Rules Column: Russ Wing

J.B. Holmes might have been slow, but it wasn’t against rules

During this year’s Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, J. B. Holmes made news when he took over four minutes to play his second shot on the 72nd hole. As was mentioned during the TV broadcast, players are generally allowed 40 to 50 seconds to play a shot. So taking over 4 minutes was over 4 times the allowed time. Was he penalized for his slow play? No, he wasn’t.

So what do the Rules say about this? The applicable rule is Rule 6-7 Undue Delay, Slow Play. The upper portion of the exhibit that accompanies this article shows a couple of excerpts from Rule 6-7. In general, all of the details about how pace of play is monitored and potentially penalized are contained in the Pace of Play Policy for an event.

So what does a Pace of Play Policy look like? They tend to be 1 to 2 pages long, too long to be included with this article. So the lower portion of the exhibit shows example elements of a Pace of Play Policy in order to give you an idea of its contents. While I don’t have a copy of the PGA Tour Pace of Play Policy, I assume that it contains similar elements.

In general, individual stroke timings are only done for members of a group that is out of position and “on the clock”.

So was that last group at the Farmers Insurance Open out of position and “on the clock” on the last hole? I don’t think so. None of the related reporting indicated that. Consequently, individual stroke timing was not in effect on that last hole, and, as a result, Holmes was not penalized. That said, he was certainly criticized by a number of his peers, and that will be the extent of his punishment for this incident.

As a Rules Official, I probably spend about half of my time monitoring pace of play. Based on that experience, I believe that very few golfers are inherently slow players. Most of the time, slow play is a result of some combination of other factors, including inadequate starting time intervals, difficult course setup (extra length, fast greens, tucked pins, tall rough, etc), and bad weather.

The best Tournament Committees consider all of these other factors when planning and managing their events in order to promote a good pace of play.
Excerpts from Rule 6-7 Undue Delay, Slow Play
The player must play without undue delay and in accordance with any pace of play guidelines that the Committee may establish.

Note 2: For the purpose of preventing slow play, the Committee may, in the conditions of a competition (Rule 333-1), establish pace of play guidelines including maximum periods of time allowed to complete a stipulated round, a hole or a stroke.

Example Elements of a Pace of Play Policy
Time allowed to complete holes and a round:
Par 3 – 12 minutes
Par 4 – 15 minutes
Par 5 – 18 minutes
Time allowed to complete a stroke:
First to Play – 50 seconds
All other – 40 seconds
Pace of Play Time Checkpoints:
Hole 4, Hole 9, Hole 13, Hole 18
A group is “out of position” when:
They have exceeded their cumulative allowed time, and they are more
than 14 minutes behind the group ahead.
Potential Penalties for a Stroke Play event:
First Violation – Warning
Second Violation – 1-stroke penalty
Third Violation – 2-stroke penalty
Fourth Violation – Disqualification