Golfing cynics rolled their eyes as they watched the French squad of Romain Wattel, Alexander Levy, Grégory Havret and Raphaël Jacquelin shatter the record for the world’s fastest playing of a par-5 by a team of four in the build up to the recent Open de España.
The fastest fourball in golf is now in the Guinness Book of Records for making a relay style birdie on Valderrama’s 500-yard fourth hole in just 34.8 seconds —knocking just over 33 seconds off the previous best time.
Why, many wondered, can’t they get a move on in tournament play?
Former Spanish Open winner Peter Lawrie, who finished 53rd at the Cadiz venue, points to the vast sums the players are trying to win as at least a reasonable excuse for the sometimes irritatingly slow pace of play.
And as a man who is well used to suffering the slow play of amateurs at pro-ams, he’s got his own ideas about how golf clubs can speed things up and make the game more attractive.
Just last week, the 42 year old wrote to every club manager in the country, asking them to consider a two-week trial of GREENi — an electronic tagging system which monitors the position of every group on the course and produces a detailed “Pace of Play” report on where time is being lost and how the course set up can be changed to speed up play.
His connection to GREENi, which eliminates to the need for clubs to employ a course ranger, is clearly commercial.
But in common with Pádraig Harrington, who last week endorsed the R&A’s decision to support nine-hole golf by introducing a new championship at Royal Troon on July 9, he’s concerned that people are giving up the game because it simply takes up too much time.
“My view is that if your golf course is ridiculously slow, the chance of you getting people back to play it are very slim,” Lawrie says. “If you are not playing at a reasonable pace, less than five hours, there is no interest.
“I am trying to get golf clubs to try and find out why rounds are taking so long and where they are losing that time.
“Course setup has a lot to do with it and so do the habits these days. Quite apart from that, it has a very practical application in that you can see at a glance where the players are exactly on the golf course.
“GREENi are offering a two week trial for €950 and if clubs want to take the product after that, then great. For their trial they get reports on how to improve the bottlenecks that are occurring by making the hole before it a little more difficult or by making the next hole a little easier.”
Like the rest of us, Lawrie has his pet peeves when it comes to slow play.
“Nobody is every ready to play,” he complains. “That’s a massive one. Just be ready! When it is your time to go, go!
“The other thing is that it’s pretty clear that many people are watching too much TV and trying to act like the pros, especially the young lads.
“They are not playing for the amount of money that the guys are tour are and they just don’t seem to realise that.
“Even for those people who are capable of flying around the course in three hours or three and half hours, the problem is the guys in front of them who are taking a ridiculous amount of time.
“I am not saying that someone going out to play Royal Dublin or Portmarnock shouldn’t enjoy themselves. Golf is meant to be about enjoyment and we are not trying to rush people around the golf course but we want everybody to be able to get around in a comfortable time.”
The list of things that irritate him is a lengthy one.
“People trying to read the greens with fingers, or straddling the line,” he says in reference to the Aimpoint fad. “That should be banned. You shouldn’t be allowed to step near the line of your putt.
“And the guys who draw a line on the ball, line it up to the hole and then continually readjust the position of the ball. How annoying it that!”
Amateur drain affecting home events
The amateur game has changed utterly in recent years with our top players competing overseas with increasing regularity.
Two international wins already this year for Jack Hume are wonderful for Irish golf but as the summer approaches, many lament the weakness of our domestic “majors”.
Yes, all the “big guns” will be at the Royal Dublin next week for the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship, our top event. But one wonders how many of our leading players will support the East of Ireland at County Louth in June rather than heading for the Home of Golf for the clashing St. Andrews Links Trophy and the huge World Amateur Golf Ranking points.
The Lytham Trophy begins at Royal Lytham and St Annes on Friday and as it was ranked the 14h biggest event in the world last year and third in Britain and Ireland behind the Amateur Championship and the St. Andrews Links Trophy, the Irish entry is bigger than ever.
From 11 entrants three years ago and 14 last season, there will be at least 18 Irishmen on the tee on Friday with an official, six-man GUI party headed by Hume, the only member of the five-man Irish continent to win the Walker Cup at Royal Lytham last September still in the amateur ranks.
Given the struggles our provincial championships (and the Irish Close) face to attract the best players, one wonders if way cannot be found to give our best players top class international competition without unduly weakening our traditional events.
Word of Mouth
By the numbers
43 & 200: Charley Hoffman is 43 under par at TPC San Antonio in the Valero Texas Open since 2010 — 29 shots better than anyone else in that time. That said, he was ranked 200th of 201 PGA Tour players for final round scoring this season before playing the last eight holes in three under to win by one on Sunday.
In the bag - Charley Hoffman, Valero Texas Open, PGA Tour
- Driver: Titleist 915D4 (Matriz Ozik TP7HDE X), 9.5 degrees
- 3-wood: Titleist 915F, 13.5 degrees
- Hybrid: Titleist 915Hd, 17.5 degrees
- Irons (3, 5-9): Titleist 716 T-MB; (PW): Titleist SM5
- Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5 (50, 56, 58 degrees)
- Putter: Scotty Cameron by Titleist Golo 5
- Ball: Titleist
Know the rules
Q. In stroke play, a competitor's ball comes to rest through the green on a paved path. He lifts the ball, drops it off the path at a point almost two club-lengths from the nearest point of relief (i.e. he drops in a wrong place) and plays it. The competitor's marker advises the competitor that he (the marker) believes the ball must be dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. The competitor, in doubt, invokes Rule 3-3 (Doubt as to Procedure), drops a second ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief and otherwise in accordance with Rule 24-2b(i) and opts to score with the second ball. The competitor holes out with both balls. What is the ruling?
Answer: Rule 20-7c states in part: “If a competitor makes a stroke from a wrong place, he incurs a penalty of two strokes under the applicable Rule. He must play out the hole with the ball played from the wrong place …”. Thus, the competitor's score with the original ball, with a penalty of two strokes added, must count.
Rule 20-7c does not permit the second ball to count. However, the competitor incurs no penalty for having played the second ball.