How long do tour pros really take to play their shots and how are the European Tour going to catch the serial offenders? We headed to Wentworth armed with a stopwatch to find out

The point of our experiment was to see whether it was possible for players to actually hit within the timings allowed in the European Tour pace of play policy. To recap, should a group be on the clock, Player 1 has 50 seconds to hit and Player 2 and Player 3 have 40 seconds thereafter.

European Tour pace of play experiment 1: 2nd tee

When does the clock start?

Our understanding is that clock should start when all the bags and players are in position so all yardage checks, throwing bits of grass in the air and practice swings are included.

Group 1

Player 1: 33 seconds (-17)
Player 2: 33 seconds (-7)
Player 3: 25 seconds (-15)

Given there was hardly any wind early in the day this helped as did the group ahead still being on the green which meant the first player was ready to go straightaway.

Group 2

Player 1: 63 seconds (+13)
Player 2: 33 seconds (-7)
Player 3: 18 seconds (-22)

The first player, who is quite deliberate anyway, wasn’t helped by the green being clear by the time they arrived on the tee. Player 3 was helped by his caddie doing all the yardages and wind checks while the others were still putting on the 1st. Even so it does prove gently quite how long 40 seconds is to hit a ball.

Group 3

Player 1: 70 seconds (+20)
Player 2: 17 seconds (-23)
Player 3: 18 seconds (-22) 

Again the green was clear which meant there was no leeway and the players and caddies arrived on the tee en masse.

Group 4

Player 1: 56 seconds (+6)
Player 2: 23 seconds (-17)
Player 3: 16 seconds (-24)

The easily-distracted first player half-stopped twice which was either bad luck, a personality thing, or just something to buy himself some more time. The third player, who I had always assumed to be quite slow, hit in the blink of an eye.

Group 5

Player 1: 69 seconds (+19)
Player 2: 39 seconds (-1)
Player 3: 25 seconds (-15)

The first player again backed off the shot, for no obvious reason, while the second player didn’t have a club out when it was his turn.

Averages

Player 1: 58.2 seconds (+8.2)
Player 2: 29 seconds (-11)
Player 3: 20.4 seconds (-19.6)

European Tour pace of play experiment 2: 3rd and 15th fairways 

When does the clock start?

When the players have had sufficient time to reach their ball and has established who is to play. Again any yardage assessments, practice swings and pre-shot routines were included.

Group 1

Player 1: 9o seconds (+40)
Player 2: 14 seconds (-26)
Player 3: 31 seconds (-9)

The first player took 80 seconds to pull the club due to some overhanging branches and a bad lie in the rough. The third player, who was the slowest on the 2nd tee, again didn’t have the club out despite being last to hit.

Group 2

Player 1: 18 seconds (-32)
Player 2: 39 seconds (-1)
Player 3: 22 seconds (-18)

On paper the first player looks great but he was given an additional two minutes by the group ahead being quite slow and still putting. Had this not been the case he would have found it impossible to hit from the rough in the allowed time.

Group 3

Player 1: 23 seconds (-27)
Player 2: 56 seconds (+16)
Player 3: 37 seconds (-3)

I came to this group late after the second player had taken an age to hack it out of the trees down the 15th. This meant that the first player was all set to go from a terrible lie in the rough while the second player, having slowed things up so much by being so wayward off the tee, almost had to hit it on the run. Even then he still struggled to get inside the time allowed while the third player was still tossing up bits of grass and pulling his club before his approach.

Group 4

Player 1: 113 seconds (+63)
Player 2: 23 seconds (-17)
Player 3: 49 seconds (+9)

This was maybe the best demonstration of how tough it is for the first player in the group. His shot involved a change of club due to some swirling winds and trying to read a funny lie in the rough. He is renowned as being one of the quickest players on tour and there was nothing wrong with any of his processes, it just needed a bit of time.

Another interesting point was that he was 100 yards down the fairway by the time the third player’s tee shot had landed.

Group 5

Player 1: 21 seconds (-29)
Player 2: 28 seconds (-12)
Player 3: 43 seconds (+3)

Nothing much wrong with the timings to hit the shots, but there was a delay with this group. More on that later.

Averages

Player 1: 53 seconds (+3)
Player 2: 32 seconds (-8)
Player 3: 30.8 seconds (-9.2)

European Tour pace of play experiment 3: 3rd green

When does the clock start?

When the player has done his pitchmark, cleaned and replaced his ball and moved any loose impediments. The reading of the putt was included in the timing.

Group 1

Player 1: 82 seconds (+32)
Player 2: 59 seconds (+19)
Player 3: 43 seconds (+3)

The first player was putting from distance and seemed to go about his business in normal time though he was nowhere near where he might need to be in the coming months, and this was with the flag in. The second player was particularly deliberate while the third had a shortish birdie putt which he made.

On the upside both long putts were stone dead and didn’t require marking and all three hit the green in the first place.

Group 2

Player 1: 55 seconds (+5)
Player 2 (chip): 38 seconds (-2)
Player 3: 50 seconds (+10)
Player 2: (2nd putt): 25 seconds (-15)
Player 1 (2nd putt): 34 seconds (-6)

This was a combination of chips and putts and involved a lot of back and forth with the pin.

Group 3

Player 1: 56 seconds (+6)
Player 2: 35 seconds (-5)
Player 3: 57 seconds (+17)
Player 3 (2nd putt): 45 seconds (+5)
Player 2 (2nd putt): 33 seconds (-7)

The interesting thing here is that the likely quickest member of the group managed to play a chip in 76 seconds despite having to get some advertising hoarding moved. The likely slowest member then took 33 seconds to hit a two-foot putt.

Group 4

Player 1: 96 seconds (+46)
Player 2: 35 seconds (-5)
Player 3: 18 seconds (-22)
Player 1 (2nd putt): 47 seconds (+7)
Player 2 (2nd putt): 37 seconds (-3)

The first player was hampered by a poor pitch which meant he then had to try and regroup ahead of a 40-foot putt across the green. The birdie in the group came from the player who was more than twice as quick as the others, otherwise it was a lot of routines and re-marking of balls.

Group 5

Player 1: 48 seconds (-2)
Player 2: 42 seconds (+2)
Player 3: 41 seconds (+1)
Player 1 (2nd putt) 31 seconds (-9)
Player 2 (2nd putt): 27 seconds (-13)

The first player was helped by a playing partner missing the green and having to chip which allowed him to do all his green reading in that time.

Averages

Player 1: 67.4 seconds (+17.4)
Player 2: 41.8 seconds (+0.8)
Player 3: 41.8 seconds (+0.8)
2nd putts: 34.9 seconds (-0.1)