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slow play

Slow play nightmares: Can a simple checkpoint end your club’s traffic jams?

England Golf’s new Pace of Play policy is gaining plaudits in their championships. Could a pared down version speed up the game at our level?

 

Could clubs cursed by slow play in their competitions roll out England Golf-style checkpoints to speed them up?

James Crampton, England Golf’s director of championships, reckons a modified version of the governing body’s new Pace of Play policy might help those struggling with on-course traffic jams during their events.

Speaking on The NCG Golf podcast, he said their new way of getting players round the course in good time had brought a revised attitude from competitors towards their responsibilities to keep play moving.

In effect at all England Golf’s championships and unveiled last month at the English Senior Women’s Amateur at York, the Pace of Play policy sees groups timed at checkpoints after completing the 4th, 9th, and 14th holes of their rounds.

Those groups that miss the first receive a warning and need to get themselves back into position. They can then be given penalties if they fail to meet subsequent checkpoints.

The policy aims to shift the responsibility for pace of play from rules officials back to players and Crampton said it had already produced some eye-catching results. 

“What we certainly saw at the Brabazon Trophy was once they were told they had to meet their next checkpoint there was a real acknowledgement of the fact that something now had to be done by the group to get themselves back into position because there was ultimately going to be a consequence if they didn’t,” he told the podcast.

“I think under the old policy, while they were asked to speed up by a referee, they didn’t really take any notice – because there was never any penalty that was going to be applied to them. And I think they knew that.

“Now that attitude towards pace of play has changed. Even just in the Brabazon, there were significant differences in terms of the attitude of players from being told that they’d missed a checkpoint and needed to make the next one and how quickly they got themselves back into position.”

Golf slow play: ‘A real opportunity for something clubs might do’

At England Golf’s big events, referees have a tablet that provides an overview of every group’s progress, while a volunteer at each checkpoint marks whether groups have made it in the appropriate time.

Asked whether a modified version of this scheme could assist clubs which might be having pace of play issues in their own competitions, Crampton added: “Hugely, and I think checkpoints seem to be something that players recognise. It’s almost something they can focus on in terms of where they need to be at any given time.

“And it’s a visual thing. At our championships, we’ve got quite a lot of branding at our checkpoint locations that just keep emphasising the message around playing the game a little bit quicker, Ready Golf, and everything else that goes with it.

“So the checkpoint locations seem a real opportunity for something golf clubs could potentially do. While they might not implement all the volunteers and the referees that we do, even just having a clock at a given point on the golf course – to say that you must be here at a certain time – just brings it to the forefront of people’s understanding of where they need to be and keeping up with the group in front of them.

“When you combine that along with some of the other things that can help towards pace of play – the appropriate starting intervals, course set up, the right tee sets for the ability of the golfers that are playing and everything else – collectively you can shave quite a bit of time off, which obviously makes it more enjoyable for everybody who wants to play.”

Now listen to The NCG Golf Podcast

James Crampton, England Golf’s director of championships, joins Steve Carroll this week on the pod. They discuss a dramatic Brabazon Trophy, as well as the governing body’s new pace of play checkpoints, and much more. Listen to the full episode here.

Have your say

Do your club competitions suffer from golf slow play? Could a version of England Golf’s policy work? Let me know your thoughts with a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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