HAVE YOU READ THE R&A PACE OF PLAY MANUAL YET?

I’ve just got back from my annual golfing trip with 19 mates to Belek in Turkey. This was my sixth year on the event and as usual a very enjoyable experience was had by all – not withstanding a dodgy right hand, arm and leg which resulted in me finishing in next to last position. As one of the lower handicap players within the group, the ‘injury’ will be remembered by me as more of one to my reputation and pride rather than the actual physical pain experienced with every swing of the club.

In previous years one of the more painful aspects of golf in Turkey was the notoriously slow rounds with most extending beyond 5 hours. Overcrowded courses, players playing from tees far from those their golfing ability would suggest was appropriate, hot temperatures, buggies, poor marshalling, lightning fast greens set to Tour standards all contributed to the angst. This year was very different. Thanks to President Putin imposing a ban on Russians visiting one of their most favourite holiday destinations, ISIS putting the fear of God (which ever one is yours) into most Brits to even consider entering Turkey and with some internal issues too, the occupancy level of both hotel and therefore the golf courses was around 40% of capacity. This meant that on most days we played ‘millionaires golf’ – just our group and a few others enjoying the beautifully manicured fairways and greens in glorious sunshine. And guess what? Yes most rounds were completed in four to four and half hours.

Most people who know me understand that ‘playing at a good pace’ as required by the etiquette of golf is something I care greatly about.  The original Pace of Play Guidelines published by the R&A in 2008 are one of the key design features captured in my ETIQUS Sport Golf Timepieces now being referred to by the golfing press as 'the Golfers choice' with ‘the iconic bezel’. So it was good to see today that, as promised, the R&A have published their Pace of Play manual as a follow on from their ‘Time for Golf’ conference. The conference was an outcome from the R&A Pace of Play survey where 60% of those 56,000 golfers who completed it stated that golf would be 'more enjoyable' if it were played at a better pace.

‘Pace of Play has been a topic of conversation for a long time. Moving on from a discussion to a practical way forward is what this Manual is all about’ says the opening page.

The comprehensive 72 page manual which could easily form the basis of a ‘checklist’ for golfers, golf clubs and committees alike is a ‘must read’ for those who really care about improving Pace of Play. I’ve read it in full and a very well written document it is. I can even see some of my own thoughts in it identified in documents and contributions of my own I shared with the R&A back in 2009 and 2012.

Key recommendations such as to appoint a Pace of Play Champion on every golf committee, establish a target – a time par – for every course, play ready golf, improve signage, extend start time intervals and set up courses more appropriate for average handicaps of 16 for men and 25 for women are all recommendations I would support.

But in reality how many golfers or committee members will really take the time to not only wade through 72 pages of well-considered content but actually take action on those recommendations and implement improvement plans at those courses where it is truly needed? Let’s wait and see but I think we know the answer – not many!

It’s pleasing to see that the integrity of the design of my bezel once again stands up against the recommendations and still forms the basis of an ideal ‘time par’ for the vast majority of UK courses including most appropriately the Old Course at St Andrews.

And it always makes me smile when I see the Rolex logo on a document that so overtly links time and golf - Rolex might make wonderful watches themed around motorsport, diving, yachting and the like but they still lack a ‘Golfmaster’ within their range. It’s a pity because I think they’d sell loads.

It’s accepted that a better pace of play gives greater customer satisfaction, would increase participation and membership numbers, and therefore increase revenue in the game. At ETIQUS, rather than 72 pages, we do our best to promote the 18 words that mean the most and, as golf is a game of self-regulation, if they were actually respected by every golfer the game would be in a better place – ‘Show consideration for others, take care of the course, play at a good pace’ that is the essence of the ‘spirit of the game’.

So enjoy your golf … but please keep up with the group in front! :)

Gary Butler Founder

PS If you would like to read the R&A Pace of Play Manual click here.