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  • Alistair Tait

Is golf's latest slow play remedy doomed?

The PGA of America makes history this week at Kiawah Island in the 103rd PGA Championship when it becomes the first major championship to allow the use of range finders. It’s going to be great watching players get round in under four hours, rather than the usual five and a half hour snooze fest.

Play will be so quick TV commentators can dispense with the usual sycophantic waffle they normally need to spout to fill in the five minutes between players and caddies arriving at their balls and checking the yardage to the flag – both player and caddie because they obviously don't trust one another – wind direction, air density, true gravity, the location of magnetic north, and the Dow Jones Index before they can play a 100-yard wedge shot after a standard 350-yard drive.

This week, they’ll arrive at the ball, scope the flag, pull the club and swing. Eureka!

Just think, the PGA of America will make double history by becoming the first tournament since the new rules of golf were introduced on 1 January 2019 to ACTUALLY get players hitting shots within the 40 seconds as stipulated in Rule, sorry, Recommendation 5.6b.

God will be in golf heaven and all will be right with the world.

Wait a minute, did I just dream that?


Remember what the PGA of America said when it announced range finders would be in use for this week’s championship:

“We’re always interested in methods that may help improve the flow of play during our championships,” PGA of America president Jim Richerson stated. “The use of distance-measuring devices is already common within the game and is now a part of the Rules of Golf. Players and caddies have long used them during practice rounds to gather relevant yardages.”

Like you, I’m guessing the use of range finders supposed to help speed up play will actually do the opposite. You’ll have players, and maybe even caddies too, scoping everything from the flag, to front and back of bunkers, false fronts, TV towers, the attractive spectator in the white top at the back of the green, and boats bobbing out in the Atlantic Ocean .

The people who know all about pace of play, the caddies, suggests Richerson may be dreaming when he says flow of play will be enhanced. This week’s blog on the excellent website sends a raspberry in Richerson’s direction when it states:

No-one we speak to can recall where the clamour for range finders to be allowed came from, or the reasoning behind allowing it. The only half-baked theory anyone can come up with is the notion amongst the powers that be that they will somehow speed up play.
“Sounds great in theory. But in practice it’s utter nonsense."

Reuters golf reporter Andrew Both is on the ground at Kiawah. He’s sounded out caddies working this week and comes to the same conclusion.

“It’s handy to have the rangefinder but it is not going to speed up play,” said Australian caddie Scott Sajtinac, who is working for 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Duffner.
“It does not change the way a full-time a professional caddie gets his yardages.
We're always going to revert to the yardage book which we know is accurate to inches. Our yardage book is done with a GPS satellite to the nearest foot. We know it's spot on.
“Being able to use the rangefinder is much ado about nothing.”

"Utter nonsense. Much ado about nothing." Oh great! Play is going to be slow despite the PGA of America's best intentions. And on the longest course in major championship history at 7,876 yards.

If only the PGA of America and other organisations would introduce the one device that would speed up play then maybe we’d get back to rounds closer to acceptable speeds: a shot clock. That and a willingness to hand out one-shot penalties is the only guaranteed way to speed up the tortoises.

Prepare this week to meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

#JustSaying: “There were three things in the world that he held in the smallest esteem, slugs, poets and caddies with hiccups.” P.G. Woodhouse

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Tom Boyle
Tom Boyle
May 18, 2021

Has anyone ever done an analysis of time to reach within 10 yards of the green v time spent around it? I suspect it will be over 50% on the latter on an average par four. If so, the rangefinder is even less relevant, whereas the infernal greens books are.

I would also bring in compulsory completion of the hole after the first putt. Marking, re-marking and walking around takes an eternity. And given that we can tap down anything on the line, any foot or spike marks (remember them?!) can be repaired if the fellow competitor needs to stand on the line. Alternatively, a dispensation to mark could be given if that.problem arose.

May 19, 2021
Replying to

Tom: There used to be a continuous putting rule in effect years ago, and pretty sure players were only allowed to mark the ball once. I'll check that out and report back....


May 18, 2021

I suspect this "one-off" use of rangefinders won't help pace of play. Probably even slow it down a bit.

But I believe if they were allowed every week, they would speed up play as caddies and players began to trust them.

May 19, 2021
Replying to

I played with friend after the new 40-second recommendation came into existence. We had a discussion pre round over breakfast and said perhaps they should have made it 50 seconds, or even a minute, and made it a hard and fast rule. I suggested range finders could be allowed to speed up play in professional golf. Unbeknownst to me, he timed me over my second shot to the third hole when I arrived at the ball, scoped the flag, pulled the club, and hit the shot. 29 seconds he said. Now I obviously wasn't playing for a major or even a pro tournament, but range finders can speed up play if used correctly. Pretty sure already fast players like Koepka,…

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