Tour tortoises may become extinct – but does it really matter? 

John Craven

J.B. Holmes (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Brexit fallout, Donald Trump, Jeffrey Epstein horror stories, mass murders in America and slow play in golf – isn’t perspective wonderful?  

These are the hot topics of my Twitter feed this August and despite the differing subject matter, each one has provoked public outcries of condemnation to such an extent that if you were to take the comments in isolation and remove the headlines entirely, you could interchange the level of shame and suffering on display regardless of whether it’s slow play that’s grinding your gears or a bomb going off in Northern Ireland. 

Yes, people really care about slow play in golf. It’s the game’s kryptonite, the plague of the PGA Tour and if fivehour plus rounds continue, it will be the death of the long walk spoiled… apparently… this scaremongering is coinciding with the FedEx Cup finale where the unfortunate soul finishing last at East Lake will earn $400,000. Not exactly on the brink, are we? 


Still, if you’re into trends, then what’s so hot right now is to denounce slow play. Bryson DeChambeau took an age to miss an eight-foot putt a fortnight ago and it broke the internet. The response of the PGA Tour? Nothing. Spotting an opportunity through his technicolour frames, European Tour Chief and everyone’s cool uncle, Keith Pelley kicked goal through an empty net on Monday. 

Indeed, at long last, Tour tortoises look to be an endangered species after the Tour announced a concrete four-point plan aimed at tackling the issue of slow play in professional golf. The 2020 vision, amongst other initiatives, will see a player only having to breach the time allowances twice in a round to incur a one-shot penalty. Good! Progress. They actually listened. 

Of course, for many armchair observers, one shot is not enough, but thankfully capital punishment doesn’t exist on the Continent. Strangely, just for a minute, I was actually excited about this development, until it dawned on me; what difference does this make to my life? 

The answer… None. Zilch. Nada. My issue watching golf on TV isn’t slow play. My gripe is that the coverage is woeful, completely biased to a select few and wholly inadequate. Even if we manage to make the world’s best play faster, it’s not like the networks are suddenly going to feature Shane Lowry on Sky Sports. They’re just going to fill the extra time describing Webb Simpson’s wakeup routine or Keegan Bradley’s sock collection. And that’s only if Tiger’s not playing.  

If Woods is featuring, forget about it. I spent half the coverage of last week’s BMW watching in horror as ‘The GOAT’ chewed his gum, over and over and over again like a goat, not once closing his mouth despite a camera two foot from his face broadcasting his ghastly eating habits to 200+ countries around the world.  

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that the European Tour are taking the lead in actually implementing punishment for slow players, but there’s so much more at play here than mind-numbing pre-shot routines.  

The only answer so far to the improved skill sets of players – on the PGA Tour roster at least – has been to increase course lengths which in turn increases the amount of time it takes to play a round of golf. All the supposedly great minds in golf, course designers and architects heralded as innovators and creative geniuses, and yet their only solution to player advancements is to add yards to an already uninspiring test. 

I used to bang my head against the wall when presiding as on-course marshal at Carton House. The monthly medal on ‘The Monty’ took the biscuit. They say Colin Montgomerie designed the course when he was going through his divorce; it’s an evil layout, riddled with sandy craters and penal rough. When the wind blew through it, it was goodnight Irene, and yet the goal was to herd talentless three-balls playing strokeplay around the menacing obstacle course in four hours flat.  

If you think negotiating a fair Brexit will be a battle, try getting Joe Bloggs with his bag of rusty Slazengers and his Top-Flite 2000’s around that track without losing a ball.  

If golf is to increase in popularity – time being one of its biggest foes – then courses need to be made easier for the average player. Slow play is a much greater issue in club competition where ‘ready golf’ needs to be enforced upon everyone, from the juniors jostling to be the next Tiger Woods to the deluded veterans still thinking there’s a chance. The pros can do what they like for all I care. Look at Jim Furyk  the coverage simply cuts out his laborious pre-shot shenanigans and only shows him when he’s ready to hit. 

‘But they’re the one’s setting the example! I hear you scream. They’re the custodians of the sport.  

Well if DeChambeau jumped off a bridge, would you follow him? Crazy thing is, if you did, you’d probably hit the ground first. 

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