You want to see Tour pros play faster? I’ve got the perfect solution. Each day before the tournament starts, officials should set the “time par” for the day based on conditions. For example, the officials determine “time par” for the day and announce that the final group of threesomes has to finish in 4 hours and 30 minutes. Then, for every 15 minutes over time par that that group finishes, the tournament donates 10 percent of the purse to charity. If the last group is 30 minutes late, that means the pros will play for 20 percent less money. I guarantee that slow play would stop overnight.
Of course, this “modest” proposal has no chance of ever happening, but it gets at one of the biggest slow-play problems: No peer pressure. No one’s taking aside these slow-playing guys (and we all know who they are) and telling them to get moving. Tour pros have an unwritten code that boils down to: Stay out of my business and I’ll stay out of yours. It’s not so different from when amateurs have to deal with a slow player in their group. You’re annoyed, but do you say anything? Probably not.
Another reason that pace of play has slowed to a crawl on Tour is that the rules for dealing with slow play are too convoluted. Simplify the rules and time all slow players, whether they’re out of position or not. Give them two “bad” times and penalize them one shot for the next “bad” and every one after that!
Finally, too many Tour events are like I-95 at rush hour. The speed limit means nothing because there are too many cars on the road. Trying to get 144 or 156 golfers around is why we’re having so much trouble finishing Thursdays and Fridays on time, and as soon as you have any weather problems, you’re looking at a possible Monday finish.
Slow play affects the amateur game, as well. Along with cost, the biggest obstacle to getting more recreational players on the course is pace of play, and when Tour pros take extra time on elaborate pre-shot routines and plumb-bobbing putts, you can be sure your buddies will too.
The solution? We need smaller fields, fewer players making the cut and more players willing to speak out. Unfortunately, nothing will change until slow play starts to affect pocketbooks, sponsors or TV contracts. Until then, smoke ’em if you got ’em, because we’re going to be here for a while.