Caddie Confidential: Is pace of play an issue on the PGA Tour?

Jason Day sits on the second tee box as he waits for the fairway to clear during the first round of the 2020 U.S. Open. Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the fifth installment of our “Caddie Confidential” series, with monthly, inside-the-ropes perspective from dozens of Tour caddies on rotating golf topics. Up this month: we tackle pace of play and all things related to it. Do the caddies think it’s an issue?

In September 2020, the PGA Tour informed its players that a revised pace-of-play policy would be implemented beginning in 2021.

Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard reported at the time:

The policy had been scheduled to begin in April at the RBC Heritage, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed its implementation. The Tour now plans to launch the tougher pace-of-play rules beginning in January at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

The new policy changes the Tour’s focus from keeping groups on pace to a system that’s focused on the individual player and includes increased fines for repeat offenders and the addition of what is being called “excessive shot times,” which will identify players who take longer than 120 seconds to hit a shot.

The most dramatic change to the policy will be the creation of an observation list of the Tour’s habitually slow players. The list will include players who take longer than 45 seconds on average to hit a shot, based on ShotLink data. The average will be based on a 10-tournament rolling window, which will allow players to improve their pace.

Early in May 2021, England’s Ian Poulter shared a note via his Instagram page that he received from the PGA Tour that he was none too pleased about when it came to slow play:

Whether Poulter himself is the issue or not, the fact is that slow play is most certainly an issue on the PGA Tour (and in golf in general … who else has trudged through a 5-hour round at the local muni during the summer?).

We polled nearly four dozen PGA Tour caddies to get their opinion on slow play, promising them all anonymity in an effort to get their most honest answers.

Is slow play an issue on the PGA Tour?

  • 72.5% of caddies said, YES, it is an issue
  • 27.5% of caddies said, NO, it is not an issue

“There’s too much analysis,” one caddie told us. “Not enough reaction to the target and trusting of athletic ability.”

“We play fast enough for as much money is at stake,” another caddie said.

Why or why not do caddies believe pace of play is an issue on the PGA Tour?

Check out this selection of responses from caddies:

Too many players aren’t getting ready for their shot while others are playing.

We don’t have much problem playing in under five hours these days. There is a lot more going into tournament golf than your average recreational round. If we were habitually going over the allotted TV time that’s one thing. But that has not been the case. The leaders are not generally waiting.

Because some guys are just plain slow, but for the most part, a slow player is not ready to play when it’s his turn. They wait until it’s their turn, then walk off their yardage, get wind direction, pick club, talk about the shot with their caddie. All these things could be done — in most cases — before it’s your turn to hit. That to me is the biggest issue.

Players take too long to play shots and aren’t held accountable by officials or other players.

I believe the issue is officials and how they enforce the pace of play. Lately it seems like they haven’t been using common sense as to who/when someone is put on the clock.

Too many issues cause pace of play. Course set up and how many players in the field are the biggest problems. Yes, there are slow players, but the Tour breeds them.

The courses are so long and difficult to play much faster. It could be sped up slightly, but in the grand scheme of things it won’t really matter. I think the television partners could do a better job of showing more shots and less in between stuff.

The players are held to a pace of play when a group falls “out of position” or significantly behind the group in front of them. This is almost always caused my ONE player in the group taking significantly more amount of time per shot than the other player(s) in the group. Almost always the entire group is put “on the clock” when this happens after the group has been warned and not closed the gap to catch the group in front. They are told how long (if a player requests to know) they are over time par. That amount of time does not take into account any time that they have already spent waiting for the group in front of them during early holes in the round. The group now on the clock may not have fallen behind time par if they had not previously had to wait during early holes during the round. Putting the entire group on the clock is not a fair way of controlling/policing pace of play. There are at least 10 players on the PGA Tour who routinely cause undue delay during every round of golf they play. Those are all problems with the system as it currently stands.

Golf is a slow game not a car race, so who cares if it takes 4 1/2 or 5 hours per round? So what?

When a fast player gets on Tour, he has to learn how to slow down. It should be the opposite.

Harder courses, big fields, big money.

It shouldn’t take five hours to play, but with the money on the line and difficulty of courses, there’s not much you can do.

Players coming from the amateur ranks are increasingly slower!

The reason pace is so slow is because guys are not ready to play when it’s their turn … period.

I would say 25 percent of the players on Tour aren’t ready to play when it’s their turn.

Guys notoriously known are slow and know it. They admit it but don’t bother to do anything until they are put on the clock.

Pace of play is much more to do with course set up, hole locations, rough length, and weather! Sure guys could play a little faster, but there is so much money on the line with every shot. Not to mention pace of play would need to be the same for everyone. Top 50 players shouldn’t get a break because of their status level.

Pure time limits aren’t 100 percent enforced.

With courses being made longer to accommodate the distance the players are able to hit the ball we are walking further. Factor in that a lot of the courses on Tour are designed to be played in carts, the distance between greens and the next tee is of no thought to the designer. I would estimate that the yardage of the golf course has increased about 7-10 percent in the last 20 years, but when you factor in the long walks between greens and tees, I would guess some weeks we are covering an extra mile or two.

On the “older” courses we play like Colonial or Hilton Head the pace of play is as quick as ever.

Players are playing for their livelihood and entertainment.

So we rush the game, and shave off 10-15 minutes of a 4 1/2 to 5 hour round. Who cares?

I think they should get rid of the green reading books, it slows play. Just watch the time guys spend looking where they are on the green/grid.

Many guys are rarely ready when it’s their turn to play and there is way too much info to process through in yardage and greens books. The game has become much less reactionary.

Five hours is too long for three professionals to play a round of golf.

One player can slow entire field.

These guys are playing for their livelihoods and have no job security year to year. If they play in five hours and your local amateur can play in four hours, who cares? Pace of play is slow because we play/walk large golf courses built for riding under extremely difficult conditions. It takes time!

Interested in more from our May 2021 installment of Caddie Confidential? Be sure to check out the one thing caddies would change to speed up play, as well as a slow-play story that either made a caddie laugh, or made his blood boil

You can view all the results from our entire Caddie Confidential by clicking here.

COMMENTS

  1. What I have never been able to understand is why players wait until their partner has finished hitting to begin discussing their own shot. Why can’t they just talk to their caddie and decide on a club while the other player is hitting and then be ready to go as soon as it’s their turn?

  2. 10-15 minutes per ruling is a major issue.. players are afraid to take a drop, or, have no clue how to take relief or a drop …so they must call one of the only two officials on the course… 5 minutes to get ther.. 5-8 minutes to drop.. 5 more minutes to look at yardage book..

  3. played with a guy the other day who used his phone, and his laser for every shot.
    he walked around every putt from every angle. he couldn’t have found his backside
    with either hand. this doesn’t begin to cover all the hesitation pitches this guy made on
    every single shot. we were not held up by the group in front of us just by this guy in our group. a joke to be paired up with this.

  4. BS about a threesome taking 5 hours to play a round.
    Their supposed to be pros. Watching the pros take 5 minutes to verbalize a shot with their caddy is ridiculous. Pros should be ready to hit (having discussed all their options and reading the damn green books) as soon as their fellow competitor hit their shot. No wonder people find golf boring on TV.

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