London, England: The European Tour has announced a concrete four-point plan aimed at tackling the issue of slow play in professional golf.
The plan, which will be implemented at the start of the 2020 season, was approved by the European Tour’s Tournament Committee in July and fine-tuned over the past month. It will focus on four key areas: regulation, education, innovation and field sizes.
Key to the regulation changes will be a player only having to breach the time allowances twice in a round to incur a one-shot penalty. In addition, there will be significantly increased fines for players who are regularly placed ‘on the clock’ throughout the season, alongside reduced times for players to play shots.
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.”
In addition to the regulation changes, and in a bid to foster meaningful mindset change amongst players, education will also be key to the European Tour’s proactive plan.
All players will now be required to pass an interactive rules test as part of their conditions of membership, while new members will be allocated a dedicated referee to educate them on pace of play policies at the start of their European Tour career.
Technology will also be embraced with the trial of a new ‘Pace of Play’ timing system at next month’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
The system will provide referees with the precise times for every group through every hole to make sure that no gaps are missed. In a ground-breaking development, on-tee displays linked to the system will also provide the players instantaneous information on their position in relation to the group in front.
Depending on the success of the trial of the system and future technological developments in this area, it is something that will looked to be rolled out across a significant number of tournaments on the European Tour, the Challenge Tour and the Staysure Tour in 2020 and beyond.
Finally, there will also be a commitment to reducing field sizes where possible, while remaining mindful of providing playing opportunities, as well as using larger starting intervals during the final two rounds of tournaments.
“There is no doubt that pace of play is a hot topic in golf and as players we were keen to explore ways to address these issues in various areas,” said Tournament Committee Chairman David Howell, a five-time European Tour champion and two-time Ryder Cup player.
“We have had some very interesting and robust debates in the process of agreeing the new initiatives. But with a combination of education, deterrents, technology and modifications to the fields, we believe we have arrived at a set of fair and proportional measures to improve the experience for everyone involved in the game,” he added.