David Howell says he doesn’t think slow play is one of professional golf’s biggest issues and believes creating a ‘speed golf’ mindset will lessen the quality of shots on display.
The Englishman, who is chairman of the European Tour’s Players’ Committee, has been at the forefront of discussions about new, innovative events that have been added to the tour’s calendar – including the World Super 6 Perth, GolfSixes and the Belgian Knockout, which debuts next May.
The inaugural Shot Clock Masters in June, where players will be given a maximum of 40 seconds per shot, has also been part of those discussions and Howell says, from a personal point of view, he isn’t really sold on the idea.
“I think it can prove pros can get around in a really quick time but I’m caught in two minds about it because golf has never been a race,” he told bunkered.co.uk.
“Where we do struggle as a sport is trying to get across why it’s so slow and it takes four to four-and-a-half hours and I think, most of the time, it’s because we have 156 players playing and that’s a lot of players to get around.
“But that’s a really boring thing to try and explain. It’s much easier to just moan about a player taking 70 seconds to hit a wedge.
“Personally, I don’t see slow play as a problem massively, but I can understand why we’re trying to do something about it. When a crowd follows a two-ball at a weekend, I think fans would probably think we play quite quickly to be honest. Three-and-a-half hours is pretty good around a 7,000-yard golf course.”
So why does Howell believe there has been such a crusade against slow play over the past couple of years? Is it a case of due to it being spoken about so much, the image of golf being slow is ingrained in people’s minds?
“I think there’s an element of that but, don’t get me wrong, pro golfers aren’t blameless,” he added. “But Ken Schofield (above) our old CEO used to say, ‘Look, golf isn’t a race’, and it isn’t. It’s a game of skill. Should we play within a specific amount of time? For sure.
“But I don’t think golf will gain from giving people only 35-40 seconds over a shot and turning it into speed golf. Do that and we won’t see some of the amazing shots that we’ve seen over the years because we just won’t have time to do it.
"We need to be careful what we wish for – but it’s also right to ensure we chop a few minutes off here and there where we can and that’s what we’ll continue to do.
“To get around the course quicker on Thursday and Friday, we have to have less than 156 players playing – and I’d rather see those extra 12 or 24 players playing and being given an opportunity to play and. If that takes an extra 15 minutes to get around, I don’t think it’s worth the trade off of taking that chance away from them.”
Slow play - Where do you stand?
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