1995 was the last time the PGA Tour handed out a penalty for slow play to an individual player.
Each year it gets harder to find similarities between the best players in the world versus what the average recreational golf experience looks like.
However, the biggest challenge facing the game of golf might be the same at the professional level as it is at the amateur one; time.
Nothing ruins a Saturday afternoon on the golf course more than waiting for the group in front of you to painfully analyze their shot selection and the same applies for the world’s professional tours.
Five hour rounds are not uncommon on the PGA tour and unfortunately it’s our human nature to mimic what we see.
The average amateur player sees the likes of Bryson DeChambeau and JB Holmes taking several minutes at a time to play their shot so it’s only natural to see that behaviour play out on your local course on the weekend.
How do we fix this?
How do you change behaviour without adding consequences?
1995 was the last time the PGA Tour handed out a penalty for slow play to an individual in a stroke play event; Glen Day at the Honda Classic.
They handed one out in the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans but that was a team event and it felt more like a “Let’s see how this goes over” exercise rather than a “Let’s take slow play seriously” initiative.
Back in 2013 at Augusta, we saw one of the more cringe worthy moments in recent memory when they handed out a one stroke penalty for slow play to 14 year-old Chinese amateur Tianlang Guan. The play that day was horrendously slow across the entire field yet they chose to punish a teenager.
Guan was playing alongside two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw who was en route to posting a round of 20 over-par yet there was no penalty that day for Crenshaw.
In more recent times, we saw Jordan Spieth freeze out Matt Kutchar at the 2017 Open Championship taking nearly 20 minutes in between shots on the 13th hole on Sunday yet no penalty was assessed to Spieth on that day either.
Last year at The Farmers Insurance Open, JB Holmes took four minutes and 10 seconds to hit his second shot on 18 essentially freezing out Alex Noren who was tied for the lead at the time. Twitter lit up from fans, players and media yet no penalty was assessed.
Think about it, four minutes and 10 seconds. That’s two runnings of the Kentucky Derby to hit one shot and it was a lay up!
However, we may be ready to turn the corner as some of the big name players are making noise and finally going public with their opinions on slow play.
Rory McIlroy recently called slow play on the PGA Tour “unacceptable” and an “epidemic” and then he publicly called on the PGA Tour to address it.
Adam Scott recently said in a Golf Digest article, “Make me the victim. I’ll take the penalty. The only way it’s going to work is if you enforce it.”
Some have suggested things won’t improve until sponsors or TV deals dictate that it must change.
One thing is for certain and that is this needs to change for the health of the game.
The next time we collectively decide to change the rules of golf perhaps we should pause and just start enforcing the ones we already have.