How long do tour pros really take to play their shots and how are the European Tour going to catch the serial offenders? Mark Townsend went to Wentworth armed with a stopwatch to find out
Welcome to the war on slow play. The European Tour have just revealed their four-point plan that from next season is going to penalise the tortoises of the game who take longer than 40 seconds to hit a shot.
As of the start of next season the Tour’s will be implemented to tackle the problem head on. After all the pressures from those on social media, and from the players themselves – take a bow Edoardo Molinari – and all the bad press around the topic, Keith Pelley and co have decided to take action.
Or at least that is the headline – tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime. But like all election manifestos, the headline policies are one thing – the devil is in the detail.
I wanted to find out more, so, armed with a stopwatch and notepad, I headed to Wentworth for the PGA Championship to conduct a little experiment and see for myself the reality of pace of play and how it’s monitored.
Is it really going to be as simple as timing players and dishing out punishments to those who take too long to hit?
I’m not pretending for a minute that what I attempted passes as science but it did give me a snapshot of the data and I was able to observe the players in action.
I decided to time five threeballs in four different locations. The first would be on the 2nd tee, which is a short par 3 where the wind tends to swirl.
The second and third locations were the 3rd and 15th fairways. I chose these two long, difficult par 4s as I knew players would have a range of second shots, from chip-outs to recoveries from the rough, and bunker shots to approaches from the middle of the fairway.
My final location was the 3rd green. It features a tier and is typically approached from long range. That suggested to me that there might be lots of deliberations before chips and putts were struck.
The players I timed will remain anonymous. For the purposes of this piece, I wanted to study the field in general and how the new system might work.
If you’re not up to speed on the new European Tour pace of play policy, the first point on the plan is ‘Regulation’. In this, they explain that a group being monitored for what they call “in position timing” will be allowed 85 seconds for the first player to play and 70 seconds for the second and third players to play – down 15 per cent from the previous 100 and 80 seconds.
Still with me?
A player falling out of position would then be monitored. While being monitored, the time to hit a shot reduces from 50 seconds for the first to play and 40 seconds for second and third to play.
If a player breaches these times while being monitored, they will then be officially timed. Two further breaches and they will be handed a one-shot penalty. Players will also have the option to request one time extension per round, adding a further 40 seconds to hit that shot.
Right, let’s see how we get on…
- European Tour pace of play experiment: Click here for the results