Tait: Stop talking, do something about slow play

The 417-yard, par-4 10th hole at Littlestone Golf Club.
The 417-yard, par-4 10th hole at Littlestone Golf Club. ( Getty Images )

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I’ve just received my entry form for this year’s 72 Club. I’m thinking of sending one to a few PGA, European, Ladies European and LPGA tour pros. Maybe if some of them played once in the 72 Club, there wouldn’t be a problem with slow play.

It’s just one of a few things I’m thinking this week.

The 72 Club does what it says on the tin. We play 72 holes in one day around Littlestone Golf Club in southern England, walking and carrying our bags. We’ll play 36 holes in less time than it takes some tour pros to play 18.

We average between 2 hours, 30 minutes and 2:45 for 18 holes around one of the nicest links gems in England. We’ll play 72 holes, and stop for lunch, in less than 12 hours.

We aren’t like most professional tours. We don’t talk about doing something about slow play. We get on and do something about it. Quite why the professional tours haven’t done the same is beyond me.

I’ve argued for years for a shot clock in golf, similar to basketball's. If a player hasn’t hit his or her shot within a certain time, then it’s an automatic one-shot penalty.

To be fair, some organizations have started to take action. The R&A has begun handing out one-shot penalties in its competitions. The LPGA has done the same. Meanwhile, the European Tour is better at getting its constituents to play faster than the PGA Tour. Still, not enough is being done.

Only punitive measures can turn the snails into cheetahs. One-shot penalties for a first offense, two-shot penalties for a second and then disqualification for a third strike is the only way to go. Maybe as a first step all slow coaches should have to play in one 72 Club to learn how to play quickly.

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WESTWOOD'S MOVE WEST: Speaking of needing to go quickly, Lee Westwood needs to shift into high gear if he is to join the major club. At least the Englishman has made the right move by taking up residence in the United States. At age 39, Westwood, who has relocated his family to West Palm Beach, Fla., still has time to get his hands on one of the trophies that really matter. Here’s hoping the move across the pond does the trick.

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TEN OF THE BEST? News that the USGA will select two mid-amateurs for this year’s Walker Cup team can only help GB&I’s chances of winning back the trophy when the teams meet at The National Golf Links on Sept. 7-8. I can understand the USGA wanting to encourage mid-amateurs, but this is no way to pick a national team. The 10 best should represent the U.S., not the best eight and two others.

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LYDIA'S CHALLENGE: Well done, Lydia Ko, on winning her third pro title, the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open. From watching her play, she is clearly a huge talent. She has talked about playing college golf but might change her mind now because she easily will slot into the pro game when she leaves the amateur ranks. I hope she reaches the right decision, one that’s best for her, not those around her.

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SINGH'S SAD STORY: News that Vijay Singh contravened the PGA Tour’s drug policy was a dark day for our great sport. The last thing golf needs is to get dragged into this sort of mire, which has plagued cycling and other sports for years. Golf has a great image, and we can do without such stories tainting that reputation. The PGA Tour needs to act quickly on this matter to protect the integrity of the game we know and love.

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