British amateur golf is making a formal attempt to fight the scourge of slow play, which could point the way for the pros going forward.

Writing for The Scotsman, Martin Dempster indicates R&A Chief Martin Slumbers is continuing the organization’s advocacy for “ready golf,” which began with a paper last year. Slumbers and company have decided to formalize the practice of “hitting when you’re ready” rather than determining order of play by proximity to the hole at this year’s British Amateur Championship.

“Pace of play is something that we’ve been talking about extensively in the last 12 months,” Slumbers said at a media briefing in St Andrews. “The more evidence that I’ve seen this year, the more I’m going to continue talking about it because I think it is increasingly important to the development of the game.”

The 36-hole qualifier for the Championship at Royal St. George’s in June will be the first testing of the concept. And certainly, it’s not a stretch to think that if ready golf speeds up play substantially at this R&A event, it could make its way into others…like, say, The Open Championship.

Slumbers didn’t mince words in saying both the problem of and the solution to slow play exist at the professional level.

Talking about Tour pros, Slumbers said, “There is no doubt that younger generations take a steer from them. So I think I would just encourage the Tour pros to realize that pace of play is part of them being that role model, and it’s not helpful to growing the amateur game when the youngsters are slowing down.”

Also refreshing, Slumbers had no problem rightly identifying another dangerous bit of poor form from the pros: failing to yell “fore” on wayward drives.

“The safety of spectators is a key part of the etiquette of our game. I wouldn’t think twice about shouting “fore” if any ball was heading towards another player, and I think that’s a standard that should be adopted at all levels of the game…there’s something about the integrity and the values of of this game that is different to pretty much every other sport. I think the etiquette of the game is as important a matter as the individual 34 rules.”

Note: If you haven’t seen Pat Perez’s failure to yell “fore” (on multiple occasions) at the Genesis Open (which prompted the question to Slumbers) here’s one video.

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  1. Everyone does need to have their mind set that golf is going to take 4 and half to 5 hours to play if less fine, but count on the 4 and half hours, you will play better if you walk off that first tee knowing your going to be out there for awhile…it is simple would you rather have a 90 verse an 89, or an 80 verse a 79 and you better players how does ONE over par feel compared to ONE under par….taking 20 seconds on a 5 foot putt versus 50 seconds on the same put could (and at the end would have) gone in for that ONE under par round or breaking 90 for the first time………I know every single player at my level feels the same way an 80 sucks, a 79 is a great round.

    • Slower means not necessarily a better score…
      There are many people out there who take their time (and the time of others), to prepare for a stroke, and fail – maybe because it took too long!
      I think it is well known, that swing thoughts (on the course), and time to think about possible failure, are not helpful for getting a lower score.
      Maybe it would be more helpful, if people would try to get their mind set rather to 4 hours playing time, than to 5 hours.
      The most people I know, suffer because of slow play, and play their best golf, during a fast round…
      Everybody has his own pace during a walk…
      …if it is too slow, it is as exhausting, as if it is too fast.
      Therefore one should try to find the average pace…
      …and this pace can be optimized (read: faster), if you optimize, what you are doing on the course.
      This doesn´t necessarily mean, that you have to rush, but that you have to be more considerate in what you are doing…
      You save time, by skipping unnecessary things, that you can later spend on for whatever you want…
      …the result is, that you can play fast in a convenient manner!

  2. Give the pro’s a 45 second shot clock. Look at the target, take the club from the caddie, pull the trigger. Hopefully this will eliminate the robots who in my opinion are putting a generation off playing the game because frankly it is so boring to watch and advantage the skilled, feel players.

  3. •Ban carts.
    •First to the green, pull the pin.
    •Second to the green, putts asap.
    •No marking balls on the green unless they’re in the way or clearly dirty.
    •Forget playing in order of honour.
    •Mark your card on the following tee while others are teeing off.

  4. Its a learned behavior and players have been allowed to get away with it for far too long. No different then what’s going on in Baseball about trying to speed things up. Rounds just like games didn’t take near as long back then as they do now. Who cares about the money, you can deal with it or fall to the side and someone else will pick up your place. 6hr rounds on Tour are embarrassing and its a joke that nothing gets done about it.

  5. I see many a professional not go through their pre-shot routine until AFTER other golfer(s) in his group have already hit their next shot. He should be ready to swing as soon as the other golfer’s ball is in the air.

  6. I don’t really care so much about the pace of play on tour. They are playing for living and can’t blame them for being methodical. I do think lasers would help. Of course they don’t always aim for the pin, but the pin sheets and yardage books can help with that.

    The two person cart is what kills amateur golf in my opinion!

    • I would agree with you, except… Most chronically slow players I have seen on the course take the Tour players as their examples. “Jason Day takes all that time, and he plays really well. Obviously that’s the right way to do it.”

  7. How to speed up pace of play? Put walls on both sides of the fairway so that the ball bounces back into the fairway when there’s a hook or slice. Get rid of trees and water hazards on the course. Increase the size of the cup to 5 feet in diameter. More hole in ones and less putting strokes. Boom, there, faster play, and millennials will love it but purists won’t so slow play will continue.

    • Here is a collection of hints, that could make golf more attraktive – for everyone:

      1. play (as default) Stableford as an amateur…
      2. don´t use alignment markings on your ball…
      3. search no more than 3 minutes…
      4. use a laser, or GPS…
      5. play when ready…
      6. a chalkboard at the tee boxes of the Par 3 holes where the greenkeeper writes the distance to the hole…
      7. don´t forget to hit a provisional – just in case… ;-)

    • Here is a collection of hints, that could make golf more attraktive – for everyone:

      1. play (as default) Stableford as an amateur
      2. don´t use alignment markings on your ball
      3. search no more than 3 minutes
      4. use a laser, or GPS
      5. play when ready
      6. a chalkboard at the tee boxes of the Par 3 holes where the greenkeeper writes the distance to the hole
      7. don´t forget to hit a provisional – just in case…

  8. The solution to slow play is easy: Allow distance-measuring devices. Pro’s require exact yardages, and those take a lot of time to get– especially from off the fairway, behind trees, and away from sprinkler heads.

    • Tour pros are less concerned with the yardage to the flagstick than they are to a spot on the green (front, carry a bunker, etc.) They know how far to the flagstick by using the yardage book. That yardage is just one piece of the puzzle.

  9. The article doesn’t say HOW they’re planning to quicken the pace. Shank!
    I say, make the courses 6000 yards. That’ll shorten the pace to about 3.5 hours. Would that be quick enough for you?

    • You can play a 7000 yards course within 3.5 hours, and a 6000 yards course within 5 hours…
      …because of the slow play – which overrides the effect of the length of a course by far!
      It is more a question of who is playing, than where you are playing, if it is about pace…

      • You’re so off with that summation it’s no wonder nobody cares.
        If all thing being equal and you have a full day of players with 4 in every group and tee times every 8 minutes all day, I can guarantee you that you can cut an hour off the pace if you removed 1000 yards off any course and made everybody walk and not be lazy morons on carts

        • With 65% of players over 65 take away carts and 75% of them are not going to play and the course closes…taking away carts DOES NOT SPEED UP PLAY on any course I have ever been to, in fact what speeds up play on public courses is doing away with walkers…we have one in our area that only allows walkers after 11 AM because they too believe walking backs up the course in the busy hours…..

        • You seem to care…
          …maybe because you know, that I am right?
          You can play the same course in 3.5 hours, or in 5 hours –
          independent of length, but depending, on who is playing.

  10. Oh, and on the green? Whoever is ready putts his ball. Do you and the other two in your fourball want to stand and wait for the poor soul who just barely made it out of the greenside bunker to rake, go to his bag, put his wedge back, get his putter, go back to the ball, mark, clean, read and line up and hit that 45 foot double breaking putt? Every single one of you could have holed out in that period of time.

    • If I’m on a line that can get information from his putt, you bet I want to wait for him. That is WHY the rules of golf are what they are. But if my line would not be informed by watching him, I would putt out — and I do.

      “Honoring the honor” is often unnecessarily slow, but there are times it makes sense. There are lots of other reasons for slow play that can and should be dealt with.

  11. Shots in and around the green take the most time. Make everyone speed up their ‘routines’ and eliminate some of the ‘etiquette’. The clock should start on these guys once all of the balls are on the green and they step foot on it. Think about it: mark your ball, clean the ball, read the green, align the ball, step away and read again, get over the ball, make a couple of practice strokes, get comfortable over the ball and then FINALLY they hit the putt. What is everyone else doing when this is going on? Most of the time leaning on their putters while their caddies clean their ball.

  12. Penalty strikes for pros…..for AMS..your cart shuts off after 4hours/15 minutes…and your next vote Must go to Trump in 2020….you owe everyone a drink at the clubhouse When you arrive…and if it’s the people in front…they bankroll your Debt….(cameras on each tee will prove that).

  13. 1. Play when ready
    2. Search of ball limited to 2 minutes and by owner of ball only, other players go to their ball and play.
    3. OB should be like a hazard. drop ball and keep on playing.
    4. Golf courses are too long for many players, force them to play from shorter tees.
    5. Use rangefinders. faster, less discussion about yardages
    6. Clear out woods and lower rough for regular golf course.

  14. I do not agree. The game takes a certain amount of time to play. Part of the pre-shot routine is to time it to be ready when it is your turn. (Pros don’t generally just stand around – I’m thinking of the footage when Danny Willet told his caddie to tell Jordan Spieth to stop swinging his club while he was trying to concentrate). This is a game played for millions of dollars. And guess what, I am the customer. If I pay $100-$200 to play and you are rushing me, I don’t come back and then there is no golf. I buy clubs (industry). I take lessons (PGA Pros), Yes -I PAY to go to events (RNA/PGA) and here is the important part, I PAY – I PAY – I PAY – to play the game. The game takes a certain amount of time to play.

    • You are right, the game takes a certain amount of time to play. Just ask your local golf, you would be amazed by the answer.
      Now the argument of taking your time just because you are a customer is not revelant. It is an arrogant capitalism way of thinking.
      Moreover, you may reverse your argument, is there is no golf because you won’t return as you can’t take your time or is there is no golf because other people leave because of the slow play ?

    • Keith B Real, your selfish attitude is sickening. Using your reasoning, every single golfer ahead of your group will also have the right to play as slowly as they like. Enjoy the 7-hour rounds you’ve gleefully paid for and ruined for the rest of us.

    • I payed the same $100-200 to play as you did, and if you grind my round to a standstill, I don’t come back and then there is no golf. I buy clubs (industry), I take lessons (PGA pros), and yes, I pay to go to events.

      And guess what, the 20 groups behind you feel the same way. So the game of golf couldn’t give a crap if you leave the game becuase you’re being rushed, because guess what? The 80 guys in those 20 groups behind your slow-playing, selfish round of golf are more important to the game than you are.

    • When you play slowly, the 20 groups of foursomes that also paid 100-$200 don’t come back to the golf course.

      I would imagine the course and the industry are more concerned with those 80 guys coming back than you, Keith B. Real.

    • I agree with @Keith B. Real, I golf to relax, enjoy the outdoors and the game. I spend good money on equipment and play too many nice courses to be rushed. I play ready golf and have a decent game. Doesn’t help that other groups in front are slowing the pace for everyone else. Course Rangers need to do a better job of keeping the less experience or goof-offs on pace and in-line. Also, if you are holding up a group, LET THEM PLAY THROUGH! Besides, extra time to enjoy some cocktails while playing…

  15. Allow pros to use rangefinders. Its obvious they use them during practice rounds.

    I also support the ready golf concept during a weekend round for sure. We typically do that up to the green and it does help speed up play. I’m also a supporter of the playing OB or a native grass area like a lateral hazard, but at the same time, people should be aware that their ball could be in trouble and just hit a provisional off the tee again. I don’t think a lot of the slow play is driven by the rules, but people not being proactive in the management of their time on the course and the impact it has on others.

  16. Who cares if the pros need 6 hours for a tournament round. What really matters is at club level where 75% are hackers. Only way to solve slow play here is:

    – Cut the rough at a length where it is impossible to not find the ball immediately
    – Make tidy hazard borders, not wasting time for searching in diffuse / half grown areas. Should be possible to immediately decide if the ball is in our out.
    – Play OB like lateral water hazard but with no allowance for searching. One stroke penalty.
    – Max. time for searching is 2 min. Only the player searches for his ball. Other players go directly to their ball.
    – Max. hcp at weekends: 4 balls 60, 3 balls 60, 2 balls 60, single players not allowed

    • That would mean I can’t play with my family. Mom is a 25-30 (shoots 105-110 with some pickups on holes), brother is a solid 20-25. Dad is a 15 and I am a 6-8. Total handicap somewhere around 75 and total time of last round was 3 hours 40 minutes.

      Guys I have played behind are probably closer to a 30 total group handicap and its faster to pour molasses than watch them chipping and putting.

      High handicap and slow play are necessarily tied together.

      If you aren’t playing another ball off the tee on a shot OB, than it should be played as a lateral.

      Play from shorter tee boxes, play to courses that your game is capable of playing on and play ready golf.

    • Handicap has nothing directly to do with slow play. Whether an individual is respectful of the rest of people playing golf and whether an individual is in the moment or miles away affects pace of play more. Oh, and having to look for balls every hole is the real killer. Have one of these groups tee off early and the course is bottlenecked. On the other side with low handicappers I have played with those slow as molasses, as that is the only way they function, and others who are fast. If everyone is ready when it is their time to play – a lot of problems go away.

    • If singles aren’t allowed then I might as well pick a new sport because the majority of my rounds are played by myself. I typically try to get the earliest tee time and with no one in front can play 18 in as little as 1.5 – 2 hours and I play around an 18 handicap!

      Also, the rough is supposed to be penalizing so mowing it the same length as the fairway (essentially what you are saying) is an absolutely ludicrous idea. Reduce search time to 2 min. “Yes!” Mow the rough to the point it no longer is rough. “No!”

    • I care if it takes Pros 6 hours to play a round. I’m so sick of watching them televise 4 shots, then cut to the same friggen commercial role I just saw 5 minutes ago…and not everyone has 6 hours to sit in front of the TV saturday and sunday. If the tour is interested in viewership they might want to consider addressing this. I have my work around with the DVR and Fast Forward but it would be nice to watch an event live start to finish once in a while.

      I agree with everything else you cite except the last one obviously.

  17. When a caddie is working out yardage for his pro, does he get it right? I suspect he does. I suspect if he’s wrong, it’s by no more than a yard either way.

    As such, why not let professional caddies use range finders? Instead of pacing things out etc. That way, the converasation between the caddie and player can quickly move on to the other important stuff (wind speed/direction, pin position, best club to lay up with etc..)

    Surely that would speed up play and the result would be exactly the same?

    • I agree. On the teebox it should obviously be in an order determined by score, but along the fairway just play whoever is ready. Follow your own shot instead of needing 3 other spotters. On the green it should be in order only because we don’t want arguments on who is showing who the line.

      • Obviously determined by score? Why? In a match, yes. But in stroke play? Why keep up with the honour system on the tee?
        Actually it’s much faster to let the shortest hitter go first and the longest go last. In most cases the shorter hitter has a higher score per hole. That way the shortest hitter is on the way to his ball while the longest one is picking up his tee, putting his club back etc. Imagine the other way around, that’s what takes extra time.

        • Well, some of the long hitters don’t hit the ball very straight. They not only hit it further down the fairway they also it further in the rough / forest. And that costs lots of time.
          I think you should put reminders on different places in the club house, on the driving range and on the course. You should install a pace of play awareness with the members and they will pass it along to guest players.

      • Why wouldn’t it be ready golf everywhere? Who cares about honours? I tend to hit it furthest in my groups and most times I go last. I also walk the fastest. Same on the green, if someone is ready, then putt – only exception is in their putt in in the line of a further putt then the furthest goes first so that no one walks on their line – otherwise just putt.

        • I agree Philip. If guys would just use common sense. Dont step on anyone’s line in order to play faster, etc. Step up and hit the shot. rehearse while others are hitting, etc. Its not rocket science.

        • Except there’s no way it’d work on the putting green… Nobody with a shorter putt would go before the longer putt. Even if it’s not on the exact same line, the person with the shorter putt will get some sort of read based on the roll of the further player’s putt. These guys play for HUGE stakes. There’s no way they’d give up the opportunity to get a good look at how the green is rolling before putting.