The slow play monster

John Craven

Sergio Garcia (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

John Craven

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It doesnt matter whether your names Sergio Garcia or PJ Slevin, when it comes to slow play, they all react the same.

Garcia was one of ten groups put on the clock this week at Open Qualifying at West Lancashire; the Spaniard accepting his warning with typical grace, waving his arms angrily at referees while shouting youre always right, were wrong.

After missing out on Troon by two shots, Garcia later claimed that it was the underprepared host venue solely responsible for his groups inability to keep up with the one ahead, and ultimately his failure to qualify.

Its very simple,” he told Bunkered. When you have 2,000 people following us with no ropes, nothing. The marshals were trying to do as good a job as they could do but obviously we had to stop pretty much on every tee for two or three minutes to hit our tee shots because people were walking in front of the tee and on the fairway.

Unless we wanted to start hitting people, we couldnt hit. I dont think they took that into account and that was unfortunate because it made us rush. On a day like today where the conditions are so tricky and you might need a little of bit of extra time here and there it doesnt help out.

Because of that I made a couple of bogeys that might cost me getting to Troon.”

Theres no-one quite like golfers when it comes to getting the excuses in but whether or not you think Garcia has a point, when it comes to slow play accusations across the board, the common course of action for most golfers remains one of complete denial.

Far be it from me to act like a doorman on a power trip but there was always a sense of assurance as a Course Ranger when it came to identifying slow play culprits. With the clock on your side, it was very easy to calculate where a group should be on the course. At a conservative 15 minutes a hole for four-balls playing in 10 minute intervals, groups should comfortably finish in 4 hours 30 minutes, which is why the mind boggles at five hour plus rounds taking place most weekends.

In a different life years ago it was my job to find groups lagging behind and gently tell them to move it. And much like with Garcia, warnings were rarely well-received. Id point to a hole lost ahead and theyd bark back, but were not holding anyone up!Little did they realise that the group behind was slow too. And the one behind that had taken the foot off the pedal because they were sick of waiting on every shot. Meanwhile, much like the traffic on the M50 that mysteriously irons itself out, the domino effect is a logjam between a reachable par-5 and a par-3 a few holes back. Lads foaming at the mouth when I reach them, spitting their fury because their marriage is on the line if theyre not home in the promised 4 hours 30 minutes and its not looking good.

So Id drive back to the offending parties a second time if I had to and tell them that its up to me to worry about the groups behind, and their only job was to focus on the one in front. Id deliver the line with the same smugness as the bouncer on the door. Drive them mad. Sit on them after that. Watching from a towering vantage point in my red Ranger buggy as their games deteriorated through the red mist. Lost balls. Lost heads, and only me to blame for rushing their one weekly outing. Ruining it. Sorry lads, not tonight. As if Im meant to feel sorry for one snail spoiling the show for two hundred. A race against time to ensure everyones done before dark.

These days, time is money and most people are time poor. Slow play remains a scourge on the game but at the heart of the problem lies slow players who are either too slow, or too entitled, to accept they are the problem.

They should be blacklisted. Barred from morning tee times. Suspended for repeat offences. Kicked out of the club altogether if necessary because maybe Garcia had an excuse this time around but I promise you, PJ Slevin plodding his way round a stableford comp in five hours forty never had. And for the love of the golfing gods I hope he never will.

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