Challenge Tour fiasco another grim day for slow play

Ronan MacNamara
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(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

As Euan Walker rolled in his bogey-putt on the 18th while a tree came crashing down and signage and other debris were swirling around Club de Golf Alcanada, his playing partner Javier Sainz was reluctant to pull the trigger on a three-footer on the same green (outside of Walker) and instead called for a referee to discuss it.

While the pair were in discussion – over God knows what, I mean, it’s wind, the last hole, just hit the putt – Walker incensed by three-balls in a limited 45-man field taking over five hours knocked his putt in and then staged an angry protest over the pace of play.

His main argument was that having had tee times pushed forward to avoid the howling afternoon gales, Challenge Tour referees did not adhere to their end of the bargain which was to ensure an adequate pace of play so that all competitors completed their rounds before the worst of the conditions blew in.

“It was so difficult out there and, if any one of the referees had been monitoring pace of play, we’d probably have finished 45 minutes ago and wouldn’t have played the last three holes or at least the last couple in such bad wind,” Walker told Martin Dempster of the Scotsman.

“They’ve been allowing players to take two, three, four, five minutes to hit a shot. I mean, it’s unacceptable. We knew the wind was coming in the afternoon and they just needed to get us round in the morning.

“But, right from the start, no-one is on the pace of play and I feel why am I even bothering to adhere to the pace of play when nobody else is. They know exactly who the slow players are, but nobody does anything about it, so it is a bit frustrating from that point of view.”

The Scot was quick to launch an outburst at the referee adjacent to the 18th green stating if nobody else in the field is adhering to the pace of play regulations why should he?

Why should he is right. Under the guidelines for Rule 6-7, a player is permitted 40 seconds to play a stroke.

What Sainz did is pretty embarrassing to be honest. It’s the same conditions for everybody in that group, it’s the last hole, surely you are only hampering your own chances of holing such a putt by dithering and dallying over a three-footer?

According to Walker who was the first round leader, now sixth and occupying the 20th and final DP World Tour card spot players were stopping for the wind and taking up to five minutes to hit a golf shot.

I accept that windy conditions will make the pace of play slower, particularly given the pressure these forty-five players are under this week in Mallorca.

However, if tee times are pushed forward to accommodate for inclement weather approaching later in the day then surely it is the duty of the Rules officials and referees to make sure all forty-five players complete their rounds before the forecasted weather arrives.

Slow play is a problem across all golf clubs. Various measures have been undertaken to help maintain a good pace of play including letting groups go through, ready golf and dropping your ball in a general area if it is unable to be found – which usually applies to winter rules.

It seems rules of slow play do not cross to tour golf. It’s an age old debate. Putting players on the clock is minimal punishment for being slow.

Rarely do we see a player penalised for slow play and if so it’s usually a warning which is less than a slap on the wrist.

Everyone has a slow hole or two – that’s fine but it is your duty to make up the time and close the gap to the group in front of you. The penalty for slow play should be no warning, just an immediate fine and a shot penalty.

It should cost you because you could be costing a player in the group behind you or the group behind them by disrupting their rhythm and routine as what happened to Walker as his group and a couple of other groups finished in the treacherous conditions in Mallorca.

I have been in a similar position to Walker myself as we all have trying to finish a round of golf late in the afternoon/evening with darkness approaching and you are stuck behind a slow group coming down the stretch who either A) have more numbers than you have in your group and don’t care that you are waiting or B are just plain slow and don’t care that you are waiting.

I consider it the height of bad manners to consistently delay the group behind you and not let them through.

I understand that you can’t really just open the gates for an onslaught of groups leapfrogging each other but the issue of slow play in professional golf is a stick that has long been used to beat us with.

The fact the Challenge Tour Grand Final was on television for the first time makes this particularly poor timing.

Shotgun start anyone?

Might have been an idea…

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