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Why does pace of play continue to be an issue?

Brooks Koepka calling Patrick Cantlay out for slow play at the Masters renewed discussion of the issue — and The First Call readers have some strong opinions

Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay's pace of play at the Masters reignited discussion about how the professional ranks are policing the matter.

Question of the week [April 17-23]: What are your thoughts on pace of play? And when you are able to play without delay, do you regularly make a stroke within the USGA recommended 40 seconds?

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The PGA Tour should be embarrassed by the backlash of slow play and doing nothing about it. It has rules in place that allow for defined time limits to hit a shot.

The problems are these:
1. Players next to hit are too busy watching the previous player hit when they should be doing their own surveying of their own shot. Doing this would translate in them being ready after their playing partner has hit his shot. Instead, another lost minute ... or two.
2. Too much information translated between caddie and player before shot. Another lost minute ... or two. The players have had enough practice time prior to the event (and then some for veterans) that they know the course inside out.  Another minute lost ... or two.
The PGA Tour should implement the same standard of play pace as the AJGA does. Really, since most players grew up playing by their time limit every 3 holes. The PGA Tour needs to be much more strict and stick to the time rules.
3. TV commercials. Another minute lost ... or two.

Bottom line? $$$$$.

Erv Hildebrandt
Hamilton, Ontario

If everyone played like Hinako Shibuno, there would be no slow-play problem. I had the pleasure of being a walking scorer for the Smiling Cinderella at the LPGA's recent Lotte Championship and praise those who play at a pace like her. 

Frank Mauz
Honolulu, Hawaii

Do it like football. A 5-yard penalty for delay of game. Stroke penalties are too harsh, but moving someone’s putt another 15 feet from the hole — especially should it arrive in a bunker or penalty area — will get a player’s attention. There needs to be some analysis to decide the logistics. Time per shot or time per hole and such. Doing it per hole would put all the penalties on the green or near it. And it’s a penalty that can be overcome by performance, unlike strokes.

Martin Donnelly
Elmhurst, Illinois

Golf is not a video game or a TV sitcom where everything is resolved in an hour. So you young punks need to get over the fascination with slow play. The game was meant to be played slowly and savored.

On the other hand, there is no excuse for a course to allow five-hour rounds. Get a marshal(s) out there and make the 30 handicappers that should’ve taken a raft of lessons first, speed it up — or else don’t let them on. Alternatively, set handicap limits for your course’s players and/or tees and enforce them. If you, as director golf, don’t like the loss of revenue by doing that, then quit complaining or forcing people to play beyond their fun pace, and I’ll go somewhere else to play. You can’t have it both ways. 

Burt MacAuliffe
Bay City, Texas

U Da Man Tour Players is the name of our fivesome senior group, which has been reduced to a twosome over the years. Initially we were taking way too much time to finish a round — five hours to be exact. So I, as the unofficial Commissioner, imposed the following rules. 

1. Ready Golf
2. Cart buddy must be dropped off at his ball while driver goes to his ball.
3. Triple bogey is your friend.
4. No stroke and distance penalties, just stroke. Dropped ball on line of crossing. 
5. Before it became official. (1 year) Leaving Flag In.
6. Extending the gimme range by 1 inch on putter.
7. Also teeing from the second most forward tees.

This has resulted in, on average, five-hour rounds.

Terry Tiller 
Baytown, Texas 

Pace of play is easy for the groups that I play in — we play with an accepted policy of ready golf and usually play shots within 40 seconds. Golf is much more enjoyable if play is at a pleasant pace without enduring waiting on the group in front of you, shot after shot. 

At the professional level, I understand that ready golf is not reasonable, as each shot could have financial consequences, but some players are extremely deliberate. It will likely continue until tournament officials institute and enforce actual penalties for slow play.

Greg Schenkel 
Indianapolis, Indiana

I have been reading the comments about slow play and find them very interesting. The thrust of complaints recently seem to be toward Cantlay and, in particular, from his methodical and slow play at The Masters.

I went to the Sunday round and also watched the replay and though Cantlay is a problem for the optics of the PGA Tour, I don’t think the telecast or my observations demonstrated that he held up the field.  

An easy example of this was on 15, the group of Russell Henley and Hideki Matsuyama were on the green and Viktor Hovland and Cantlay were in the fairway waiting to hit. On the 15th tee was Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka. Cantlay got the blame, but I am not sure his group had anywhere to go.

Lastly, no comments have been made able the six or seven looks at the flag that Sam Bennett takes on every shot, which reminds me of Sergio Garcia's old hand regripping twitch that he used to do, and for which he got much criticism. 

Do agree slow play is a major issue, but Cantlay wasn’t the only cause of Koepka to be vocal about what transpired.

Karl Braun
Cincinnati, Ohio

It amazes me that this is still a question. 

I am a local director for the U.S. Am Tour and we harp about pace of play at every tournament. I think a golf shot clock would be very appropriate. No matter how much the players complain they will adapt. 

Ed Ruper
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

It will bore you to death watching these pro golfers wasting time every week. We are told to get on with it, prepare to hit our shot, don’t stand around doing nothing. The PGA Tour have slow-play rules, but never enforce them. So either enforce them or get rid of them. Penalize about five players that are leading or in contention and that will end this abomination.

Norman Smyth
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Professional golf is the standard for pace of play with all youth. Either speed up or send the wrong signal to young players. Professional baseball was able to legislate it. How about golf's upper crust taking a lesson from another sport that recognized the need for speed?

John Capers III
St. Davids, Pennsylvania

Maddening, frustrating and it screws up my game and others’ game. That’s why I’ve developed the PaceKeeper System. It continuously tells players their pace during the round, gives them an incentive to play at pace and tells the pro shop and ranger where and when players start getting behind. 

Hank Jones
Durham, North Carolina

Patrick Cantlay at the Masters is a perfect example of slow play that needs fixed. For one player in a group to take as long as the others collectively to line up and hit a putt is inexcusable. It is painful as a spectator as well. 

Had Cantlay been in the lead and all cameras were on him, I would have tuned out. I don’t watch college golf because the players seem to think they have all the time they need. 

It is respect for the game of golf to keep pace of play. Golf should be played within the designated course time barring any extraneous circumstances. The Tour knows who these slow players are, so identify them, put them on the clock individually and make it hurt when they fail. Otherwise, you will continue to see more and more players slowing others down. 

I have a pre-shot routine for all my shots from tee to green and am still considered one of the pacemakers. It can be done.

Dawn Gauthier
Abbyville, South Carolina

All players should be on a shot clock — with stroke penalties assessed. Only exception would be in penalty stroke or official ruling situations. Matthew Fitzpatrick does it right. Let's speed up the game.

Bob Rabatsky 
Lewes, Delaware 

As I approach my ball, I’m getting an assessment of the lie and the type of shot I can take or should attempt. I’ll get the distance from either a course marker or GolfShot or my Bushnell, but as a slightly better than average "amateur – non competing" golfer, I only need a general number. I play with eight clubs, so I’m not going to waffle on something that isn’t “on” one of my numbers.  I get a shot shape thought and take a few swings and then swing away. Less than 40 seconds after I get to the ball? No problem.

In the professional game, they are so welded to their routine and seeking such perfection, it’s painful to watch. I’m really enjoying the MLB [pitch] clock, but fear it would push some PGA golfers over the edge.

As a golf marshal and as a golfer, I get aggravated at the people who sit in their cart while their partner plays and then drive 10-20 yards over to their ball before ever thinking about beginning their routine.

Mark Chatfield
Houston, Texas

The pace of play is just that, the pace in which they play. Yes, it is slow on the pro tours, but it's also slow when 30-handicappers hack it around the course. Why does everything have to be so fast anyway? Take a breath, enjoy, quit bitching.

Larry Ashe
Chicago, Illinois

Some of the players are inherently slow. Maybe it's the fact that their wife is not close enough to make the call. And what about the caddie making all the treks back and forth on the green when they aren’t the ones doing the putting. Seems to me that should make it a team game instead of individual performance. I love watching, but it’s getting boring listening to Jim [Nantz] and his love for Tiger Woods (when he’s not in contention). I may have to bite my tongue and watch the NBA (OMG).

John Martin 
Florence, Mississippi

The pros are just ridiculous. If I had to play with Patrick Cantlay, it would be to awe at his shots, and eye rolls the rest of the time. Don’t know about 40 seconds a shot, but my buddy and I play in 3 1/2 hours.  

Greg Wakolbinger
Morton Grove, Illinois 

The pace of play is terribly slow, due to the fact that players try to mimic what they see pros do on television or live at tournaments. They could take a page out of the book of top-flighted amateurs when playing a non-competitive round. Take a look at Brooks Koepka or Jon Rahm, who makes a club decision and then get up and hit it. Too many people develop a terrible pre-shot routine and then follow it consistently before chunking yet another shot. By the time they reach the green they stand over a putt so long that you can have a birthday waiting for them to hit it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve packed it in after following slow players around the course.

As for me. If I take more than 15 seconds it’s because the ball has fallen off the tee. Pick it up people. 

Paul Vicary
The Villages, Florida

Watching Jordan Spieth pacing around waiting for Patrick Cantley to make a shot at the RBC Heritage summed up the pace of play problem on the PGA Tour. We who play for the enjoyment of the game tend to play much faster than the pros and those amateurs who want to emulate the pros.   

James Brock
Atlanta, Georgia

I think pace of play at the professional level is unbelievably slow. I have attended six PGA Tour events and found the only thing I didn’t like was pace of play; particularly on par 3 tee shots and anytime on the greens. TV doesn’t do it justice because they can cut away to another shot and keep the broadcast somewhat moving. But once you settle on to Brian Harmon over the ball, how many waggles is it going to take to pull the trigger — eight, nine, 10? I realize every shot over the course of a year can mean a job for the next year. You only have to see the bubble in the last event of the year to know that. But wow. 

Even in my own 15-handicap foursome, we can’t get everyone to play ready golf. We’re too polite. Plus it’s a good chance after we hit, we’re going to have to look for it. And that takes time. We hate losing those $4 balls. 

Barry Duckworth 
Knoxville, Tennessee 

Golf needs a shot clock like the one that was instituted with baseball. Baseball is much more enjoyable to watch. And, I think it's enhanced the quality of play. Put everyone on the clock. The exception would be when calling for a ruling. Then, instead of waiting, all other players should go ahead and play.

Jane Hixson
Pinehurst, North Carolina

Slow play makes the game tedious. I even want to yell at the players on TV — "Hit the ball, already!"

However, check out high school and college golf. If you've ever mentored, coached or watched school teams, you'll know those rounds can last five to six hours with coaches and players conferring far too much, analyzing every shot. Add in course yardage books, lasers, Aim Point, endless visualization, practice swings and is it any wonder play is slow?

In the 1970s, I recall walking, pacing off yardage and using 200/150/100-yard plates or markers, eyeballing anything in between. As I walked, I sized up my shot, but I could do that while walking, knowing what I'd hit when it was my turn.

No, I'm not a 25-handicap. I played in local, state, national and international competitions, my lowest handicap 0.0 and has been single digit for over 50 years. I do not own a laser, can read greens without Aim Point and maybe take one practice swing on short shots. I can hit a normal shot within 15-20 seconds; trouble shots may take a little longer, but not much. I can walk and carry 18 holes in 3 1/2 hours — even at age 67.

Janina Jacobs
Detroit, Michigan

Slow play is unnecessary. My regular Saturday morning foursome plays 18 holes in 3 hours, 15 minutes — plus or minus 10 minutes. It's easy. You don't see excessive practice swings or someone standing over the shot too long. We drop one player off at his ball and continue on to ours. Pacing off putts or chips is never needed and is unhelpful, and we are ready to hit when it's our turn. During the pandemic, each golfer had his own cart and we played even faster. Our starter always refers to our group as his "rabbits" as we help set the pace. Last week, we caught a twosome that teed off on the back and actually had to play through them.

Doug Walters
Ellicott City, Maryland

I've shared this thought with many others before. And the following statistical analysis comes from a retired accountant.

I believe it takes about two hours to just walk the 4 to 5 miles of a golf course. If a pro plays as a single (first group on the weekend, with an odd number making the cut), it takes three hours to finish. The usual two-man pairing on the pro tour takes about four hours to complete 18 holes. When the pros play in threesomes, the round averages about five hours. And in a pro-am — Pebble Beach, for example, — with four players per group, the rounds extend to six hours.

My timelines can also be verified in a per-shot stopwatch measurement.

If a pro takes his allowed 40 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of watching the flight of the ball, the par shooter will take exactly one hour to play his 72 strokes (40 seconds plus 10 seconds equals 5/6th of a minute; 5/6th of a minute times 72 strokes results in 60 minutes of play for each player in the group).

As to my regular round of golf — or or any other casual golfing experience.

There is no mathematical way a casual golf foursome can take 40 seconds per shot, followed by 10 seconds of admiration (or cussing), look for your own ball, rake the bunkers, tell the joke of the week, hit the ball 90 times — and finish in four hours.

But yet most finer golf courses still want you to play in four hours or less.

So how do we do it — we don't take 40 seconds to prepare to execute a shot. We have to make the stroke in much less time.

Conclusion: There should be a national movement to get away from the four-hour round by casual golfers and hackers.

Seems to me that the expectation should be at least five hours, and if a foursome beats that, they should be complimented. And what will go along with this is a greater interval off the first tee.  Instead of 9-, 10- or 11-minute intervals, the tee times should be spread 13 or 14 minutes apart.

Until these recommendations are implemented, it will be difficult to determine if a golf course will lose rounds played per day. My contention is the number of rounds completed would be similar, and the golfers experience could or would be potentially more enjoyable — encouraging more comeback rounds.

Jim Smith
Fleming Island, Florida

I'm not worried about pace of play by the pros. An extraordinary amount of money is on the line. The shots they end up hitting are incredible. That speeds up their pace of play.

Weekend players I follow are another matter. Ready golf seems to be a foreign concept. Rules of Golf? Forget about it. Three minutes to search for a lost ball is painful. That's when my enjoyment wanes. Also, when the marshals that do show up (seldom) tell you to keep up the pace while you're standing there, club in hand, waiting for the group in front of you. That's infuriating.

Jay Rogers
St. Louis,  Missouri

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