Does slow play drive you mad? You’re not alone. In June, the European PGA Tour
will use a shot clock at its Austrian Open event, known henceforth as The Shot Clock Masters.

Here’s how it’s going to work.
     Every group will be followed by an official and a large clock.  A player will have 40
seconds to hit his shot. The first time the player exceeds the 40 second limit, he will be given a yellow card warning. The second offense will draw a red card and one stroke penalty. An additional stroke penalty will be accessed with each subsequent violation.
     Each player will be allowed two timeouts, which will give him twice the allotted time to hit his shot.
    Players who are penalized will have a red card posted next to their name on all
    The European Tour experimented using a shot clock last May in a team event. Only one player was penalized.
    The hope is this will cut the time of rounds by 45 minutes, to 4 hours per threesome.
  Tour pros strongly endorse the experiment. Lee Westwood called it “a brilliant idea and long overdue.”
    Slow play, of course, is not just a problem at your local clubs, but a big problem on the world’s highest level professional tours.
    On the PGA Tour, rounds typically take five hours per threesome.
    Tremendous scrutiny, and a great deal of criticism, accompanied J.B. Holmes’ delay in hitting his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open in
late January.
   J.B. took 4 minutes and 10 seconds to hit the shot!
    All the while, TV cameras were focused on him discussing club selection with his
caddie. He needed to make an eagle to tie for the lead. Incredibly, after what seemed like an hour delay, J.B. decided to lay up and try to hole a 90-yard pitch shot instead of going for the green in two. A resulting par left him two shots out of a playoff.
    Thousands took to social media to express their outrage. Many tour players criticized J.B. for the delay and also slammed the PGA Tour for not penalizing him or at least addressing the problem.
    Some players defended J.B., but they were a minority.
    Have many slow play penalties been assessed on the PGA Tour? Actually, the Tour penalized a player in the 2017 Zurich Classic, a team event. The guilty party exceeded the 40 second limit twice. Before that, the last penalty assessed was in the 1995 Honda Classic when Glen “All” Day was penalized one stroke
  Common sense says there have been more than two incidents of slow play in the past 22 years on the PGA Tour. So why haven’t more penalties been assessed?
We’ve heard a number of reasons:
    1. Groups are given a warning if they are “out of position” in relationship to the
        group in front of them.
    2. They are playing for millions of dollars (they are)
    3. The courses are difficult and greens are very fast (also true)
   4.  Penalties can impact income and subsequently have an impact on qualifying for Ryder
and Presidents cups, eligibility to receive invitations to World Golf Championship events,
        Masters invitations, etc.
 Should the major tours, along with the USGA, be responsible for setting the
example on pace of play?
   European Tour executives, when asked if the shot clock would be implemented at more events, said it would be utilized only for the event in June because it is “too labor intensive to do every event.”
    Worldwide media outlets will be focused on the tournament and, hopefully, send a powerful message to all golfers, from tour players to those at clubs across the globe.
     Pace of play affects most sports. The NBA has had a shot clock for 32 years. This year, Major League Baseball is trying to address the length of games by limiting mound visits and time between pitches.
    Kudos to the European Tour for shining a spotlight on one of the major threats to our game: slow play. More than 3 million golfers quit the game every year and I’m sure a large percentage of those cite how long it takes to play.
There are several causes for slow play at the club level:
    1. Players take too long to play
    2. Players hit from the wrong set of
        tee markers
    3. Heavy rough
    4. Overcrowding, due to poor course


Overcrowding occurs when tee time intervals are less than 10 minutes.
     Busy courses are trying to maximize their revenue by having seven- or eight-minute intervals, thus getting more players on the course to bring in more money. However, they are shooting themselves in the foot. Interval times under 10 minutes is a formula for slow play, especially when there is a par 3 in the first three or four holes. If a course has consistent slow play, players will find other courses to play.
    According to the USGA’s Dean Knuth, the Pope of Slope, “it only takes an hour to ‘play’ 18 holes, the remaining time is Logistical Positioning, getting to the next shots with the right equipment.”
  Ways to combat slow play are varied, depending on the type of course. If you are out of position at a public course, your group might be told to skip holes until you regain your correct position, or you might be refunded your green fee and told to leave.
  It can be more complicated for private courses. At Castle Pines in Colorado, there is a Pace of Play Board that shows the names of players in a group, start time, finish time and the number of minutes a group is behind the previous group. If that time is more than 10 minutes and more than the prescribed pace, the Golf Committee sends a slow play warning letter to the players.
   A second warning letter gets them suspended from playing morning rounds on weekends!
   Of course, I’ve never heard a golfer admit he or she is a slow player.
Here are the results of a Golf Digest “Rate your Pace of Play” poll:
How would you rate your own pace of play?
Fast – 57.8%
Slow- 4.8%
How would you rate most golfers pace of play?
Slow – 56.2%
Average – 41.8
Fast – 2.0 %
    So, what can you do to help alleviate the problem? As Dean Knuth says, work on improving your logistical positioning, have the right equipment in hand and be ready to play when it’s your turn.
    Also, play from the appropriate tees. Check out the Play it Forward distance guidelines online. The tees you play should be based on how far you hit a tee shot.
And keep up to the group in front of you.
    During one of Knuth’s on-course studies at Torrey Pines in San Diego, he approached groups that he determined were way out of position. He introduced himself as being from the USGA and that he had “determined they were a slow group.”
    Most were shocked and denied it, saying “I’ve never been told I’m slow and don’t believe it.”
    Many others said “I paid good money to enjoy my round and I deserve to take as much time as I need.”
So what’s the answer?
    I think those of us who teach the game to beginners should include pace of play in our curriculums. I’m not sure that’s done to the extent it needs to be at that stage of becoming a golfer.
    There are many parts to the game that need to be learned before heading to the course for that initial round, and pace of play might be the most important.
My sister-in-law, who lives in Florida, took up the game several years ago. I gave her two pieces of advice:
       1. A beginner should invest more in instruction than equipment
       2. Play fast. If you walk into the Grill Room and announce “I’m a slow player and I’m
looking for a game today,” everyone will run. Conversely, if you play fast, everyone will
enjoy playing with you regardless of your ability.
    Every golfer has a responsibility to help alleviate the problem. Golf can not afford to lose so many players because of something that’s preventable.
    Maybe we should put shot clocks on every hole?
    Do you have any suggestions?
Bob Green is the head PGA professional at Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead. Write to 
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