The Royal & Ancient will not tolerate lollygagging this week at the Open Championship. They have set an aggressive time standard for players to complete their rounds at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
Threesomes are expected to finish play in 4 hours, 30 minutes, while twosomes over the four days are expected to take 45 fewer minutes.
By comparison, the U.S. Golf Association gave threesomes 4 hours, 37 minutes and pairs 4 hours, 2 minutes for last month’s U.S. Open at The Olympic Club. No pace-of-play penalties were issued by the USGA that week.
Jim McArthur, chairman of the championship committee, said the R&A will make enforcing slow play a “priority.” As for whether that would mean applying penalty strokes to players and groups that fall behind pace, that seems unlikely.
“We give each group a time schedule for each hole, and we monitor that very stringently,” McArthur said. “And if a group is out of position with the game in front or over the time schedule, we initially start with words of encouragement to communicate with them and tell them that they are over the schedule or out of position. If they don’t respond to that, we then put them on to the clock and deal with them that way.”
With an awareness of the thick rough and deep bunkers likely leading to calamities and search parties, the R&A was coy not to commit to the strictest enforcement of its pacing expectations.
The governing body, however, feels it should do its part in encouraging faster play at every level of the game.
“I think we feel that particularly maybe not so much at professional golf but certainly amateur golf that slow play is, in some ways, if not killing the game, is killing the club membership because of the time it takes to play,” McArthur said. “And whatever we can do in our events … we’re doing whatever we feel we can in the circumstances to contribute to improving the pace of play.”