Ladies Golf Union set to take
lead in penalising slow play
By COLIN FARQUHARSON
Over the past few weeks we have seen extreme examples of slow and fast play in women's amateur golf.
The introduction of four-ball, better-ball ties in the 2008 Curtis Cup match over the Old Course, St Andrews produced one tie which was on the course for 5 1/2 hours.
One of the reasons was all four players had a look at the putting lines on each green ... as well as all four caddies.
At one stage, there was so much consultation it looked as though they might call in a fifth opinon from the referee or someone in the crowd.
"It was terrible," said no less a person that Carol Semple Thompson, captain of the victorious United States team.
Fast forward to last Sunday's 18-hole final of the British women's open amateur championship at North Berwick between two Swedish players, Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall.
Both pulled their own trolleys, wasted absolutely no time on the greens and fairly strode out along the fairways. Their 16-hole match was all over in UNDER THREE HOURS.
Somewhere between these two extremes is the desirable pace of play.
Ladies Golf Union Director of Championships Susan Simpson (picture above by courtesy of Tom Ward) says the governing body of women's amateur golf in Great Britain & Ireland is concerned at the general pace of play in events under their auspices.
All players in the championship at North Berwick were warned in their entry forms that slow play would be punished and there were reminders from the starter.
The result was that, in the main, all rounds were played within the time limites laid down by the LGU.
But Susan Simpson says that the LGU is likely to go a step further and adopt the United States Golf Association time-keeping format.
Apparently, the USGA have time stations periodically on the course for their tournaments. If players in a group do not pass a particular time station on or within the time allowed, then they are given a warning of possible penalties.
If at the next time station, they are still over the time limit, then a two-stroke penalty is imposed.
The downside of this set-up is that it punishes ALL members of the group, whether or not they are to blame for the slow play.
I spoke to one veteran Welsh Curtis Cup player at St Andrews and she is of the opinion that the tournament referees - and there seems to be an abundance of them these days - have the remedy in THEIR hands.
"They should warn and then penalise every time they see players guilty of slow play. In a match-play contest, the referee should not hesitate to pick up the ball of a slow player and say you've lost that hole, make your way to the next tee," she said.
"If referees did more of that kind of thing, players would soon come to realise that they will be penalised, not may be penalised if they play slowly."
She has a point. Can you remember the last time a professional or amateur golfer was penalised for slow play in a tournament? And yet everybody agrees the modern game of golf is grinding to a halt.
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