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“People Are Making Too Much Of A Song And Dance Over Slow Play”

As I’m sure you’re aware, the European Tour recently announced a new four-point plan in an attempt to combat slow play.

It’s an issue that’s always discussed, so I thought I’d give my two cents.

It’s clearly a good thing for the tour to try and get pace of play quicker.

Unfortunately, we’re at a point now where some players do push the limits when they’re not being watched by a referee, so it’s obviously right to try and address that.

But I also think it’s important to acknowledge golf is inherently a slow game and people are playing for their careers.

What’s more, it’s very difficult to make the professional game markedly quicker because there are simply so many people on the golf course at one time; it’s very congested on Thursdays and Fridays.

WATCH: 9 Tips To Beat Slow Play

In my mind, there’s a limit to how much play can be sped up because of this.

I think about 20 minutes is as much as can be shaved off.

Is going down from five hours to four hours and 40 minutes really worth so much attention?

I know one of the four points is to reduce field sizes, but 144 people playing a round on the same day is still a hell of a lot!

And it’s a shame to reduce playing opportunities for those further down the priority ranking who have earned their chance.

In the amateur game, I think it’s possible to knock half an hour or slightly more off round times if everyone is on the same page.

It’s not going to be possible to take off more than that given the nature of the game.

I just struggle with the idea that someone has four-and-a-half hours free but can’t stretch to five.

I think we have to accept that golf isn’t going to be an option for everyone.

I don’t think we should jeopardise the history and heritage of the game by having everyone running round.

I totally understand why the tour wants us to go faster and I’m 100% supportive of that, but some people are making too much of a song and dance over slow play.

I don’t really see the big difference for anybody – the players, the spectators at the course and those watching on TV – when we’re talking about 20 minutes in the context of a round that takes more than ten times that long.

For me, the biggest issue with slow play for us pros is when you’re paired with someone who takes an age, as that can put you off your own game.

You’ll hear a lot of commentators and coaches talk about being in the zone, momentum, confidence and things like that, but it’s hard to find a good rhythm when you hit an iron shot to six feet and have to wait eight minutes to hit the putt!

When you see the draw on a Tuesday and you’re with a slow player, it can be a little bit awkward.

Ideally, the game should be more self-governed to help the referees.

For example, when I’m in a slow group, I take it upon myself to say “Come on lads, we’re a bit behind here, let’s try and make up some ground”.

That can create a bit of friction.

Some people totally agree and make efforts to speed up; others look at you as if to say “You’re not a referee, why are you commenting?”

It’s not really a big ask.

We need to take it upon ourselves as players to ensure we’re in position.

One thing else to note is I feel the tour, its players and its referees get very little credit when things do go well and rounds are completed in good time.

It’s never positive, only negative when it comes to slow play.

I’ve had more positive than negative experiences with regards pace of play, for sure.

But I accept it’s an important issue and I have a lot of respect for the people who are trying to do something about it.

The tournament committee volunteer a huge amount of their time to try and make the tour better for fans and players alike.

They, and tour officials, deserve a lot of credit.

Let’s hope the new plan helps reduce round times, but we must employ some realism and bear in mind that it’s trial and error and things will evolve.

Matt Southgate’s column was originally printed in the October issue of Golf Monthly

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