will be timed according to the guidelines established. If a player on the clock receives a “bad time” they are subject to warnings, penalty strokes, fines, and possible disqualification.
No, the problem isn’t with the policy itself. The paperwork part of the program is complete. It’s the action and enforcement part of the policy that has been duck hooked out-of-bounds. So PGA Tour, take your penalty (no provisional needed – clearly OB) and let’s get going. It’s time you began to set the example again. Here are a few thoughts – just One Golfer’s Opinion.
HIT THE BALL!
Readdress and redesign the PGA Tour Officials program. With generally between only six to 10 total officials on site at any tournament, it’s pointless to keep beating up the Tour for an issue that is a tough to handle with limited staff.
Hire more officials to ensure the proper numbers of officials and a crew large enough to cover every hole on the course at all times. I don’t know what the magic number is – but I bet the current tour officials have an idea or two. This workforce upgrade will not only allow for better pace-of-play enforcement, but also will help to save time in other ways such as rulings on the course.
Organize and employ this staff of officials in the same manner as we see the traveling teams of professional officials in all other major sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). Officials (teams) could travel to tournament sites for all PGA events vice the current small staffs now traveling and depending on augmentation from other organizations and personnel.
That’s it, not rocket science – hire more officials and enforce the current policy already in place. Time each group and player – from the start – with the 40- and 60-second guidelines in place. I think you’ll find the pace will quicken and adjust once the players know the Tour is serious. If in the future, the 40- and 60-second times are seen to be too harsh, the players and tour can sit down and readdress.
However, and PLEASE for sake of the game – PGA TOUR – “HIT THE BALL!” and start enforcing the current policy already in place.
Editor’s Note: Are you bothered by slow play? Do you play less golf because it takes so long to play? Tell us your story and share a comment in the comments section. We would love to hear from you.
BIO: Keith Cook is a contributing editor for localgolfer.com. His career highlights include rounds in nearly every US state and numerous countries throughout the world. He is a retired 29-year US Military Veteran and Ashford University Alumni living in Michigan. Follow Keith and Local Golfer on Twitter @_KeithCook and @LocalGolfer.
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