The European Tour's four-point plan to eradicate slow play from the game must have a trickle-down effect, otherwise it won't be a success
The European Tour has signalled that it is about to redouble its efforts to stamp out slow play in its tournaments.
The introduction of its new four-point plan confirms that it is serious about tackling the issue and I cannot help but feel that it is an initiative that golf clubs across the country can utilise to improve pace of play in the amateur game.
Slow play is also a serious problem at grass roots level so, if I was a club official, I would be jumping on the bandwagon and highlighting to my members in some detail exactly what the tour is proposing to do to tackle the problem.
The bits about increased fines and enhance penalties are interesting, albeit not relevant in amateur circles, but the fact that tour players have a finite time to play their shots introduces a concept which I suspect many amateur golfers have never even thought about.
There are many reasons why slow play is so rife in the modern game but one of the biggest causes of this malaise is that so few players are ever ready when it is their turn to play. Introducing the concept of a time restriction might change that or at least get the slowcoaches thinking that it might be a good idea to get their glove on and a club out of the bag before it is their turn to play.
I cannot help but feel that the tour’s rule to give the first player 50 seconds to play a shot and the others in the group 40 is overly generous but that is of less importance in this context than the fact that there is an actual time limit in place. That introduces a structure that was not there before and is something all golfers can learn from.
There is also another very good reason why the amateur game would be well advised to promote the concept of golfers being on the clock and that is that it provides definitive proof of how quickly or slowly individuals play I have played with numerous slow players in my time but with only a handful who were prepared to admit they are slow.
Most others tend to laugh off the allegation – with varying degrees of aggression – but by introducing a time scale you can provide them with evidence they simply cannot refute.
The tour’s new four-point plan is perhaps of most relevance to amateurs simply because of who is driving it.
This is not a new policy which is being imposed on players by tour officials.
Quite the opposite. It is the players themselves who have demanded that action be taken to counter what they see as the selfish behaviour of a few of their colleagues.
For the first time the players themselves have decided that enough is enough and, instead to just talking about it in the locker room around the dinner table, urged officials to come up with a plan to tackle the problem head on.
“For us, the issue came to a head earlier this year when one of our senior players, Edoardo Molinari, posted a list of players on Twitter who had received bad times and fines up to that point during the 2019 season in a bid ‘to speed things up,’” confirmed the tour’s Chief Executive, Keith Pelley.
“I spoke to Edoardo shortly afterwards, and while I didn’t necessarily agree with his chosen method, he was entirely right to confront the problem and it prompted a discussion at the next tournament committee meeting, held at the British Masters in May.”
He added: “Slow play became a critical issue because the player wanted it to be. That moment was the door opening and the mandate we were given at May’s tournament committee meeting empowered our operations and rules team to present stronger and more robust recommendations.”
Maybe that is the most important lesson we can learn from the introduction of the tour’s four-point plan.
Instead of just moaning about slow play in the bar, perhaps we should be doing something more concrete to sort the problem out.