I agree with Bubba (for once)

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Bubba Watson has said some daft stuff in his time, mainly about France, but he hit the nail on the head last week when he identified the single biggest problem facing golf.

The former Masters champion said: “Slow play is a problem on the PGA Tour and I think that’s our biggest concern.

“We are worried about putters and golf balls and all these things, but I think we should be more concerned about slow play and speeding the game up, not just for pros but for amateur golfers, as well,”

He went on: “Nobody wants to play a game that takes five and a half hours to play. We want everybody to be able to play and go a lot faster.”

Well done, Bubba. I couldn’t agree more.

It has been said time and time again that slow play is a major issue. In fact, it seems to be one of the few issues that more or less everyone associated with the game agrees on.
Slow play is a problem on the PGA Tour and I think that’s our biggest concern.

And yet the game’s governing bodies continue to do nothing about it. Well, ‘nothing’ is maybe a bit harsh. They’ve handed out a couple of one-stroke penalties here and there, most notably to Guan Tianlang at this year’s Masters and Hideki Matsuyama at the Open. But the occasional, inconsistently-awarded penalty isn’t going to solve the problem. What we need is a clear set of guidelines over what constitutes an acceptable pace of play and what doesn’t. And we need people who are willing to apply these guidelines to the letter with strict penalties for those who flout them.

It needs to happen in the professional game first and foremost - not to mention soon - for a whole host of reasons, chief amongst them being that what the game’s top players do is copied to the affectation by those watching the game.

Twice in the past year, I have had to walk off different golf courses because of the glacial pace of play by the people ahead of me. I hated doing it both times but I didn’t have much alternative. When it takes you upwards of two-and-a-half hours to play seven holes, your patience is going to wear thin. In any case, I don’t have the time to spend six and a bit hours on the course. To be honest, I’m not sure anybody does.

It’s only because I love the game that much that I’m prepared to persevere with it. But what about those newer to the game? If they have to walk off a course because it is taking them too long to get round - through no fault of their own - what are the chances of them sticking with the sport? Pretty slim, I’d say.

Heed Bubba’s words (something I never thought I’d write) and speed up the game. If you do, you’ll give it a fighting chance of not jus surviving but continuing to grow, whilst at the same time making it all the more enjoyable for those of us who are sick of being held up by the snails of this world.

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