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European Tour pace of play experiment: Conclusions

European Tour pace of play experiment: Conclusions

Is it realistic to expect players to be able to play within the times laid out by the European Tour? We wanted to find out, so here is what we learned
 

My European Tour pace of play experiment is done and the results are in. By paying attention simply to what a player or group is doing in and around a shot things become a bit clearer over time. There is far more to it than just the latest tweet or screaming headline when a JB Holmes or Bryson DeChambeau take an age and, from what’s been laid out, then you would hope that the European Tour are going in the right direction.

Here are my takes from my day at Wentworth…

1. In-position timings are too lenient

The timings are all based on whether or not the players could stay within the timings laid out by the European Tour, and of all the players I timed, only one would have been in trouble if they were in position on the course ie 100 seconds for the first and 80 for the second and third players. Simply going by my timings then there seems some scope for reducing these further to help keep things moving.

2. Try not to play first

If you are hitting first and being monitored then you’re in trouble, particularly on the greens. It will be interesting to see, if or when this is properly implemented, whether more time is allowed for the first player.

Everything pretty much falls on them and, the longer they take, the more time the other players in the group will have to pull the trigger.

So while players talk about being dependent on their playing partners, by playing with a slowcoach and he is to play first, then he’ll buy you some additional time.

3. Forty seconds is plenty

If you’re hitting second or third then 40 seconds is plenty of time. Aside from poor or difficult weather conditions, which would and surely should be taken into account, then you’re in a bad place with your routine and thinking if you can’t get it done.

Coming into this I thought 40 seconds was too short a time to do your breathing, waggles and takeaway drills. Having watched them it’s a very acceptable length of time – seven managed to take their shot in under 20 seconds.

4. When do we start the timing?

This will no doubt be clear to the referees but, should a player hit it into the trees and have to chip out, then is the player who is on the fairway the first or second to hit timings-wise? Things like this need to be cleared up.

5. A good caddie will save you shots (and fines)

The caddie plays a huge part in keeping up with the European Tour pace of play policy, be it simply walking at a good pace, having all the yardages and wind sorted by the time it’s their player’s turn to hit.

6. We all know who you are 

From conversations with players and general knowledge you would imagine it will be very easy to pinpoint the slow players. Given the slow ones will be targeted more from 2020 then things will have to improve in certain quarters.

7. It’s there in the black and white, sort of

The referees are very visible on the course and, armed with a checklist of where each group should be on the course, then it seems quite black and white on how everything should play out.

Then again golf isn’t played indoors and there are plenty of reasons why things get knocked out of kilter. In my perfect world I would like to see players given three time-outs, which means an additional 40 seconds for a tricky shot, rather than the suggested one.

8. Things can quickly fall apart

One worrying observation was how one group had fallen a whole hole by the time they had got to the 3rd tee. It might have been due to a ruling but it goes to show how quickly the field can get snagged up by a single group.

9. All hail the new flagstick rule

Flags in is a brilliant time saver on the greens, nobody outside 25 feet had the pin tended or removed. If a player is particular over having it put back in then things slow down a little but the caddies are a switched on bunch and it all quickly becomes very efficient.

10. The tricks of the trade

The players will always play the system. That bit will never change. A stray cough or shadow from a spectator will always buy you time if you need it.

11. Fans will often get in the way of things

I have to give the game away here and say that I was with the Hovland-Harrington-Lorenzo Vera threeball on the 15th, because I was involved in Viktor Hovland having to wait five minutes to get what looked like a straightforward ruling.

This seems to be where the game is today and, despite the very efficient skills of referee John Paramor, these things take some time to sort out. The actual hitting of the shots is very often not the problem.

12. The proof will be in the 2020 pudding

Finally, it’s worth noting that this is just a small snapshot of timings from a European Tour event and is by no means the final word. We’ll see…

Mark Townsend

Been watching and playing golf since the early 80s and generally still stuck in this period. Huge fan of all things Robert Rock, less so white belts. Handicap of 8, fragile mind and short game

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