A quick round of golf?

Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald are just two high profile players who have spoken out about slow play in golf. This is, and has been, a topic of strong debate:

Is slow play causing people to lose interest in golf? Or should golf be played as it always has been, at a leisurely pace?

Club membership decline

Slow play has been attributed as a cause of the decline in club memberships over the past few years. Fewer people are renewing or joining local golf clubs; last year England golf announced that “the number of members at its 1,900-plus clubs had fallen from 882,640 in 2004 to 675,000 in 2014.” (Colin Callander, National Club Golfer). This significant drop in numbers shows a distinct lack of interest in the sport, and slow play is thought to be a major contributing factor, as people don’t have the time to spend half a day on a golf course.

Slow play penalties

To counteract the possible effects that slow play is having on golf, several disciplinary actions have been proposed for higher level competitions. Stephen Gallacher has previously suggested stroke penalties and competition bans for top players, if slow play is considered to be affecting the round. Implementing this type of enforcement at the highest level will have an effect on pace at lower levels as well. By setting an example, the best players in the world can show that golf can still be played at the highest quality, without taking 5 hours to complete a round.

What affects the pace of play?

The pace of play depends on various aspects, including the difficulty and length of the course, player ability and management practices. The R&A, which organises The Open, works with various amateur and professional organisations to assume responsibility for the rules of golf. Last year they  issued a ‘Pace of Play’ survey, asking golfers questions about how long it takes to play golf and how this affects their enjoyment of the game, as well as what they think can be done improve pace. Once published, the results of this survey will give a great insight into the minds of amateur golf players.

In the meantime, the R&A has its own ‘Keeping pace’ guidelines for members. The key points within these guidelines include the following:

These guidelines intend to make the round enjoyable for everyone and the R&A puts this responsibility on the players, administrators and greenkeeping staff.