It's a topic that rarely brings much good news but in one part of the world they're doing things very much the right way. We sat down with two legends to get the inside story
Aside from slapping penalty shots on the slowcoaches there never seems to be much of a way forward when it comes to slow play – then you hear what goes on on the other side of the world and things seem quite rosy.
I sat down with Sandy Lyle and asked what he thought of the game’s biggest epidemic and he couldn’t get the words out quick enough.
“We can look towards Japan – some of their regular tournaments they are getting round in four hours,” he explains. “I’ve played there many times and the officials are all ‘Quick! Quick! Quick!’ You’re almost running.”
For such a generally gloomy subject there was almost an air of optimism to his voice. The quick rounds we tend to hear about are from players either on their own on Sunday or an early pairing who are keen to catch an earlier flight.
Barry Lane, two years Lyle’s junior, still plays some of his golf in Japan these days and, like his Staysure Tour contemporary, is a huge fan of the way they do things there.
“They have the same rules with the 40 and 50 seconds and they abide by those rules,” he says. “They are ready to play.
“My wife Camilla was caddying for me in my first Japan Senior Open and we were in the last group with Kiyoshi Murota and we came to the 9th tee. An official came up and said we were a minute and a half out of position and could we catch up.
“So we both hit our drives and he and his caddie ran off the tee and down the fairway and my wife looked at me and said, ‘I’m not running!’ Halfway down the 10th fairway they told us we had made up the time.”
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My limited knowledge of golf in Japan centred around pro-ams that lasted all day with lengthy lunches halfway round and, in my ignorance, I presumed that the tournament world was much the same.
“They look after the amateurs in the pro-am days but when the tournament starts they really play quick. I played there recently and we were round in 4:02 as a threeball and then 3:07 and 3:06 on the weekend in twoballs. And it was really hot, the course was around 7,000 yards and they had five inches of rough. Only five of us finished under par but they expect you to be round in 4:10 as a three and 3:30 as a two.”
And there’s no magic secret to the whole thing. Colin Montgomerie puts it all down to a respect for authority and Lane sees things the same way.
“They have a different mentality and they have rules and they abide by them,” Lane explains. “Everything in Japan is very structured and the golf is the same. They get to the ball, the caddie gives the yardage, you pick the club and you hit it. It’s really the same way that we used to play.
“These days there is too much information. You look at a yardage book and there is so much detail. In my first two years on tour I didn’t even have a yardage book.
“The 50 and 40 seconds is plenty of time if you do it right. The player will hit their shot and often keep the club in their hand and start walking again. There’s no posing and discussion with the caddie over what’s just happened, you’re just off to hit it again.
“There’s no other country in the world that comes close to it.”
It will be interesting to see if slow play is a problem this week as the PGA Tour makes its first ever stop in Japan for the Zozo Championship…
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