Will this new four-point plan solve the issue of slow play?

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European Tour Targets Slow Play In New Four-Point Plan

The European Tour is to crack down on slow play after announcing a new four point plan.

The new initiatives will see players be given shot penalties for bad times, education in the form of interactive tests and talks from referees, a new trial pace-of-play system and reduced field sizes when possible.

This comes after Bryson DeChambeau was heavily criticised for slow play on the PGA Tour at the Northern Trust.

That prompted the PGA Tour to announce that it would review its pace of play policy.

It wasn’t just that incident that made headlines this year though, with DeChambeau’s slow play at the Dubai Desert Classic also causing controversy.

A video of him discussing ‘air density’ amongst other things with his caddie before a wedge shot went viral, and Brooks Koepka told the Golf Monthly Clubhouse Podcast that slow play is “embarrassing”.

Koepka has spoken out on slow play with other outlets this year too, as has Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott.

Another golfer to receive criticism for their slow play this year has been JB Holmes, especially after his Genesis Open where rounds were taking well over 5 hours in strong winds.

Edoardo Molinari also highlighted slow play on the European Tour by tweeting a list of players who have received fines and bad times.

Slow play has always been a huge talking point in the game of golf, but 2019 will go down as the year where it caught fire.

Back to the European Tour’s new policy, here is the four-point plan in more detail –

1. Regulation
» When players are out of position and either being monitored or timed, a one-shot penalty will be incurred after two bad times – currently a player would be ‘monitored’ and if he breaches the time allowance (50 seconds for first to play, 40 seconds for second or third to play) he will then be ‘officially timed’ and would then have to breach twice more before being given a one shot penalty. Players will, however, have the option to request one time extension per round, giving an additional 40 seconds to hit a shot on this request.

» In Position timing, introduced at the same time as Monitoring, has been strengthened. The time allowed to play a shot when being monitored in position (currently double the out of position times above), will be reduced by 15%, from 100 and 80 seconds down to 85 and 70 seconds respectively for first and second/ third to play.  Referees are now mandated to be proactive in targeting known slow players for in position timing. 

» Fines for consistently slow players who are regularly officially timed during the season will increase significantly. For example, a player who is timed 15 times in the 2020 season will have to pay £26,000 in fines as opposed to £9,000 this season.

2. Education
» All new members will be assigned a dedicated referee to help educate them on pace of play at the start of their European Tour career

» As part of retaining their membership, every member will be required to pass an interactive online rules test with this being implemented for existing members towards the end of the 2019 season and all new members early in the 2020 season. This will be repeated every three years for existing members.

» Regular educational videos will be produced by the European Tour’s social media team on key rules and pace of play policies and shared with the players throughout the season in an effort to avoid unnecessary rulings and ensure they better understand the Pace of Play policy.

3. Innovation
» A trial Pace-of-Play system will be conducted at the BMW PGA Championship from September 19-22, 2019. This will provide referees with the times for every group through every hole to make sure that no gaps are missed.

» As part of this system, and in a ground-breaking development, on-tee displays on a minimum of three holes will provide groups with their position in relation to the group in front.

4. Field sizes
» Field sizes at fully sanctioned events will be reduced from 156 to a minimum of 144 so long as all entered players in Category 18 (the final 111-125 on the previous season’s Race to Dubai) and above make it into the event. This will create space for referees to push groups over the Thursday and Friday rounds.

» Larger starting intervals will be built into play on Saturday and Sunday to create a better flow between groups.

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “We are already at the forefront of pace of play management in the professional game, but after being mandated by our Tournament Committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps.

“I believe the plan we are implementing for the 2020 season will bring about meaningful change that will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans, whether they are at the course in person or watching on television.”

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