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Improving pace of play: 5 entities that do it right

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If slow play is a plague, there are remedies.

In pockets of the game, from public courses to private, from junior and amateur tours to the pros, there are forces working to cure what ails pace of play.

Here’s a look at five entities aggressively trying to curb slow play:


American Junior Golf Association

There’s no slow poking it in AJGA events.

Time par and color-coded cards make sure of that.

In AJGA events, officials are stationed at a minimum of six checkpoints to gauge whether juniors are meeting the time-par designation for that particular course. Players within time par when reaching a checkpoint are signaled with green cards. Players who are out of position are flashed a red card, a warning. Players with red cards who do not catch up with their time par by the next checkpoint receive double red cards and a one-stroke penalty. The double red card can be assessed to the entire group or a player deemed to be responsible for the slow play. There are also penalties for individuals who accumulate five or more “bad times” in a round.  A bad time is incurred when a player takes more than 45 seconds to play a shot once it is his or her turn to play. The policy calls for “ready golf,” with the first player holing out required to go directly to the next tee box and play first.

According to AJGA officials, the organization issued 29 slow-play penalties in 96 events last year.


H. Smith Richardson Golf Course, Fairfield, Conn.

Six years ago, this public golf course unsnarled its traffic jams with a pace-of-play policy that has made rounds 4 hours and 15 minutes or shorter.

Here’s the policy in a nutshell:

• All groups teeing off between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. receive pace-of-play time cards.

• The pace-of-play cards match a group’s tee time and provide time par. For example, if you tee off at 7a.m., you should be standing at the No. 2 tee at 7:13 a.m. If you’re on pace, you should be on the No. 3 tee by 7:27 a.m., etc.

• If you fall out of position, a ranger issues you one warning. You then have two holes to get back on your pace-of-play time. If you fail to do so, the ranger will instruct your group to pick up its balls and move to the tee box that matches the correct pace-of-play requirement.

• Head professional Jim Alexander says the key to the policy is in how it has “deputized” recreational players to enforce the policy.


Country Club at Castle Pines

This private club outside Denver makes pace of play a public matter within the club.

If you’re a slow poke and you don’t complete 18 holes in at least 4 hours and 20 minutes, the club calls you out. You get a letter warning you for your slow-play transgression. If you’re found in violation again, your name is posted on the club’s pace-of-play board in the clubhouse. If slow pokes still don’t pick up their pace, the club’s golf committee will suspend their morning tee time access and can suspend membership.

To help members meet their allotted time, the club has installed atomic clocks in every cart, with time cards showing each group what time it should be finished teeing off at every hole.


LPGA

While LPGA officials acknowledge there’s more work to do to speed play, the organization is significantly more aggressive in addressing the issue than the PGA Tour is.

While the PGA Tour has not penalized a player a stroke for slow play since 1992, the LPGA has already levied two-stroke penalties for slow play four times this season and nine times over the previous two seasons.

Also, Heather Daly-Donofrio, the LPGA’s senior vice president of tour operations, said recent tweaks to the tour’s pace-of-play policy has led to threesomes finishing rounds an average of eight minutes faster this year than last year. She reports threesomes are finishing rounds in under an average of 5 hours and that threesomes finished the first round of the Lotte Championship in an average of 4:42 earlier this year and finished the second round in an average of 4:51.

The LPGA made an aggressive statement about slow play last year when Morgan Pressel was penalized the loss of a hole in her semifinal match at the Sybase Match Play Championship, a late setback that might have cost Pressel a spot in the finals.

The LPGA’s 2013 pace-of-play policy requires players to keep pace based on a time-par standard and based on their position in relation to the group in front of them.

Here are key points of the LPGA’s pace-of-play policy. 

• Rules officials designate a time par at every venue, based on the length of the course, the walk between holes and the difficulty of the course. The maximum time it should take to play nine holes is posted at the first and 10th tees.

• One warning per round is issued to a group that is deemed out of position, though officials are not required to issue warnings. Once warned, if the group doesn’t improve its position through the following hole, it may be timed. A group may not receive a warning if it is deemed to be so out of position that a warning is not appropriate.

• A player is timed based on how long it takes to play a hole. Each player is allotted an average of 30 seconds to play a shot once it is her turn to play. On a par 3, for example, that means a player is allotted 90 seconds to play three shots. However, there is an additional 10 seconds added to the time if a player is the first to hit a tee shot, the first to hit a second shot into a par 4 or par 5, the first to hit a third shot into a par 5, or the first to play from off the green, or the first to putt. Under this timing procedure, a player who takes 45 seconds to hit a shot can make up for it by speeding up on the rest of her shots over the entire hole.

• A player can be penalized for taking more than 60 seconds to hit any single shot.

• A player who exceeds the allotted time to play a hole by just one second or more is credited with a “plus time” and subject to a fine. A player who exceeds the allotted time by 11 or more seconds is credited with a “penalty time” and subject to a two-stroke penalty. That means a player who takes 91-100 seconds to play three shots into a par 3 can be fined. A player who takes 101 seconds or more can be assessed a two-shot penalty.

• The LPGA doesn’t release the amount it fines players for slow play, but the fine escalates with each subsequent “plus time” until a player has gone a full year without a “plus time.”

• Three pace-of-play penalties in a single round result in disqualification.


Golf Channel Amateur Tour

Check points are keys to the Golf Channel Amateur Tour’s pace-of-play policy.

On the Am Tour, there are two check points, following nine holes and 18 holes.

All groups playing a tournament are given allotted times for reaching checkpoints. Groups must reach a checkpoint within the allotted time designated on scorecards, or within 14 minutes of the group ahead. Each player in a group that fails to meet a checkpoint’s requirement is penalized one stroke for one checkpoint failure and another two strokes if they again fail to meet a second checkpoint’s requirement. There are exceptions in the policy when it’s evident a single player is preventing a group from meeting its allotted time requirement. In such cases, players can ask that an official monitor that player and group. If warranted, an official can apply a penalty to a single player and rescind penalties from the other players in the group.