The slow play issue on the PGA Tour reared its ugly head once again in the Players Championship this week, with the focus of much of the ire being directed towards the unfortunate Kevin Na, but what can be done to speed up the pace of play?

Kevin Na slows down Players Championship field

Firstly I feel one issue needs to be cleared up; Kevin Na was not suffering from slow play, he was suffering from the yips, which is a completely different issue.

One of the most obvious characteristics of a slow player is that they have absolutely no idea that they are slow. Na, on the other hand, was very much aware of how much he was holding up the field, which only served to make his situation worse.

“Trust me, I get ripped, a lot. I know television, twitterers and fans are tired of me backing off,” Na said.

“I understand people being frustrated with me backing off, but all I can tell you guys is honestly, I’m trying, and it’s hard for me, too,” he added.

Na frustrated crowds by agonising over shots, repeatedly stepping back from the ball and taking countless practice swings, but those are all symptoms of someone who is struggling with their swing rather than a slow player.

And to his credit when it became clear on the last day that he was out of contention he did his best to play as fast as possible to make sure he didn’t slow down his playing partner and eventual tournament winner Matt Kuchar.

The way the fans went about letting Na know that they were unhappy with his slow play was nothing short of disgusting, with many spectators booing and heckling the American golfer, with one fan even telling Na he “better not choke”, as he had bet money on him winning.

Now let me tell you, if there is one sure fire way of slowing a player with the yips down even more, it is making him feel additional pressure. So well done guys.

Tiger Woods’ solution to slow play

Former world No 1 Tiger Woods wants the PGA Tour to start punishing slow play with penalty shots rather than handing out undisclosed fines.

“Very simple. If you get a warning, you get a penalty. I think that would speed it up,” Woods said.

“Strokes are money. One shot can be the difference between first and second. How much is the difference between first and second? $800 000?

Woods had sympathy for Na and the problems he was facing with his swing, and likened it to Sergio Garcia’s issues 10 years ago.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that but I’ve seen it before. I played with Sergio (Garcia) in 2002 and I think one of the holes, he re-gripped it 20-plus times.

“I haven’t seen Kevin do it in person but sometimes it is tough pulling the trigger. Some guys have an easier time committing and going and other guys don’t,” he said.

PGA Tour’s options to deal with slow play

The problem the PGA Tour faces today is that par fives are generally reachable in two for most pros, there is even the odd drivable par four and when you have a par three like the 17th at Sawgrass, playing speed will suffer.

The only real option facing the PGA Tour is to encourage the players to play faster under the threat of penalty shots or to reduce the size of the fields.

“I actually think we might want to experiment with penalty shots,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “But I don’t think penalty shots make a difference to be honest with you.”

“We elect not to (make fields smaller), because as much as we like to see a stronger pace of play, the playing opportunities for the number of players we have had are more important,” Finchem added.

The problem of slow play is universal in golf and not limited to just the PGA Tour, it is as prevalent in the Saturday morning field at your local club as it is on the international stage.

Apparently, the average round for the week in the Players Championship was over five hours long, this problem is more than just Kevin Na and one or two slow players.

What do you think can be done to speed up play on the pro circuits?

Click for tips on speeding up slow play at your local course

  • Erap

    Slow play has become a major irritation at Saturday morning club competitions, especially around the greens. One of the reasons being that week-end golfers try to replicate what they see the pro’s on TV are doing on the greens – ie plumb-lining, leopard crawling etc. only to miss the putt by 6 inches or play short.

    It is difficult to manage penalty shots at Club comps but regular offenders should be identified and placed at the back of the field

  • Jkukard

    What irretates me the most is when a high handicapper hits his driver 200m and is lying 200m from the green with a 3wood or hyird waiting for players on the green to finish and then 5min later only manage to hack it 50m forward. Players don’t have the ettiquette anymore and allow players behind them to pass. As for the pro tour I think Tiger has the perfect solution, it becomes boring to watch specific players addressing the ball three/four times. The fines are small change for these guys so a shot or two could hurt them more and therefore address the problem.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Gibbs/586946442 Peter Gibbs

      It doesn’t help to let a 4-ball through. Where are they going to go. The problem lies with the whole field not just 1 group.

  • Bruce

    I counted 17 practise movements!! That is ridiculous! Whilst he was the leader this cannot still be allowed! Can you imagine if every player did this!! He is a tour pro and should know better. No excuses just take him one side and tell him the rules!! Fifty strokes across the pekker if he does it again!! Quite unbelievable – watching it last night he looked like he’d had a few fresh aires too!  

    • Wobbles

      Read the article – it is an affliction and can’t be helped.

  • Byron

    The answer is ready golf. This goes against the etiquette of golf, however if this is going to speed up play, then so be it.
    If you are ready to play even if it is not your turn, and your playing partners are not ready, then play. It is amazing to see how this does speed up play. All clubs should adopt this, even if it is just to try it out.

  • Peter

    Like Nomads in SA do – putt out, putt out, putt out! Once you’ve commenced to putt, you have to continue doing so until you have holed out.

    No marking the ball, picking it up and replacing. Once you started to putt the ball is in play as it is on nthe fairway, in the rough, in a bunker ………….wherever! 

  • Kobus Erasmus

    There is only one solution for slow play. Limit the time from tee-off to finishing the 18 th hole to 3,5 hours. If not completed then you should be taken off the course. This is written in Harvey Penicks book (The little red book) and should be compulsory on all golf courses. If you can not complete 18 holes in this time then you should not play on a week end, playing professional golf or play on any day, but rather spend your time watching TV.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Gibbs/586946442 Peter Gibbs

      You obviously only play mashe courses otherwise you wouldn’t make such a stupid comment. Leave the computer and go back to the T.V. Idiot.

  • Linda

    Years ago whilst a member of Stellenbosch we had to register our nine holes time at the halfway house.  If more than two hours the players in the fourball(or less) were penalised two strokes each.  Players soon speeded up!

  • Albert

    The clubs should move the tees forward for us high handicappers.

  • Wobbles

    Firstly, thank you CG for not naming the winner in your headline for once! It made the viewing of the recording much more enjoyable.

    Cut the damn fairways!! We don’t want to spend all our time looking for balls.

    Relax, we play golf to get away from the pressures of everyday life – why do we want to rush around a course in 3,5 hours. Come on guys, spell the roses!

  • Fernando

    Im with Byron this one. Ready golf is probably the best solution. Ive seen way too many four balls follow each other like sheep, going from one ball to the other. If everyone gets to their ball and start preparing for the shot then things will move along. Another thing that will help is if  everyone goes for a short game lesson! 

  • Bruce

    I must admit that ‘ready golf” makes sense. I have often waited to play and could have played but for etiquette. May be we got to try it. In matchplay tournaments order of play must remain but certainly in a weekly game at ones home club give it a test – can do no harm and could improve pace of play. Putting out is a personal thing and if one rushes to putt out errors do creep in and this can be negative.

  • Jim

    I played the Lost City course where it took 4 hours for 9 holes, due to slow play (players taking a 12 on a par 3). When I complained I was refunded my playing fee, but was told “it is a resort course and nothing can be done about it”. Pity, looked like a nice track. How do you solve this one?

    • Bruce

      Hey Jim that must have been terrible! Surprised the marshalls did not intervene…I suppose the only way to avoid it would be to try and find out who is out there before you tee off then play accordingly. I really think notices should be posted as to maximum numbers of shots on each hole otherwise it just continues…

  • JudgeMental

    Sometimes the time between groups is too close – a slightly bigger gap (1 or 2 minutes) does help because it eases the congestion on the short holes.
    Ready play also works well – we sometimes play that way within the group by arrangement with each other.
    On the greens – it also works well to finish up if your putt is a short one not requiring “surveying equipment” to figure out the line (marking for anything with a foot is usually a waste of time).


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