The slow pace of play in golf has become a contentious issue among top players, according to CNN.

Estimated read time 12 min read

CNN  — 

There are many activities that can be accomplished in less than three minutes.

You have the opportunity to hear David Bowie’s “Speed of Life,” you can relive Usain Bolt’s record-breaking 100m run 18 times, and if you possess exceptional talent as a Premier League footballer, you may even have time for a hat-trick.

You also have the option to observe a golfer taking a swing at one ball.

During the final round of the PGA Tour event at the RBC Heritage last month, a fan used his iPhone stopwatch to time Patrick Cantlay’s shot setup.

“Patrick Cantlay’s tee time is set for the specified time.”

— Beer At The Turn 🏌🏼‍♂️⛳️ (@tap_it_in_golf) April 17, 2023

When the American finally swung, the clock had already reached two minutes and 50 seconds.

In Cantlay’s defense, the video wasn’t without caveats. It was an awkward looking lie, the ball lodged in the rough behind a tree, and – with the timer at 90 seconds when first shown – it is impossible to know exactly how long the world No. 4 spent over his shot.

Bathroom breaks

Unfortunately for Cantlay, this was not a one-time occurrence and it was not the most negative response.

A video of the golfer taking almost a full minute to line up a four-foot putt on the same day was shared among the humorous side of the golf world on Twitter. They humorously combined the footage with the final moments of the popular golf comedy “Happy Gilmore.”

The main character made a strategic calculation and successfully hit his final putt to win the championship. The ball bounced off a car’s windshield and slowly rolled around the remains of a fallen tower before Cantlay made his own putt. This was reported by a parody Twitter account for Tour Golf.

One week before the final round of The Masters, Cantlay was playing in front of the top group consisting of Brooks Koepka and eventual champion Jon Rahm.

Koepka openly expressed his frustrations with slow play, which sparked a heated feud with rival Bryson DeChambeau in 2019.

Koepka informed reporters that the group ahead of them was extremely slow in their pace.

“Jon took seven trips to the bathroom during the round, and we were still waiting.”

Koepka and Rahm wait by the 2nd tee during the final round of The Masters at Augusta National.

“It feels like repeatedly banging your head against a solid wall.”

However, Koepka’s remarks were overshadowed by the statements made by Matt Fitzpatrick, one of Cantlay’s fellow golfers, during the crucial round at the RBC Heritage. Despite winning the tournament and defeating Jordan Spieth in a playoff, the Englishman did not feel completely content with his performance at Hilton Head.

According to his reputation as one of the quickest players on the tour, Fitzpatrick believes that a round with three players should not exceed four and a half hours. Anything close to that time frame is considered unacceptable, while going significantly over it is seen as extremely disappointing.

Fitzpatrick expressed frustration with the ongoing conversation that has lasted for many years without any action being taken. He believes that discussing it may be pointless.

“I hold firm beliefs, but there is little action being taken. It feels futile, like banging your head against a solid surface. There are no consequences for anyone involved.”

“I believe this is a significant problem that requires more action. Although I have a positive opinion of the referees here, I did not see any of them throughout the entire day. We were waiting for a few shots and it’s unclear where they were all hiding. It can be frustrating to wait for such a long time.”

Additional grievances were expressed from outside the boundaries of the PGA Tour.

In regards to the video of the fan timing Cantlay on Twitter, ex-LPGA player Anya Alvarez described it as “terrible.”

Alvarez questioned the purpose of having a pace of play regulation if it is not going to be enforced. They shared their experience of being penalized for slow play on the LPGA and how it motivated them to play faster.

Even the top players in the game are giving their opinions, as Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sörenstam both acknowledge that the PGA Tour is facing a problem.

Nicklaus stated to Golfweek before the Greats of Golf event on Saturday that there must be fairness, but consistency must also be maintained as a precedent.

It is unpleasant to witness someone taking thirty minutes to prepare for a shot.

Nicklaus is not a fan of slow play.

Sörenstam stated that no one finds it enjoyable and it is not fair, as time is running out. Time is valuable, so her suggestion is to start from the beginning and teach players to hit when they are prepared.

“The more we overthink, the more complex it becomes, so just take action and move forward.”

According to Golf Digest analysts Joel Beall, Alex Myers, and Luke Kerr-Dineen, there was a shared agreement about Fitzpatrick’s outburst: it was straightforward but accurate.

In addition to causing a negative impact on the groups of players behind them, similar to how braking can create traffic congestion on a highway, this behavior could also result in the Tour losing valuable viewers.

“The speed of the game has been a concern for many years,” Beall stated to CNN Sport.

“The shift lies in the acknowledgement of sports leagues that their fans have limited time to dedicate to their interests, resulting in necessary adjustments. This is particularly evident in the sport of golf, where the issue has been magnified.”

Fitzpatrick (center) saw off Spieth (left) and Cantlay (right) to clinch the RBC Heritage title.

Carefree Cantlay

Despite the impressive hole-in-one he made during the second round of the RBC Heritage, Cantlay appears unaffected. He shared a video of his shot on Twitter with the comment: “Speeding up my game!”

When asked about Fitzpatrick’s criticisms before the Zurich Classic in the upcoming week, Cantlay stated that his time on the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council has taught him that the duration of rounds has remained fairly consistent over the past decade.

Cantlay expressed interest in learning about the methods they plan to use in order to increase the speed.

“I have participated in the past two tournaments and our group has not received any warnings. I am unsure of what more can be done to speed up our play, as we are already keeping pace with the group ahead of us.”

“I have always been slower than the average performer throughout my career. I prefer to take my time and not rush through tasks. Although no one has approached or discussed this with me, I am open to having a conversation about it.”

Cantlay made no apologies for his speed of play.

Cantlay was addressing the audience with fellow American Xander Schauffele, who supported his fellow countryman.

Recently, everything that has occurred has been in accordance with the Tour’s regulations and expectations,” stated Schauffele.

No individuals have been punished for playing slowly or any related actions, therefore we are all following the guidelines set by the Tour. If a significant number of people or Tour professionals raise concerns, the Tour should address the issue by either increasing the pace or altering the time limit.

“We are not competing at the same level as the average municipal course that the average person compares our time par to – we are competing for a significant amount of money. If taking an extra minute to ensure we are in the best position is necessary, we will do it.”

What is stated in the rules?

Interestingly, the PGA Tour’s handbook on Tournament Regulations devotes a significant amount of attention to guidelines for pace of play.

The chapter focuses solely on this topic, starting with a reference to the R&A and USGA’s Rules of Golf, which state that a game of golf should be played at a quick pace. This pace is defined as 40 seconds to play a stroke, with an additional 10 seconds allowed in certain situations, such as the first player on a par-3 hole or on the green.

According to the guidelines, players are expected to play at a faster pace and are encouraged to do so. If a player takes longer than 40 seconds, which is known as “bad time,” a tournament official will inform them as soon as possible.

If a player commits a “bad time” offense for the first time, there will be no punishment. However, for the second and third violations, the player will receive one- and two-stroke penalties respectively. If a fourth offense occurs during a round, the player will be disqualified. A second “bad time” offense results in a $50,000 fine, and each subsequent offense results in a $20,000 fine.

Golfers who take longer than 45 seconds per stroke on average during a 10-tournament period will receive a notification that they have been added to The Observation List. This means they will be closely monitored by the Rules Committee. Observed golfers must complete each stroke within 60 seconds.

Cantlay said nobody had approached him regarding his pace of play.

If a player takes longer than two minutes to make a shot without a valid reason, they will receive an Excessive Shot Time penalty. The first time this happens, there will be no punishment, but if it occurs again, the player will be placed on The Observation List and fined a starting amount of $10,000.

The PGA Tour implemented The Observation List and Excessive Shot Time in April 2020 to aid in expediting the pace of play.

“You talk to players, read articles, hear from fans and what gets people, what gnaws at them, are these individual habits that people have,” then-PGA Tour chief of operations Tyler Dennis told Sky Sports.

It is considered impolite and disruptive behavior. Our focus is on improving the experience for all participants and supporting our media partners with their presentations.

“We aim to maintain the focus on what matters most: exceptional shot-making at a global level.”

Rephrasing: The Era of the Shot Clock in Golf Solutions

How can one address the issue of slow playing?

PGA Tour golfer Michael Kim has suggested creating a monthly report to publicly identify and criticize the slowest players.

The PGA TOUR’s attempt at public shaming may not affect Cantlay, but it could have an impact on others. – Michael S. Kim (@Mike_kim714) April 24, 2023

In 2019, the 2010 Ryder Cup champion Edoardo Molinari implemented a tactic he had previously tested. He expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of play on the European Tour and followed through on his pledge to share a spreadsheet on Twitter that listed the slowest golfers on the Tour.

Perhaps the most frequently proposed remedy is the implementation of a shot clock, similar to those utilized in the NBA and Major League Baseball (though the latter’s recent implementation has caused significant confusion among players).

pitch clock split

How the pitch clock in the MLB has become a concern for batters.

In 2018, The European Tour experimented with a new rule at The Shot Clock Masters. Players were given red cards and one-shot penalties for rule infractions, and were allowed two “time-outs” during each round.

According to Kerr-Dineen, implementing a shot clock for golf would be difficult to enforce and could create more problems. Instead, he suggests that the PGA Tour look to the American Junior Golf Association for guidance. They have successfully implemented “time par” checkpoints every three holes to improve the pace of play for young golfers.

“According to Kerr-Dineen, every group must reach the following checkpoint within a designated time frame. If a group is slow, they will receive two warnings before each subsequent bad time results in a one-stroke penalty for players.”

“The system is easy to comprehend and has been proven effective.”

Mikko Korhonen tees off at the 2018 Shot Clock Masters in Atzenbrugg, Austria.

Golf Digest’s Beall believes that shot clocks and public call-outs may have some merit, but emphasizes that it is ultimately up to the individuals responsible for determining hole placement.

According to Beall, those responsible for organizing the course each week consistently choose challenging pin placements on greens that are faster than they have ever been.

“Decreasing the severity of the pin placements and slightly reducing the speed of the greens could potentially help to alleviate the problem.”

Myers has discovered that the solution for the PGA Tour has been evident all along: just strictly enforce the current regulations.

It has been 28 years since the last time a slow play penalty was given to an individual at a regular PGA Tour event. In 1995, Glen Daly was penalized one stroke at the Honda Classic.

Myers questioned the purpose of putting someone on the clock if no further action is taken.

“By incorporating additional points to players’ scores, you will soon notice them reducing the time spent on their pre-shot routines.”

PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO - APRIL 30: Tony Finau of the United States, his wife Alyna and their children pose for a picture after the final round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta on April 30, 2023 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Tony Finau, an American golfer, and his wife Alyna, along with their children, take a photo together after Tony’s victory at the Mexico Open on April 30, 2023 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. The photo was taken by Hector Vivas and was published by Getty Images. Later that day, Tony was seen caddying for his young sons.

Koepka would welcome this change with open arms, as he was incredibly frustrated in 2019 and even offered to act as a martyr.

Koepka expressed frustration with his attempts to be put on the clock, as there seems to be no consequences for taking too long. He even suggested being penalized if he exceeds the allotted 40 seconds.

“I am willing to be the test subject, it is necessary for it to occur.”


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