Four-point plan to tackle slow play in golf could be bad news for Bryson DeChambeau

Bryson DeChambeau took two minutes and 20 seconds to hit an eight-foot putt. Picture: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images
Bryson DeChambeau took two minutes and 20 seconds to hit an eight-foot putt. Picture: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images
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The European Tour has announced a four-point plan to tackle slow play.

Set to be implemented at the start of the 2020 campaign, the new guidelines include an immediate one-shot penalty for a player who has two "bad times" in one round.

In addition, there will be "significantly-increased fines" for players who are regularly placed on the clock throughout the season, alongside reduced times for players to play shots.

Slow play has been back in the spotlight since American golfer Bryson DeChambeau came in for stinging criticism for taking two minutes and 20 seconds - the limit is 40 seconds - to hit an eight-foot putt in a recent PGA Tour event.

The furore over DeChambeau's actions prompted the US circuit to announce plans to review its current pace-of-play policy, but the European Tour was already a few steps ahead in that process.

The new four-point plan was approved by its tournament committee in July and has been fine-tuned over the past month with a focus on four key areas: regulation, education, innovation and field sizes.

“We are already at the forefront of pace of play management in the professional game, but after being mandated by our tournament committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps," said Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour.

“I believe the plan we are implementing for the 2020 season will bring about meaningful change that will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans, whether they are at the course in person or watching on television.”

As part of an education process, players will now be required to pass an interactive rules test as part of their conditions of membership, while new members will be allocated a dedicated referee to educate them on pace of play policies at the start of their European Tour career.

Technology will also be embraced with the trial of a new ‘pace-of-play’ timing system at next month’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. The system will provide referees with the precise times for every group through every hole to make sure that no gaps are missed.

In a ground-breaking development, on-tee displays linked to the system will also provide the players with instantaneous information on their position in relation to the group in front.

Depending on the success of the trial and future technological developments in this area, it is something that will looked to be rolled out across a significant number of tournaments on the European Tour, the Challenge Tour and the seniors' Staysure Tour in 2020 and beyond.

Currently, players are only hit with a one-shot penalty if they have three "bad times" in a round while, in another change, a player who is timed 15 times in the 2020 season will pay £26,000 in fines as opposed to £9,000 this season.

Field sizes at fully-sanctioned events will be reduced from 156 to a minimum of 144 so long as all entered players in Category 18 (the final 111-125 on the previous season’s Race to Dubai) and above make it into the event.

This will create space for referees to push groups over the Thursday and Friday rounds while larger starting intervals will be built into play on Saturday and Sunday to create a “better flow” between groups.

“There is no doubt that pace of play is a hot topic in golf and as players we were keen to explore ways to address these issues in various areas," said tournament committee chairman David Howell. “We have had some very interesting and robust debates in the process of agreeing the new initiatives.

“But, with a combination of education, deterrents, technology and modifications to the fields, we believe we have arrived at a set of fair and proportional measures to improve the experience for everyone involved in the game.”

DeChambeau, who has vowed to improve his pace of play in the wake of the storm he created at The Northern Trust event at Liberty National, played in two European Tour events earlier this season and was unofficially timed taking one minute and 45 seconds over a shot in the final round as he won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.