Here we go again with the European Tour slow play row, but this time with a difference.

Ever since time began we all seem to have a problem with slow play but at the weekend Edoardo Molinari moved things along a bit, no pun intended, by naming and shaming the players who have been timed and fined this year.

His irritation got the better of him after taking five and a half hours for his threeball to get round in Morocco. The Italian asked for a thousand retweets to unveil all.

It didn’t take long and all of a sudden we had a new cult hero for tackling the game’s supposed biggest problem. On Sunday the European Tour’s CEO Keith Pelley apparently took Molinari to one side in Morocco and the pair will speak again at Hillside.

The findings showed us that, of the 54 players who were recorded for time breaches, three – Erik van Rooyen, Adrian Otaegui and Louis Oosthuizen – were fined €3,000 apiece.

The general feeling is that the tours around the world aren’t doing enough – Adam Scott has gone on record as saying he would be happy to take a slow-play penalty and be made an example of on the PGA Tour to get the message out there about speeding up play. Last year at the Zurich Classic, for the first time in more than 20 years, Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo were hit with slow-play penalties.

But, as we can see from Molinari’s ‘revelations’, the European Tour are making some strides and more than most of us might think.

Having managed to get our hands on the email the players receive, they could hardly be accused of turning a blind eye to the slow coaches.

The players are sent a Pace Of Play Timings email from chief referee John Paramor and it tells us everything we need to know about how the timings and possible fines work. At first glance there is plenty in it, in total there are 2,183 words in a five-page document which, for even the most astute and keen player, is a lot to take on board.

The first sentence reads: “Even if you think you are not a slow player, you should read this information as it is almost guaranteed that you will be in a group that will be monitored or timed during the Race to Dubai. We ask for your co-operation and support of this policy to achieve quicker rounds. Please take note of the recurring highlighted messages within this document.”

These messages are five helpings of yellow-highlighted ‘BE READY TO PLAY WHEN IT IS YOUR TURN TO PLAY’ and four lots of ‘KEEP UP WITH THE GROUP AHEAD’ dotted about each page.

Along with the document there is also a video which is available to view on the European Tour members’ site.

European Tour slow play: How long is allowed for each hole/round?

For threeballs a par 3 should take 11 minutes, a par 4 14 minutes and a par 5 17 minutes.

For twoballs a par 3 should take nine minutes, a par 4 12 minutes and a par 5 14 minutes with time added for tricky holes or long walks.

Otherwise there is a range from four hours 12 minutes to 4:35 for a threeball to complete a round and 3:32 to 3:45 for a two.

So, not allowing for any delays or long walks, a threeball in Morocco, where there were four par 5s and three 3s, should take 4:25 – which explains why Molinari was particularly frustrated with his five-hour-30 workday.

European Tour slow play: What is the timing procedure?  

Each week a ‘Time Allowed’ chart is posted on the notice board and copies made available to the players on the back of the pin positions sheet. The chart lists the maximum time permitted for each hole and therefore the round.

When that ‘Time Allowed’ is exceeded then a group will be deemed to be ‘Out of Position’ and then ‘Monitored’ until they have caught up or are back within that time frame.

Should a group lose additional time then they will be advised they are to be timed officially.

An interesting bit here is that if it’s obvious that one or two players are clearly not helping with the pace of play then they may be the ones timed while the other player(s) may just continue to be ‘Monitored’.

European Tour slow play: How are players timed over a shot?

Players are then timed individually. Away from the tee, which is where you would think where things start to break down, the time will begin when the player has had ‘sufficient time’ to reach his ball, pace and calculate his yardage, and a count of three seconds thereafter. If distracted by a fellow player then the watch is stopped, if the wind gets up then it’s just hard luck and the clock will continue to tick.

As for the ‘sufficient time’, should a player make quick progress to get to his ball, think Kevin Na sprinting his way round, then they may have additional time to prepare. A dawdling player might find that the clock has already started by the time they get to their ball.

European Tour slow play: How long have you got for each shot?

On the European Tour the ‘recommendation’ is that you have 50 seconds if you are first to play a shot and then 40 seconds for your playing partners.

European Tour slow play: What happens if you get a bad time?

A player in excess of the time permitted while being ‘Monitored’ will be assessed something called a ‘Monitoring Penalty’.

And this is where things get a bit more confusing – if a player records three individual stroke timings while being ‘Monitored’ that exceed the limit of 40 or 50 seconds but which are within the 10% allowance he will be assessed a ‘Bad Time’.

Or if a player is particularly slow and exceeds the time permitted by more than 10% (so 45 seconds for a 40-second shot and 56 seconds for a 50-second shot) he will get a ‘Bad Time’.

Any ‘Bad Time’ is then carried forward for the rest of the round – even if they catch up – and you have 30 minutes after finishing your round to appeal any ‘Bad Time’ or ‘Monitoring Penalty’.

European Tour slow play: So when do the fines and penalty shots kick in?

“Please be aware that a stroke(s) penalty may only be imposed if the same player has two or more ‘Bad Times’ while having been officially timed during the same round. A monetary fine will also be imposed at the same time.”

So far we’ve seen Oosthuizen, van Rooyen and Otaegui fined this season but there has been no mention of the real hit in the pockets for the Tour stars with the docking of a shot?

In addition you can also be fined if:

  • You are officially timed 10 times during the season (£3,000)
  • You are officially timed 15 times during the season (£6,000)
  • You are officially timed 20 times during the season (£9,000) and a further £9,ooo for each subsequent five times

And we can expect more players to join the van Rooyen-Oosthuizen-Otaegui hitlist as “fines will also be levied for a player achieving his second ‘Bad Time’ or ‘Monitoring Penalty’ or any combination of either during the season”.

From Molinari’s big reveal, there are currently 50 players who are sitting on one breach. When one becomes two that then becomes a £3,000 fine.

Get done the following season as well and, whatever the amount is, it is then doubled. Players are asked to keep aware of their up-to-date position.

Trophee Hassan ii report

Finally the footnote is how the referee can help which, generally, is to be visual and understanding when some bad weather comes in as well as the interesting one which is brilliant but you can’t imagine is ever taken up by any player – offer the chance for a player to be timed in practice rounds to help him understand the time limits.

And it closes with ‘Things a Player Can Do to Help’ which should be plastered across every locker room on the planet:

  • Be aware of your position with regard to the group in front
  • If you feel that your group is falling behind, advise your fellow-competitors
  • If your group is behind, try to catch up as soon as possible
  • If informed that the group ahead is being ‘Monitored’ or ‘Timed’, increase your pace of play immediately
  • Play a provisional ball whenever there is doubt as to where the ball is lying ‘through the green’
  • Do not wait until it is your turn to play before putting your glove on
  • Do not wait until it is your turn to play before calculating your yardage
  • Do not wait until it is your turn to play before assessing the wind direction
  • Look at your own line of putt while your fellow competitors look at theirs (within the bounds of normal etiquette)
  • Do not concern yourself with the group behind – that is the officials’ responsibility
  • Forty seconds is a long time in which to hit a golf shot – if preparations take place before it becomes your turn to play, you will not have to rush your shot whatsoever

Before one final yellow-highlighted message….


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