The European Tour pace of play policy officially starts in Abu Dhabi this week. And there's been a significant tweak to the procedure

The European Tour slow play policy begins at this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship – and they’ve decided to get even tougher than originally planned.

The original four-point plan included an immediate one-shot penalty for players with two bad times in a round. This has been changed and will now be applied for two bad times during a single tournament.

John Paramor, the European Tour’s chief referee, was on hand to explain.

“The tougher measures which come into effect in Abu Dhabi empower our referees to more effectively target slower players,” he said.

“Changing the regulation for an immediate one-shot penalty to now be triggered by two bad times in a tournament instead of a round will force slower players to consistently ensure they play within timing regulations.

“This is part of our wider, robust policy to tackle slow play but our fundamental advice to all players remains consistent – they should be ready to play when it is their turn.”

The European Tour’s pace of play policy was trialled at Wentworth in September – and we sent Mark Townsend there to see if it would actually work. Here is what he found out…

The key changes to the pace of play policy

1. An immediate one-stroke penalty (which was announced in August as being applicable to a second “bad time” in a round), will now be applied on the second “bad time” in a tournament.

2. Players who exceed time limits (see below) whilst being “monitored” will now incur a “bad time” and it will count towards the one-stroke penalty.

3. A player can call a “time extension” for any stroke once in a round. This will add 40 seconds to the allowance for the stroke in question. If players wish to use this, they must make this clear to the timing referee before they exceed the allowance they have for the stroke in front of them. Referee’s advice is for this to be a verbal call or a clear signal which they will acknowledge.

4. Referees have also been mandated by the Tournament Committee to focus on the players who are regularly taking too much time, even if they are ‘in-position’.

5. The “in position” time limits have been reduced (see below). A breach of these “in position” limits will incur a “monitoring penalty” but they will not count towards the one-stroke penalty in a tournament, recognising the significance of being “in position”. A single “monitoring penalty” or single “bad time” in a season will not result in any sanction, but each one after that will incur ever increasing fines starting at €3,500.

6. The fines for the number of times players have been timed during the season have also been increased.

So what are the time allowances?

“Out of position”: When players are out of position their time allowance is 50 seconds* for the first to play, 40 seconds* for second or third to play. A one-shot penalty will be applied after two bad times (exceeding the time allowance) in the tournament.

“In position”: The time allowed to play a shot when being monitored in position (previously double the out of position times above), will be reduced by 15%, from 100 and 80 seconds down to 85 and 70 seconds respectively for first and second/ third to play. Referees are now mandated to be proactive in targeting regular slow players for in position timing.

The existing principle of allowing an extra 10 per cent on the 40 and 50 second limits will be maintained by referees, recognising human differences can occur in starting timing. A player will be assessed a ‘bad time’ if he has a third time in this 10 per cent allowance.

More on the European Tour slow play policy