By Cole Golden, WGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional
By now, everyone has seen or heard what happened at the Farmers Insurance Open in January at Torrey Pines on the 18th hole with J.B. Holmes. For those would like a recap, Holmes was down two shots to the clubhouse leader and needed an eagle to tie. His two playing partners also had a chance to win, one with a birdie and the other with an eagle. J.B. took over four minutes to finally play his lay-up shot (we can discuss this in a later article).
J.B. is renowned as a slow player, even though he has worked on speeding up over the course of the past few years. Throughout the day, he would take 5-10 practice swings before each shot. The overall round took almost six hours to play; no speed records were being broken, to say the least. During the conversation with his caddie, the wind was swirling, making the decision a tad harder. You can give him a small break due to the wind and the situation, but not four minutes.
There are numerous reasons to have a shot clock or wanting play to compete in a timely manner. To put it into perspective, let’s look at other sports and how they measure time. Basketball has a shot clock, football has a play clock, and even in poker, the clock can be called on a deliberate player. When a basketball player is going to shoot free throws, they are given 10 seconds to complete the shot. If the game is on the line with no time on the clock, 10 seconds is all the player will receive to perform the shot.
In golf, slowing the game impacts several parties. Your playing partners are impacted the most. It is not fair to have to wait an ungodly amount of time while waiting on someone to play their shot. Golf is such a mental game, and if a player is in a rhythm, standing around can really change the course of the game. The tournament needs to adhere to a schedule due to TV, fans and the possibility of a playoff.
I understand that playing for millions of dollars would cause most of us to freeze, but these players on the PGA Tour are professionals. This is what they do week in and week out. They are also role models for the average golfer. At some point, the officials must step in for the betterment of the game and start to penalize slow play. Slow play could be added to the list (including stuffy and over-regulated) that gives the sport of golf a bad reputation. As golf teaching professionals, let’s ensure we are addressing a healthy pace of play, especially with our younger players.