Masters meltdown - tortoises reign supreme

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Pace of play for the second round was atrocious. M. James Ward outlines the ripple effect of slow play and the cancer it causes in the game.
Posted on
April 13, 2024
The Editorial Team in ,
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

AUGUSTA, GA. Each Spring the Masters tournament is a showcase on how golf events should be run. The precision and total scrutiny in getting all the details right is what has elevated the standing of event and the aura Augusta National has attained.

But a major fumble took place with Friday's second round.

Pace of play – or the lack thereof - could only charitably be called shameful.

Keep this firmly in mind – the Masters is a very limited field. This year's event has less than 90 players but the pace of play nearly reached six hours! That's no misprint – six hours!

Yes, the wind conditions were incessant and caused players to back off shots repeatedly. You also had players being ever so careful when standing over putts.

But we are talking about elite golfers with a number of assigned volunteers to keep the pace of play moving. There are also countless officials – the best in the game present to provide assistance and answers to any questions that arise.

With all of this assistance the laborious drip-by-drip procession of play was the equivalent of watching paint dry.

There's no question walking the hilly Augusta National property is an issue. The spacing between holes has also been stretched with players finishing one hole having to march back a number of yards to reach the tee areas they are playing.

To put things into perspective – golf as a sport benefited greatly from the global pandemic. People were searching for outdoor options and golf became the leading connector for many.

That momentum is still taking place and needs to be encouraged.

The biggest factor working against golf is the overall pace of play.

Four hours were seen as the standard not many years ago. But for many who play the game the total number of hours just spent playing 18 holes has creeped ever closer to five hours.

Complicating matters has been the lack of sustained and serious effort by the clubs themselves. Management runs the show at any golf facility and the blind eye turned towards slow play is magnified when people see what happened Friday at Augusta National.

The Masters has always prided itself on being in the vanguard in how the April event is organized. There is no single detail that's missed and it is for that reason Augusta National sets the tone for what happens down the line throughout the golf world.

Slow play is golf's cancer.

We now live in a world in which seconds are measured. People are engaged in a wide assortment of activities – some are done solo while others are done collectively.

Golf as a sport needs to adjust to the realities of its customer base – one becoming younger and more diversified. However, that new clientele does not have the patience to play a sport in which the bulk of the time is spent waiting on others to move along.

The telecast of the second round showed players routinely chatting with one another while waiting to play. The question left unanswered is what were officials doing while this was happening?

Why were golfers not placed on the clock and then measured accordingly for the time taken to play each shot?

Tyrell Hatton mentioned this when his round concluded and other players have been quite vocal that pace of play has become the domain of the tortoises in the field.

The Masters could have sent a very powerful and loud message if a pro-active effort was instituted Friday.

Yes, the playing conditions need to be smartly assessed but those players who were dragging matters along needed to be admonished in the clearest of terms that such actions would be reviewed and swift remedial action – including penalty strokes would be applied as the circumstances warranted.

The ignorance in doing nothing of consequence sends a distressing signal to the broader golf community that if the Masters can deal with six-hour golf then why not at all other clubs?

There is no question that the insertion of a time clock and then the application of that to the players is no easy task – especially when we are talking about elite golf competitions such as the Masters.

Applying penalties to offending players is not an easy task but like any sport there must be some level of accountability for those willful tortoises who refuse to comply.

Closing one's eyes to the issue only makes matters worse.

Masters meltdown - tortoises reign supreme

Slow play is the scourge of golf and it has forced many to make a decision on how best to engage their recreational time. Those who run the various golf organizations need to do much more than talking about the issue but actually dealing with it.

The PGA TOUR refuses to publicly announce how fines are applied. That approach should be shelved and Commissioner Jay Monahan should make matters perfectly clear that those who play at the elite level have a responsibility to show others down the line the manner by which golf should be played.

There are clubs that have taken a proactive approach to the topic. They are to be commended for their refusal to allow tortoises to ruin the experience for others. In my own "neck of the woods" Hackensack Golf Club in Oradell, NJ has seen fit to place pace of play at the top of the pecking order.

The club resolutely monitors the situation and is not hesitant in informing guilty parties they need to be aware of their actions and correct them.

No one is suggesting golf become a track meet. But management at any facility that simply posts meaningless signs without concrete actions is acquiescing to what is an issue that is growing worse.

The twin pillars of education and enforcement are central to combatting slow play.

The Masters is a superb event and one that rightly honors the memory of Bob Jones and the design genius of Dr. Alister MacKenzie.

Both men revered the Old Course at St. Andrews and the spirit of what golf is all about.

Neither embraced slow play and if they were on hand to see Friday's funeral procession, they likely would have been aghast at the toleration given such actions.

Slow play is a choice – it happens because others permit it to happen.

The Masters is a major championship and has a platform unlike any other. Those running the event should see such matters clearly and take the necessary steps to combat slow play.

Those slow to act will be fast to fail.

Let's never forget the first two letters in golf --


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About The Editorial Team

The editorial team at Golf Today strives to provide readers with captivating content that celebrates the rich heritage and exciting developments in the world of golf. Their collective expertise and dedication ensure that Golf Today remains a premier destination for golf enthusiasts seeking the latest news, insightful analysis, and engaging stories from the world of golf.

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