Slow play in golf: European Tour announces new measures to speed up play

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Wentworth golf course

A new timing system will be trialled at next month’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth

Penalty strokes are more likely to be imposed on slow players after the announcement of new measures to speed up European Tour golf.

With slow play one of the hottest topics in the game, the Tour will impose the strongest protocols in the professional game from next season. They are designed to ensure rounds at their tournaments take less time to complete.

A four-point plan has been announced which includes giving players an immediate one-stroke penalty if they incur two bad times in a round. There will also be increased fines for golfers who consistently fall behind schedule.

The tour is also planning technological innovations to ensure players are more aware when they are playing too slowly and some tournaments will have reduced field sizes to prevent course logjams.

The plans were approved by the European Tour’s tournament committee last month and are not a specific reaction to recent controversies surrounding the American Bryson DeChambeau.

The US Ryder Cup star was timed taking more than two minutes to miss an eight-foot putt at the recent Northern Trust Open on the PGA Tour, prompting criticism from several rival players.

“We are already at the forefront of pace of play management in the professional game,” said the European Tour’s chief executive Keith Pelley.

“But after being mandated by our tournament committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps.

Bryson DeChambeau took more than two minutes for a 70-yard shot on the 16th, and a similar time for an eight-foot putt on the eighth hole during the recent Northern Trust event in New Jersey

“I believe the plan we are implementing for the 2020 season will bring about meaningful change that will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans.”

Players will be required to pass a rules test as part of their European Tour membership and new members will meet referees to educate them on pace of play policies.

A new timing system will be trialled at next month’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. This will give referees precise timings for every group on the course.

But it is the imposition of penalty strokes which will gain most attention. When players fall behind the group ahead, they are timed over their shots and are allowed 40 seconds to play and 50 if they are hitting first.

From the start of the 2020 season, a player who has two bad times will have a stroke added to their score.

Players in groups that have not fallen behind will also have less time to complete their shots, the allowance coming down by 15%.

Those hitting first will now have only 85 seconds and those that follow will be allowed 70 seconds. Referees will be mandated to target known slow players.

Consistent offenders will also face heftier fines. A golfer with 15 bad times this year paid out £9,000 but from next year the penalty would rise to £26,000.

The tour will also look to cut field sizes from the usual 156 to 144 players wherever possible to create space for referees to push competitors during play on the first two days.

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