R&A to avoid slow play with 'words of encouragement'

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LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Don’t let the gentle tone fool you, if a group this week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes finds itself out of position in relation to the group in front of them they will be given “words of encouragement.”

But if that sounds as if it is on the softer side of a slap on the wrist know this, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is serious about slow play. Although R&A officials could not remember the last time they penalized a player for slow play at the game’s oldest championship, there seems to be no aversion to that possibility.

“We have a pace-of-play policy which we intend to apply stringently,” said Jim McArthur, the chairman of the R&A’s championship committee.

Officials will allow for rounds of 4 hours, 30 minutes for Thursday and Friday’s three-ball groups and 3 hours, 45 minutes for the weekend’s two-ball times, which are ambitious by PGA Tour standards.

After an initial warning, or words of encouragement, players will be penalized a stroke for the second bad time. The third bad time will lead to a two-stroke penalty and a fourth penalty will result in disqualification.

For the R&A, this isn’t about speedy play at the Open as much as it is setting a standard for a game mired in slow play.

“We are intent on doing what we can to improve the pace of play in golf,” McArthur said. “Slow play is, in some ways, if not killing the game it is killing the club membership because of the time it takes to play.”