Slow Play in Competition

A lot has been made over the past few years about slow play and what can be done to make the game quicker. Everything from playing the proper tees (i.e. tee it forward), to promoting the idea of 9 hole rounds as opposed to 18 has been presented in one form or another. Most of the attention paid to slow play has been directed at recreational players or at least those not playing in formal competitions. No one wants a Sunday afternoon round with your buddies to take more than 4 hours, but at the same time, few blink at tournament rounds taking 5. With that said, slow play is an issue in competitive golf, and I am not just talking about the PGA Tour, where a 6 – 7 hour round is the norm (and is ridiculous).

Let’s take a look at what the rules say:

Rule 6-7. Undue Delay; Slow Play

The player must play without undue delay and in accordance with any pace of play guidelines that the Committee may establish. Between completion of a hole and playing from the next teeing ground, the player must not unduly delay play.

Note 2: For the purpose of preventing slow play, the Committee may, in the conditions of a competition (Rule 33-1), establish pace of play guidelines including maximum periods of time allowed to complete a stipulated round, a hole or a stroke. In match play, the Committee may, in such a condition, modify the penalty for a breach of this Rule as follows: First offence – Loss of hole; Second offence – Loss of hole; For subsequent offence – Disqualification. In stroke play, the Committee may, in such a condition, modify the penalty for a breach of this Rule as follows: First offence – One stroke; Second offence – Two strokes; For subsequent offence – Disqualification.

Rule 33 – 1 says that the Committee must establish the conditions under which a competition is to be played.

Ottawa Valley Golf Association (OVGA) – Pace of Play Policy

For all events run under the jurisdiction of the OVGA, a pace of play policy dictates guidelines the committee has established, under Rule 33- 1 and 6-7.

The policy states that the time for finishing at the 18th hole (flagstick in the hole) is listed on your official scorecard. The first group must complete play by the listed time. Subsequent groups must complete play by the listed time or be within 14 minutes of the group ahead to avoid penalty. This is called a Group Pace of Play policy.

The penalty has been set at 1 stroke, adding to the score on the 18th hole.

The time allowed (in my experience) is normally right around 4 hours and 30 minutes.

While I am not a slow player by any stretch of the imagination, I seem to often find myself in slow groups during competitive rounds, and there isn’t really anything I can do about, except encourage my fellow competitors to keep pace and keep pace myself.

A couple years back I was in a group that was put on the clock, it was a non OVGA event using a different local rule and a couple weeks back I was in a group that was assessed a stroke penalty after finishing our round 25 minutes behind the group in front out us. We appealed the penalty and ultimately won the appeal (the stroke was removed).

When we had our appeal, one of the committee members said that poor play was not an excuse for missing the required pace time. However, poor play  is precisely the reason why many groups fall behind. There is a big difference between keeping pace during that Sunday afternoon buddy round and the Sunday tournament round. With my buddies, when I snap hook my drive on 3 into the trees, I have a few options, I can 1. hit a provisional and play the hole out as the rules state, 2. If agreed to, play it as red staked and drop where ball went in (and take an X for handicap purposes) or 3. Take a mulligan (and an X for handicap) or 4. Take an X and walk the hole without playing. Depending on how the pace is going during the day (how far behind we are from group in front) one may institute any of the options.  In a tournament, I have but one choice, hit a provisional. And, when I push that provisional into the trees down the right, I have one other choice, hit another provisional. My only option is to play the hole out as the rules indicate, or withdrawal from the tournament. I am not saying I disagree with the rules, I don’t. What I am saying is that the reason for slow play in local and regional amateur tournaments is generally not a result of the individuals playing slowly, but rather a result of the individuals playing poorly.

I am an advocate of speeding up play, both for recreational rounds as well as competitive rounds. When it comes to competitive rounds I don’t believe a player doing their best to play well and keep pace, should be penalized for poor play, given that playing poorly is penalty enough in my mind. Also, I don’t think a player should be penalized for something they have little to no control over, which is the pace of their playing partners and or the quality of play of their partners. I don’t have a solution and maybe the group pace of play policy is as good as it gets, but I hope not.

See you at turn,



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