“Ready golf” is to be implemented at this year’s Amateur Championship as the R&A steps up its attempt to improve pace of play in golf, with chief executive Martin Slumbers insisting that players like Jason Day have a responsibility in that respect as “role models”.
Speaking when he was the world No 1, the notoriously deliberate Day said earlier this year that he “didn’t care much about speeding up my game” and that he would back off a shot as many times as he felt necessary before pulling the trigger.
The Australian was widely criticised for his indignance at a time when stringent efforts are being made to crack down on slow play in the game, led by the R&A, which published a manual last May offering guidance to golf clubs and golfers.
It recommended “ready golf”, where a player is encouraged to hit a shot if they feel ready rather than adhering strictly to the “farthest from the hole plays first” stipulation in the Rules of Golf, and that was trialed successfully by the Golfing Union of Ireland in the Irish Close Championship last year.
Now, it will also be implemented for the first time by the R&A in the 36-hole stroke-play qualifying for its blue ribbon event, the Amateur Championship, which takes place in June at Royal St George’s in Kent.
“Pace of play is something that we’ve been talking about extensively in the last 12 months,” said Slumbers, speaking at a media briefing in St Andrews. “The more evidence that I’ve seen this year, the more I’m going to continue talking about it because I think it is increasingly important to the development of the game.
“In this year’s Amateur Championship, we will be implementing ‘ready golf’, which is one of the recommendations in our pace of play manual, for the stroke play, and that’s part of our bit to help with setting an example about the pace.
“When you get to the professional level, there’s no doubt in my mind that the professionals are role models, and they are fantastic role models for young people. They’re healthy, they’re fit, they’re strong and they’ve got unbelievable skill.
“But part of that role model is pace of play, and there is no doubt that younger generations take a steer from them. So I think I would just encourage the Tour pros to realise that pace of play is part of them being that role model, and it’s not helpful to growing the amateur game when the youngsters are slowing down.”
Slumbers also called on the top professionals to respect the game’s etiquette at all times after American Pat Perez sparked anger by not even attempting to shout “fore” on more than once occasion during the Geneis Open in Los Angeles on Sunday, hitting a spectator on the head with one wayward drive.
“The safety of spectators is a key part of the etiquette of our game,” insisted the R&A supremo. “I wouldn’t think twice about shouting “fore” if any ball was heading towards another player, and I think that’s a standard that should be adopted at all levels of the game.”
Asked if he thought that culprits like Perez should be fined or even banned, he added: “A lot of that is up to the tours in terms of how they want to work with their players. But there’s something about the integrity and the values of of this game that is different to pretty much every other sport. I think the etiquette of the game is as important a matter as the individual 34 rules. I don’t see any reason why any player at any level should not follow that etiquette.”
As for golf’s current trend of innovative new events, Slumbers said he welcomes the schedule having some “variety” like last week’s Super 6 event in Australia but is happy to leave the razamataz to Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s charismatic chief executive. “Keith and I talk an awful lot, and he’s a bundle of energy and ideas,” he said. “I thought it (the Super 6) was a terrific event and I’m encouraged to see them wanting to do more of that.
“Excitement breeds excitement and we all have our part to play, but I don’t think it would be appropriate to do that every week. The blue ribbon way of doing it is 72-hole stroke play, but it is excitingto have some variety in there now.
“We introduced our nine-hole event last year at Troon, using The Open as a platform. Our objective from that event was to see more nine-hole competitions in clubs, and that’s starting. This year we’ll be hosting the event at Birkdale. That’s probably where we will go for the time being, and I think that’s probably the most appropriate for us.”