Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Jeff Rude are co-hosts of a weekly podcast, Hawk & Rude, in which they discuss and debate the hottest issues in golf. They also share their takes in this weekly installment.
Is there a fair, practical way to penalize offenders and speed up play on the PGA Tour?
Hawk’s take: Any long-term solution to the problem is likely to require two components: an independent, arbitrary source hired by the PGA Tour to police pace of play – and a shot clock. You can’t take a Dirty Harry approach and start blowing away every guy who picks up a few bad times. Camp Ponte Vedra is a member-supportive organization in which the primary purpose is to service the needs of its players. Using an outside agency to oversee the project would absolve the Tour of liability, as is the case with drug testing in other professional sports.
A shot clock of some form is essential because it would let players know when they’re in danger of a violation, but there are obvious logistical factors involved. Where do you put these contraptions? Can you really erect two or three such devices on every hole? Could they be attached to carts that follow every group? The concept would require a lot of thought, manpower and money, but it’s not as if the Tour doesn’t have the time, resources and revenue to make it work.
One thing has become painfully clear: The slow-play issue needs to be resolved at almost any cost, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Rude’s take: The elimination of prize money would speed up play.
Seriously, yes, the Tour could get the lead out by reinventing the wheel and starting from scratch with regard to pace-of-play penalties and policing.
1. Give out more penalty strokes. Only penalty strokes will speed play; fines won’t. Penalty strokes have been handed out only three times in the past three decades; in other words, there has been no deterrent. The Tour has talked incessantly about speeding up play by 20 minutes a round during those three decades and hasn’t figured out a solution. Instead, pace has gotten slower as purses have risen.
2. Time players, even when their group is not out of position. Try something like this: A warning. A $10,000 fine for the first slow time. A $20,000 fine for the second bad time. Penalty strokes for the rest of the year on subsequent breaches.
3. Because Tour rules officials seem uncomfortable about handing out slow-play stroke penalties, bring in an independent group that deals solely with policing pace. Contract cops not on the Tour payroll.
4. Instead of “These Guys Are Good,” launch a “Hit When It’s Your Turn” campaign starring fast-play activists Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy. Others follow the lead of top players. Always have.
John Hawkins is a longtime sportswriter who spent 14 years covering the PGA Tour for Golf World magazine. From 2007 to 2011, he was a regular on Golf Channel’s “Grey Goose 19th Hole.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Rude has covered golf for more than 30 years, most notably for two decades with Golfweek, and has hosted multiple national TV and radio shows. He covered 82 consecutive major championships. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @JeffRudeGolf