Tait: Golf needs more slow-play penalties

Nathan Kimsey

TROON, Scotland - Add Nathan Kimsey’s name to a list that includes Morgan Pressel and Ross Fisher. Finally the snails are being outed.

About time, too!

Kimsey was handed a one-shot penalty for slow play in the second round of qualifying for the British Amateur Championship. The Englishman picked up two bad times, and the R&A docked him a stroke. His 72 turned into a 73, but he still qualified for the match play stages.

Pace-of-play guidelines have been in existence for the Amateur Championship for years. Ditto for the Open Championship. In fact, the R&A, U.S. Golf Association and all professional tours have pace-of-play guidelines. It’s just that they haven’t really been enforced.

Until now.

“Our championship committee had reviewed this whole thing over the winter and decided the policies we had in place were the correct ones, and we are going to enforce them somewhat more rigorously than we had in the past,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said.

Pace-of-play guidelines were printed in 16 languages and placed on a large notice board in the foyer of the Royal Troon clubhouse. Competitors hardly could fail to miss them. Kimsey obviously failed to notice the notice board.

Others did, too. Kimsey wasn’t the only one impersonating a snail here at Royal Troon. He just happened to get caught.

Hopefully recent action to get tough on slow play is the start of a long campaign to get the game moving again, because it has only been going one way for years: backward.

“We do have a concern that the game is getting slower and slower, and in amateur golf maybe more so than in the professional game,” said Jim McArthur, chairman of the R&A’s championship committee. “There’s a potential for affecting the membership of golf clubs throughout the world because it takes so long to play and people don’t just have the time required.”

Pace of play is the poison that’s killing golf. It takes so long to play these days that players have left the game in droves. As for attracting new players, it just isn’t attractive to children to take up the game. Why would a youngster want to devote five hours to a round of golf when he or she can get quicker pleasure out of so many other forms of entertainment these days?

We live in an age of instant messaging, instant access to the Internet, the ability to download material in seconds for our pleasure, yet golf has gone the other way.

Kimsey isn’t the only one who should have been penalized here at Royal Troon. Watching some of these amateurs line up a putt is to lose the will to live. It’s almost as if they were performing brain surgery rather than trying to hole a 4-footer.

There were shining lights here, though. Scotland’s Jack McDonald played 24 holes against Will McCurdy in the third round and then had to play a fourth-round match against Ireland’s Rory McNamara. They went around Royal Troon in 3 hours and 20 minutes. That’s a sprint in today’s amateur game, especially on a course as hard a Royal Troon.

So hats of to the R&A, LPGA and European Tour for getting tough. The PGA Tour and USGA need to follow suit. From what I saw watching the U.S. Open, USGA officials had plenty of opportunities to hand out one-shot penalties and didn’t do so.

PGA Tour officials need to jump on the bandwagon, too. Commissioner Tim Finchem recently said he thought penalty strokes would not be effective. He couldn’t be more wrong. Monetary fines mean nothing to the multimillionaires of the PGA Tour. Strokes will hurt more.

If I had my way, I would up the ante and hand out two-stroke penalties. That would soon get them moving.

My worry is that this get-tough campaign will be only short-lived, that the snails will revert back to their sluggish ways. Let’s hope not.

Officials need to keep their foot down hard on the slowpokes so that we get back to a stage when just over three hours is the norm. If not, the game will continue to die a slow and painful death.

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