'One player used to sprint to his ball and then take three minutes to hit'

The Scoop

Mark Foster explains how he would speed up play on tour and why there might be a brighter future ahead

In the first part of this interview Mark Foster gave us an insight into what a player has to do to be fined and how the players play the system on the European Tour. Here the Worksop man, who has been a member of the tour for more than 20 years, explains how everyone is (slowly) working towards a brighter future…

slow play

Aaron Rai is a player I have some sympathy for, he knows he’s slow and that he has to do something about it and he needs positive encouragement.

“People come from the Challenge Tour and they will probably have an inexperienced caddie and you will probably be first or last out and they are the two most pressurised positions in terms of being shown up for being slow and that’s part of the reason why the field doesn’t get round as quick as it should. The easiest place to be is in the middle of the field as you can’t go wrong. It’s the same at your club, you want all the quick players out first to dictate the pace of the day.

“I remember Trevor Immelman years ago going to the tour and asking them for lessons on how to speed up as he was getting pulled up a lot. He was trying to help himself and the field which was great and they improved his routine.”

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“I was always competently quick and, if I got put on the clock, then I would have no problem with it but that might just come with experience. I would happily stand on the tee and say to the other guys that we can work as a group to catch up if we were out of position.

slow play

“I knew my shot time was consistent, that’s just how I was and they would make me an example of me being the same on Thursday morning to Sunday afternoon.

“Everybody is different but the answer is to break the mentality that everybody deserves more time if they are 40 yards out of position. Why would they deserve more time for that? I don’t get it.”

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“Forty seconds, which is the current recommendation, is too quick, I don’t know where that’s come from. People watch TV and think that’s plenty but tour golf is completely different.

“I would put a minute and say there’s no leeway. You could have time-outs or extensions but a minute is a lot of time so we should be able to do anything in that time. And that means starting with the referees being entitled to time you from your second shot to the 1st on Thursday morning on an empty course.”

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“I played in the Shot Clock Masters last year and they started the clock way too late. I know they are trying to sell it and it is a good idea but you could have sat on your clubs for 20 seconds and then gone into your shot.

“It will be interesting the second time around, hopefully they will start the clock quicker to give the players a better idea of what’s needed and put players under more pressure, everyone said it was too long.

slow play

“I do think it’s a really good idea and it will only get better. In snooker they have a Shoot-Out which has been going a few years and is now really good.

“As a pro you have to deal with it, I used to walk slower when paired with slower people. One player always used to sprint to his ball and then take three minutes to play his shot, that doesn’t speed play up but he was sneaky and would justify himself by being at his ball quicker than anyone! For me the quicker I got to my ball the more time I had to moan about slower players.”

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“In the past year or so I have started taking friends out as my caddie and they can’t believe how crucial that role is to the pace of play of the group. If you get three inexperienced caddies and three inexperienced players then you will get out of position.

“My friend didn’t look like he had enough arms and legs when he started with me, after a month he had time to have a fag on every hole as he knew where to approach the green from, how to exit the green quickly when to rake the bunker for someone else or clean their ball and so on. If the group falls behind then we’re all in trouble.

“As players we get education to speed things up and the caddies get nothing. The whole thing needs to be more inclusive. Let’s just say the caddie might be money orientated, it’s his job so why not, so he might not care about speeding things up.”

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“Things are getting quicker and a European Tour member receives a lot of education. There are two or three player meetings a year and there are online tutorials on everything. And they do them in a way where you can’t skip through them, you have to have understood them. I’ve just been ticked off as I hadn’t didn’t fill in an integrity course on gambling.

The European Tour are trying to do something, I genuinely believe that. A peer of mine learnt all this the hard way as he got fined in his early years, it might have been the biggest fine for slow play. People talk about fines not affecting players but, if you’re a Category 17 European Tour player with a young family, then you will start paying attention.”

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