The European Tour speeds up play after a positive start during the recent Desert Swing. By Jonathan Spencer

European Tour Speeds Up Play

There was a clear reduction in round times under the New Pace of Play policy.

Referees were provided with additional scope to tackle the issue of slow play with a new ‘Monitoring Penalty’, which came into force at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and carried on throughout the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Tournaments which are sanctioned only by the European Tour this season, will also see this in force, with the objective of making the game we love more exciting for fans.

Keith Pelley, the Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “We said before our new measures were introduced in Abu Dhabi that we wanted to take the lead on pace of play and it is terrific to see the policy has had an immediate effect, even though we are still in the early stages of its implementation. I am also pleased that our members have reacted positively to this change.

“We are continually striving to make our product even more appealing and entertaining for our fans and this is a good starting point.

There is no quick fix for slow play, but this new policy is aimed at empowering our referees to more effectively target the problem and I believe we will see even more inroads made over the coming weeks and months.”

The new penalty offers referees the opportunity to identify slow professionals, as well as giving them the power to encourage players to keep to the scheduled pace of play.

However, should the players not listen, the structure allows referees to ‘Time’ players, which can lead to a one stroke penalty if timing problems continue.

In the Middle East, 95 groups were monitored. 36 groups in Abu Dhabi, 20 in Qatar and 39 in Dubai. Only five players were given monitoring penalties, including Jordan Spieth in Abu Dhabi.

These players will be fined the next time they are given a monitoring penalty during the 2016 season. These fines increase for each monitoring penalty they receive thereafter.

A positive from this new policy was that no players in the first three weeks were given a monitoring penalty, which suggests the players are adhering to the new guidelines.

In Abu Dhabi, the policy helped reduce the average round time by five minutes compared to the same tournament last year.

In Qatar, figures for average times for rounds one and two were ten and four minutes quicker respectively, compared to the event in 2012, when the opening rounds were played in comparably windy conditions.

Incredibly, the last groups times for rounds one and two were 19 minutes and 14 minutes faster compared to four years ago.

Lastly, in Dubai, round two times were two minutes quicker compared to 2015. More importantly, the last match timings were quicker than last year, with an average drop of 13 minutes across the opening two rounds.

“We are continually striving to make our product even more appealing and entertaining for our fans and this is a good starting point.

There is no quick fix for slow play, but this new policy is aimed at empowering our referees to more effectively target the problem and I believe we will see even more inroads made over the coming weeks and months.”

Such savings could mean larger field sizes in the future, which would meet another of the European Tour’s key priorities of increasing playing opportunities.