Hot on the heels of heated debates over slow play, the European Tour has made the first move to curb it, announcing the introduction of more severe punishments from the start of the 2020 season.
The focus of attention has been on the PGA TOUR and Bryson DeChambeau in particular after the American took more than two minutes studying an eight-foot putt at the Northern Trust Open before ultimately missing it.
It sparked an exchange of words with world number one Brooks Koepka, who was also severely critical of playing partner JB Holmes during the final round of the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
And, while no rules have been changed and the current guideline of 50 seconds for the first in a group to play their shot and 40 seconds thereafter for his or her playing partners, the European Tour have decided to up the punishment levels.
As part of a four-point plan, the European Tour are reducing the timescale for players to be hit with one-shot penalties and are also handing out more financial punishments for regular offenders.
Tournaments will also be reduced from 156 to 144 players in a bid to help speed up play, and arguably the most interesting of all is that interactive online tests will be introduced for tour players to pass on rules and rulings before playing.
New technology will also be embraced with the trial of a new ‘Pace of Play’ timing system at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in September. This technology will provide referees with times that groups should finish each hole with displays on each tee box to show where the group is in relation to those in front.
“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,” European Tour tournament committee chairman David Howell said.
“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.”
The new rules that the European Tour officials have come up with will see a one-shot penalty added if players are over the time limit twice in a round in which they are being monitored or have been placed on the clock due to slow play.
The European Tour are hoping that the stricter punishments that actually affect a player’s results will help speed up play, although they have also upped the financial penalties too with the fine for being placed on the clock 15 times in a season being upped from £9,000 to £26,000.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, added: “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.
“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.”