Slow play is slowly killing golf. Recently LPGA golfer Morgan Pressel was penalized in a match play event for slow play. Just the headline by itself is very refreshing. The LPGA has a clear rule for slow play and enforced it. Well played. Sadly there is a bit more to this story and I am not sure the rule was properly enforced.
To the rest of us, slow play is just a part of golf. The five-plus hour round golf has been played by everyone, some of you have probably even played longer rounds. It is a problem because everyone has responsibility and spending so much time on the golf course makes you wonder if golf is worth it. If you have a family, spending five and a half hours on the course plus driving to and fro and a meal is a lot of time away from your family. Add to that all the waiting, standing around, and it really isn't all that fun.
What surprises me about this topic is that the ruling bodies of golf are not doing more to fix the biggest problem killing our game. A perfect example of this, is recently I played in an NCGA (Northern California Golf Association) sanctioned event and I looked at the card which wisely had the time it should take you to play each hole. I thought, wow, this is great, they are working hard at improving pace of play. Then I look at the total time it should take to play 18 holes and it is 4:34. WHAT? Golf should not take that long. Four hours should be the maximum time it should take. We finished the round in a cool 5:05 which is not that big of a surprise if the first group, which did not have anyone out in from of them, was on pace if they took 4:34.
Add to this, the fact that when you are learning the game of golf there is very little taught to you about how to play faster golf. Take learning to play with a cart as a perfect example. I watch guys all the time drive the cart over to their ball, while the other player sits in the cart to watch the action. Then after hitting his ball he gets in the cart and drives over to the other guy's ball, and the process is repeated. This is going to slow the pace way down. The driver should have dropped his partner off at his ball then drove to his so both are ready to play when it is their turn.
I will also see guys when they are close to the green, park the cart nearby, walk over examine the situation, then walk all the way back to the cart grab the club and then walk back to the ball to play the shot. Since you are close to the green bring three wedges the first time over to the ball and then play the shot with all the walking back and forth. These are simple ideas to help speed up play that are just not taught to new golfers unless they have someone to help them with this. Simple videos on YouTube by the USGA could help this intensely. Sadly the USGA is too busy marshaling six-hour rounds at the U.S. Open to do anything like this.
Back to Morgan. Between Morgan Pressel and Azaraha Munoz it is very clear who the slow player is there. Munoz is a documented slow player, and even admitted as much in the post-round interviews, whereas Pressel is thought of as one of the faster players. Yes, Pressel took too long over a couple of shots on the back nine but I would be willing to bet if you averaged the amount of time over each shot, even with those couple that were too long, it would still be lower than the average of Munoz.
So the idea to penalize Pressel by the letter of the law is correct, but in helping to improve slow play it was wrong. If Pressel averages 30 seconds for each shot hit that day, including the ones that were very long, and Munoz averages 50 seconds for each shot, who contributed more to the slow play? So you penalize Pressel for the average slow play of Munoz. Because on a few shots she went over a pre-set time limit? If that is the case then I think the rule is written poorly. If the ruling body want to improve slow play then penalize the slow players, don't penalize the faster players who happened to play a few shots slowly.
Personally I think the LPGA was trying to send a message, and in actuality I whole heartedly agree with the message they were trying to send. Slow play is a big problem in golf and fixing it with the pros is an outstanding place to start. Both the LPGA and PGA should penalize more. Much more, but they need to find a way to target the slow players. The ones really slowing down play. Not the ones who took a bit longer on a few shots.
Photo credits: © Tom Canavan.