The European Tour has told the golf world it takes slow play seriously, and they've got a plan to do something about it.
Back in August, the Tour announced a four-point pace-of-play plan, including a pillar about regulating the pace through a new policy. At the BMW PGA Championship in September 2019, the Tour used a new timing system with on-tee displays showing a timing system for every group so they could see the same data referees were seeing about their pacing and gaps.
The trial program expands this week at the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Players will now be penalized one stroke if they get a second "bad time" during a tournament. Previously, a player had to get two "bad times" during a round to get penalized. What constitutes a "bad time" has now changed, though. Like the new PGA Tour pace-of-play policy, referees will keep eye on particular players who are known to take too much time, even if they're in position -- meaning there can be "bad times" when out of position and when in position.
The "bad time" standard for being out of position hasn't changed. A player being timed has 50 seconds to play a shot when they're first to play (tee shot, approach, around the green and putt) and 40 seconds if they're not first. There is a 10 percent allowance (4 or 5 extra seconds) to account for human error in timing those first two times.
When in position, a player being timed by an official now has less time to play a shot. It used to be double the out-of-position standard. However, it's now 85 seconds when going first and 70 seconds when not going first.
A player violating the "in position" timing standard will incur a “monitoring penalty” that will not count towards the one-stroke penalty for having two bad ties in a tournament since the player was in position.
Players will be allowed to call for a "time extension" for any stroke once during a round, adding 40 seconds to the allowance for that stroke. The player has to tell the timing referee of their intent to take the extension before the originally allotted time is exceeded.
In addition to penalties, the fines for "monitoring penalties" and "bad times" has increased. After the first instance of each, a player will be fined at least €3,500 for each subsequent violation during the season, and that fine will increase with each subsequent violation.
Part of the European Tour's plan is to also keep field sizes at more sustainable depths for completing rounds on time. Starting this season, full-field self-sanctioned events have been dropped from 156 players to a minimum of 144 players. This will help on Thursday and Friday. On the weekends, there will be more time between starting times to give a better on-course flow to those money rounds.