'Shot Clock' to Shake Up European Tour in 2018

Guan Tianlang is one of the few golfers to have received a slow play penalty and that was at the age of 14. (Photo: Asia Pacific Amateur Championship)
Today’s announcement that the European Tour will introduce a 'shot clock' in a stroke-play tournament next year is welcome news for the professional game and the flow on impact it will have on the game at all levels.

For years now, the game has been calling for more stringent application of the rules applying to the time taken for shots in professional events and, while there are such time limits, they are seldom enforced to the level they should be.

The Austrian Open in June of next year will be the first official event under which such time constraints are applied although earlier this season it was tried in the GolfSixes teams event.

Players in Austria will have 40 seconds to play each shot, which is in line with European Tour guidelines, but we can expect penalties to actually be enforced to the letter of the law, if only for one week.

The first time they exceed that limit on a shot, they will be given one warning (referred to as a yellow card) and if another infringement occurs, then the player involved will be given a one-shot penalty for every violation thereafter.

"We've discussed it and agreed it should take place," David Howell, a European Tour tournament committee member, told The Australian newspaper.

"Among the committee, we think it's worthwhile trialing that week in those specific circumstances. The field is not the strongest so it can be shortened without doing anyone too much harm. That allows the opportunity to get around quickly, so that’s why it is that week."

The 'Shot Clock' used at the European Tour's GolfSixes teams event in May this year.

The ongoing use of the clock will depend on the success of its introduction but the concept of a greater enforcement of the existing regulations has been sought for some time.

Under current PGA Tour guidelines, a player is allowed only 40 seconds to play a shot but are afforded 60 seconds if they are first to play.

The European Tour also allows 40 seconds to play shots, but only an additional 10 seconds if the player is first to hit.

Despite the current regulations, there have been very few penalties imposed in tournament golf over the years. This year in New Orleans, the pair of Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo were playing as a team in the new look event and were penalised for slow play but they were the first players since 1995 on the PGA Tour.

Perhaps the highest profile slow play penalty came in 2013 when the brilliant 14-year-old Guan Tianlang made the cut at Augusta National, despite a one-shot penalty for slow play in his second round, which further emphasised one of the greatest efforts in the history of the game. 

The experiment in Austria will be closely watched by various golfing bodies as the golf world tries to come to terms with the increasing issue of slow play.

There is no purpose in having slow play penalties if they are not enforced and, to a large extent, it would be fair to say they have not been enforced nearly enough given the lack of penalties previously handed out.

As to how it all works and its acceptance by players, we shall have to wait and see but at least something is being done. 


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