The United States Golf Association and the PGA of America are fighting an uphill battle against slow play. They say five-hour rounds of golf are killing the game. People are quitting because they don’t have the time necessary to play. The two organizations have come up with all sorts of ideas to speed up play: 12-hole courses and the “Tee it Forward” program, promoting amateur hackers to move up a set of tees to make the game easier, more enjoyable and ultimately quicker to play.
Unfortunately, all their efforts are eroding thanks to the nonchalant attitude of the PGA Tour, both by the players and the administration. It’s too bad that many everyday amateurs mimic what they see on TV because what they’re seeing isn’t good for golf.
There are a handful of notorious offenders when it comes to slow play on Tour, notably Ben Crane and Kevin Na. Tour officials regularly warn players that they are moving slowly and to pick up the pace, but there are no repercussions. Too bad they haven’t backed up their message with consequences. A slow play penalty hasn’t been handed out in years.
The LPGA Tour seems to be taking a more proactive approach. Unfortunately, that tour bungled its opportunity as well. Morgan Pressel was penalized for slow play during a semifinal match against Azahara Munoz in the Sybase Match Play Championship in Gladstone, N.J., in May. The penalty halted her momentum and turned a potential three-up lead in match play into a slim 1-up advantage that eventually was lost. Both players had been warned on the ninth hole about slow play, but only Pressel was slapped with the consequences.
So where do we go from here? Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee cites "golf courses built for home sales, over coaching and tolerance for dawdling in youth" for imbedding the tendency toward slow play. But isn’t it time we all take the blame and do something about it? Slow play should have no place in golf, no matter what level.
"It's not that hard, be ready when it's your turn," Luke Donald tweeted earlier this year. "Slow play is killing our sport."