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European Tour aims to squash slow play with new four-point plan

The European Tour is about to crack down on slow play.

The tour announced Monday that it plans to implement a four-point plan beginning next season that is designed at improving pace of play through firmer penalties, increased fines, smaller field sizes and new technology.

“We are already at the forefront of pace-of-play management in the professional game, but after being mandated by our tournament committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps,” said Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour. “I believe the plan we are implementing for the 2020 season will bring about meaningful change that will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans, whether they are at the course in person or watching on television.”

The European Tour had already taken some steps to curtail slow play, including introducing the Shot Clock Masters last year. But as slow play has continued to become a hot-button issue, especially on the PGA Tour, it was clear more needed to be done.

Highlighting the new plan will be stiffer rules and fines. A player will now receive a one-shot penalty once that player receives two bad times. Previously, two bad times would only result in players being monitored and then being allowed two more bad times before a penalty would be assessed.

Also, the time allowed to play a shot when being monitored in position has been reduced by 15 percent, and referees are now mandated to target known slow players for in-position timing.

There will be increased fines for players who are “regularly placed on the clock throughout the season.” For example, a player who is timed 15 times in the 2020 season will have to pay £26,000 instead of £9,000.

Other notable details of the plan include:

• Members will be required to pass an interactive rules test every three years, and new members will be assigned a dedicated referee to help educate them on pace of play at the start of their European Tour careers.

• A new pace-of-play system will be tested at the Sept. 19-20 BMW PGA at Wentworth, providing referees with the times for every group through every hole to make sure that no gaps are missed. Also, on-tee displays on a minimum of three holes will provide groups with their position in relation to the group ahead.

• Field sizes at fully sanctioned events will be reduced from 156 to a minimum of 144, provided that all Category 18 members (Nos. 111-125 on the previous season’s Race To Dubai list) are able to compete.

• Larger intervals between starting times will be implemented on the weekend.

“There is no doubt that pace of play is a hot topic in golf and as players we were keen to explore ways to address these issues in various areas,” said five-time European Tour winner David Howell, the tournament committee’s chairman. “We have had some very interesting and robust debates in the process of agreeing the new initiatives. But with a combination of education, deterrents, technology and modifications to the fields, we believe we have arrived at a set of fair and proportional measures to improve the experience for everyone involved in the game.”