Slow play in golf is irritating. It’s the difference between getting a full round in on a summer’s evening, or getting home in time to have lunch with the family and maybe even saving a couple of shots in the medal.
Depending on who you ask, it’s even driving existing golfers away from the game and acting as a deterrent to would-be players.
I’m not entirely sure about that but there’s no doubt that we all get very cross when watching certain tour players taking over a minute to a shot.
JB Holmes, winner of the PGA Tour’s LA Open, is the current lightning rod. And there’s no doubt he is slow. Slow play was the defining topic of that particular week.
I can’t quite work out whether slow play on tour is a problem – beyond on social media when we Brits are watching the end of west-coast tournaments that stretch into the small hours.
Suddenly, with only a few players in contention and the midnight hour upon us, it’s an outrage that JB and co are taking 90 seconds to hit every shot.
That apart, it’s not like the pros have to be anywhere else when they are in tournament action. Nobody is choosing not to be a tour pro because of slow play. And you can hardly blame them for taking due care and attention when they are playing for their livelihoods.
They are doing what all professional sportsmen and women do, namely take the prescribed rules to the absolute limit.
Sergio Aguero plays on the shoulder of the last defender, he doesn’t give him five yards start.
Ireland’s formidable defensive line is on the brink of being offside whenever their rugby union opponents pick up the ball – that’s what makes it so hard to play against.
So unless and until tour players start getting penalised – by which I mean penalty shots – then forget it.
Quite how you would punish players fairly is a more difficult question. But even if it was at random I suspect the long-term problem would go away before long.
The only other power you have is one of conscience.
Tour influences the rest of us – often to an incredible extent. There is no doubt that we all watch how the pros approach a shot and, whether consciously or subliminally, we copy them.
But can you really ask a tour pro to recognise the issue of slow play, see the bigger picture and set a better example.
I’m not sure. Some pros embrace the idea of being a role model, and all power to them. Others are more concerned with their livelihood. Personally, I can’t say I blame them for that.
My final point, which I realise isn’t going to win me many friends, is whether most tour pros are even that slow anyway.
We are making golf courses longer, tougher and more extreme with every passing year. Tour pros are under ever more scrutiny, with thousands of cameras pointing in their direction.
For the first half of every tournament, the organisers are trying to squeeze as many rounds in as possible. They play strokeplay in groups of three. Making a rules mistake will cost them a couple of shots at best and disqualification at worst so they are going to ask a referee if they are in any doubt.
They are playing for thousands if not millions, so maybe four-and-a-half hours or so is actually quite a reasonable length of time for them. Maybe it does not even constitute slow play.
It’s just a shame if the same is the case back in club golfer land every time we fancy a friendly round. Because four-and-half hours definitely constitutes slow play in that context.
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