The new R&A Pace of Play manual has been published to provide guidance to golf clubs and golfers, and includes tips on management, course set-up and player behaviour

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After growing critisim over recent years on its lack of action on slow play, the R&A Pace of Play manual finally reveals the R&A’s solution to one of golf’s biggest problems.

The new manual will be distributed to every golf club in Great Britain and Ireland, as well as over 150 affiliated organisations around the world, and includes practical tips on management, course set-up and player behaviour.

Available to download at www.randa.org/paceofplay, it offers lots of advice, which we’ve condensed for you below:

R&A Pace of Play manual highlights

Tee-time intervals
The R&A claim overcrowding is the most common cause of slow rounds. Its manual suggests 8 minute gaps for two-balls, 10 minutes for three-balls and 12 minute intervals for four-balls. While in theory increasing starting intervals reduces the number of groups and therefore revenue, in reality shorter rounds mean that those starting later will be guaranteed to complete their game, and so additional later tee times can be offered.

Use a starter’s gap or two-tee start
Having an empty tee-time every 90 mins will cater for ball searches and other delays, while two-tee or shortgun starts are also effective ways of getting more players around the course quickly.

Ready golf
Allowing players to play when they are ready to do so, rather than adhering strictly to the “farthest from the hole plays first” stipulation should be encouraged, except during match play games. Examples of ready golf include playing when someone in your group is assessing a tricky shot, shorter hitters playing first if longer hitters have to wait and hitting a shot before helping someone to look for a lost ball.

Being ready to play should be very easy and considerable time will be saved if players do these things efficiently. For example, if each player in a four-ball that shoots 80 each takes an average of five seconds less to play each shot they will save over 26 minutes (80 shots x five seconds x four players).

Time par
Try allocating a length of time to complete each hole, a certain number of holes or the full round. This can be printed on the scorecard or displayed on the course with signs like “Your group should have taken no longer than 1 hour 15 minutes to reach this point”. It is recommended that different time pars are established for two-balls, three-balls and four-balls.

Recommended tees and general course guidance
It is helpful for players who are unfamiliar with the course to be given guidance on which tees they should favour and on anything to watch out for, such as course boundaries or water hazards that may not be visible from the tee

Call-up procedures
If there are driveable par 4s or par 3s where delays often occur, those managing the course may wish to introduce a procedure where the players stand aside once their balls are on the green to allow the players from the tee to play their tee shots. In such instances, it is important to have good signage so golfers understand when such a procedure should be adopted

Tee options
There is strong evidence that suggests that having players play from tees that suit their ability not only improves the pace of play, but increases enjoyment, so courses should provide plenty of options. In particular, look at tee options on holes where it is clear that the green is designed to accept lofted shots, as opposed to low running shots. Similarly, bail out areas should be provided for those unable to make a carry.

Fairways and rough
Time spent searching for balls can be reduced by increasing fairway widths, extending the first cut so that balls that initially land on the fairway are less likely to run into deep rough and generally reducing the severity of rough so that it still provides a challenge but is less likely to conceal a ball. Reducing the height of the grass around greens to make chips easier, or to enable players to putt from off the green, will also help reduce slow play.

Trees
Pace of play may be improved if the ground beneath the trees is maintained in such a way that a ball can easily be found and a recovery shot on to the fairway is possible. If there is dense rough under the trees then not only is the ball harder to find, but the chance of advancing it with one shot is significantly reduced.

Greens
Pace of play will be negatively impacted when greens have severe slopes, are running at a quick pace and the holes are cut on or near the slopes. The impact of this combination is golfers taking more putts and taking longer to play. It is more important that greens are smooth and true than fast and firm. To provide some context on this point, at The Open, The R&A sets a maximum green speed target of 10½ feet on the stimpmeter.

Being aware
The basic advice is that if a group keeps up with the group in front, the players in that group will rarely be accused of slow play. If ground has been lost on the group in front, then all of the players in the group should take responsibility for making up that ground as quickly as possible. If a group cannot keep its position on the course for whatever reason, then it should invite the group behind to play through, while the round time may be slightly increased, it is likely that the inviting group will enjoy its game more without being constantly pressurised.

Don’t imitate professional golf
The R&A has recognised that tour professionals make their living from the sport and, understandably, may wish to take slightly longer to assess their shots. In addition, their skill level is such that detailed information will have a bearing on shot selection and execution. This is not the case for the vast majority of amateurs and, therefore, it is often unnecessary for them to do things like study the line of a putt from multiple angles and mark a ball that is very close to the hole before holing out.

Other on course actions
This section of the R&A Pace of Play manual includes advice on positioning bags on the side of the green nearest the next tee, marking the scorecard at the next tee, playing a provisional ball when neccessary and watching the flight of the ball very carefully.

R&A Pace of Play manual – R&A quotes

Commentiing on the new manual, Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said: “There is no doubt that pace of play is a key issue for golf today and one on which many golfers have strong views.

“Through the research exercise and the conference lasy year we gained some valuable insights into the views of players, administrators and officials involved in all levels of golf.

“We fully recognise that in a sport as diverse as golf there is no one-size-fits-all approach and so the new manual outlines approaches which have proved to be effective and offers some thoughtful solutions to day-to day pace of play challenges which can arise in golf.

“We hope the manual will prove to be a useful reference guide for clubs, competition organisers and players alike.”

The R&A carried out an extensive international survey into golfers’ views on slow play in 2014/15 that attracted more than 56,000 responses from 122 countries, before its Time for Golf conference last November, which was attended by professionals and administrators, whose discussions helped shape the new manual.