Pace of Play


Pace of Play Overview

Below are several pace of play policies in their entirety that are used in amateur and professional competition.  All of the systems used below require trained volunteers and staff to correctly administer them, and the organizations attributed to those systems have spent years coming up with their best possible solution to pace of play issues.
In all of the systems below, it is extremely important that the Committee determines the allotted time for players to finish appropriately.  The Committee must consider factors such as a) the size of the groupings, b) the difficulty of the golf course and individual holes, c) automotive transportation, d) the distance between holes or e) the level of the competition.

Quick Reference

Pace of Play Tips

For the Everyday Golfer:
·         Play ready golf.  Just because it’s called “honor” doesn’t mean it’s dishonorable to play out of turn.  It’s far more dishonorable to keep the group behind you waiting all day long.
·         Be ready for your turn.  Don’t sit and wait while your cart-partner plays; go get ready for your own shot and be ready to hit when it is your turn.
·         Shorten the pre-shot routine.  Although pride and some money may be on the line between friends, you do not need to have a lengthy pre-shot routine.  Playing within 30 seconds from when it is your turn really shouldn’t be difficult.
·         Don’t over-read your putts.  Yes, professionals look at putts from every angle.  They also are playing for millions of dollars.  If you want to get multiple angles, do so before your turn so that when it is your turn all you need is one last look before pulling the trigger.  Chances are your first instinct is correct.  Trust it.  And never, EVER plumb-bob.  The pros don’t even know how to use it effectively and it sure can’t help you.
·         Take multiple clubs with you to the ball.  I see it all the time: you brought the club that was perfect while at the cart.  You trek across the fairway only to realize it isn’t the right club.  You trek all the way back to the cart and to get the right club.  Bring a range of clubs with you, that way you always have the right one.
·         Stop searching so much.  Just because you are entitled to 5 minutes of search time, doesn’t mean you should use it.  First, hit a provisional, then go and look.  If the only place the ball could be is nasty, stop looking.  You don’t want to find it. 
·         Buy a distance-measuring device.  If you’re playing enough golf where an exact yardage matters to you, you can spare some change for this time-saver.
·         Play ready golf.  I know, I said it already. Trust me, you’ll play faster.
For Tournament Players:
·         Work on a quick and effective pre-shot routine.  You shouldn’t need a full minute to gather yourself and focus for your shot.
·         Be prepared for your turn.  Just because you’re not away doesn’t mean you can’t be reading your own putt or checking your own yardage.
·         Proceed to the next hole if you’re the first one to hole out.  Use this when your group is behind to help catch up.  There is no penalty for playing out of turn in stroke play to save time so be ready to tee off.
·         Place your equipment properly.  There is nothing more annoying than watching a player walk back and forth to the far side of the green to retrieve his clubs after completing a hole.  Know where you’re going to walk and place your clubs there.
·         Observe while walking.  Too many young tournament players wait until they’ve reached the golf ball before thinking about the next shot.  There is so much you can learn from observing while you’re walking.  You can notice elevation, perceived distance on occasion you get better views of your approach than where the ball lies and you can look for yardage markers along the way instead of blindly searching after the fact.
·         Play ready golf.  Just because it’s a tournament doesn’t mean you should wait five minutes for a fellow-competitor’s ruling before playing, nor should you have to wait if you’re ready to play and he’s still deciding.

For Facilities and Golf Professionals:

·         Make your policy clear, whatever it may be.  Have the time to complete the round posted and have the starter emphasize keeping up with the group in front of you.
·         Have clear training and guidelines for marshals.  A marshal without a clue can do as much to hurt your pace of play and reputation as any other poor experience.
·         Focus on helping, not rushing.  When groups are behind, you can generally tell the difference between a group that can play faster but wasn’t trying and a group that needs help.  Marshals and professionals should know how to assist groups that are out of position rather than immediately making them skip a hole or rushing them through the round.
·         Be visibly invisible.  Subtle hints about pace of play like well-placed clocks, times on the scorecards and signage will do more than you think.  Sometimes players just need a reminder and these non-forceful hints won’t impose upon the experience like a marshal.
·         Post pace of play tips.  A sign in the pro shop and a sign in the bathroom can have a subconscious effect on players.  Suddenly players find themselves thinking about the tips and using them throughout the round.
·         Use proper tee time intervals.  Yes, pace of play problems happen at facilities with 7 minute intervals and 10 minute intervals, but it sure does help to have the extra 10 minutes.  While crunching the numbers, you may think squeezing in the extra 20 rounds a day makes sense, but not when half of those customers walk away with a bad experience.  Even at a good pace, courses can only hold so much play on them at one time before grinding to a halt.
·         Guide players to the correct set of tees.  The starter has a huge role in this, but it can also be as easy as leaving the professional tees in the maintenance shed on certain days.  Take away the temptation to play the “tips.”  If a player is really good enough to play them, he probably will anyway, but the player who isn’t really ready for them won’t feel pressure to play a set of tees that doesn’t exist on that day.
·         Have hole location guidelines.  Every course has one greens keeper that likes to set holes for the US Open.  Having the right practice in place to make sure holes are always placed in fair spots and rotates around the putting green will help your pace of play.  Nothing slows down play more than a hole that’s difficult to finish.


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.  Between completion of a hole and playing from the next teeing ground, the player must not unduly delay play.
Match Play - Loss of Hole; Stroke Play - Two strokes
Bogey and par competitions - See Note 2 to Rule 32-1a.
Stableford competitions - See Note 2 to Rule 32-1b.
For subsequent offense - Disqualification.
Note 1:  If the player unduly delays play between holes, he is delaying the play of the next hole and, except for bogey, par and Stableford competitions (see Rule 32), the penalty applies to that hole.
Note 2:  For the purpose of preventing slow play, the Committee may, in the conditions of a competition (Rule 33-1), establish pace of play guidelines including maximum periods of time allowed to complete a stipulated round, a hole or a stroke.
  In match play, the Committee may, in such a condition, modify the penalty for a breach of this Rule as follows:
First offense - Loss of hole;
Second offense - Loss of hole;
For subsequent offense - Disqualification.
  In stroke play, the Committee may, in such a condition, modify the penalty for a breach of this Rule as follows:
First offense - One stroke;
Second offense - Two strokes;
For subsequent offense - Disqualification.

Appendix I-C-3:

Pace of Play (Note 2 to Rule 6-7)
The Committee may establish pace of play guidelines to help prevent slow play, in accordance with Note 2 to Rule 6-7.


Pace of Play Policies

Northern California Golf Association

Two-Checkpoint System

Compliance with Pace of Play is the player’s responsibility. If you feel a fellow-competitor or opponent is unduly delaying your group speak with the player.  If this discussion is ineffective, you may ask a member of the Committee to have your group monitored. The committee may chose to monitor a group without the player’s request to determine the cause of delay.  There are no warnings issued under this system.
The first group in the field must complete play at the designated hole checkpoints no later than the time established by the Tournament Committee. Subsequent groups are held to the same standard.  If they are unable to meet the prescribed standard due to slow play ahead of them they will be considered to have met the standard if they complete play at a designated hole checkpoint within 14 minutes of the group ahead of them.  A group is considered to have completed the play of a hole when all players in the group have holed out and the flagstick is replaced in the hole.
OUT OF POSITION:   The first group is out of position if it is behind its expected time. Subsequent groups are out of position if they are over their expected time and more than 14 minutes behind the group in front of them.

Scorecards have printed on them the latest time to complete the play of each hole based on a group’s scheduled starting time.  These times are adjusted based on the difficulty of the course and the ability of the field.  They include time to search for lost balls and deal with other common occurrences encountered during play.  A normal speed of play should result in completing play before the time indicated on the scorecard.  If a group falls behind, they are expected to play efficient golf and make up the lost time. This might mean playing ready golf or continuous putting, which are both allowed in stroke play.  It is the PLAYERS’ RESPONSIBILITY to know their group’s position relative to the published Pace of Play and to ensure they play within the published limits.  Failure to play within the POP guidelines will result in a Pace of Play penalty unless you appeal and the Committee upholds your appeal.

CHECKPOINTS AND PENALTIES:   Tournaments will have holes designated as checkpoints monitored by a Tournament Official who will note the time that each group completes play of the hole.  The official will inform each group of its status with reference to their Pace of Play. 

Two (2) Check Points: Normally holes no. 9 and 18 will be used.  A group that fails to meet the standard noted above will be subject to the following sanctions:

                 1st violation – 1 stroke penalty   (Note: No warnings are issued)    
                 2nd violation – 2 stroke penalty
NOTE: A group that receives a penalty at the first check point is not absolved from penalty if the group completes the second check point in position and on time.
PENALTIES APPLY TO ALL PLAYERS IN A GROUP:  Penalty strokes are added to the score of the hole where the violation occurs.  Either before or after a checkpoint if a player believes that his group is being delayed by the play of another player(s) in his group he should first address the issue with the player(s) involved.  If he believes this discussion was ineffective, he may indicate to a Tournament Official on the course that he would like to have his group monitored.  He does not need to indicate which player(s) he believes is slowing the group.

APPEALS: After completing play and before returning a scorecard at the scoring area, players who have incurred Pace of Play penalties may appeal them to the Committee.  If players return their scorecards without appeal, the penalty will stand. Appeals will be considered only if the player(s) have been:

-          Delayed by the Committee
-          Delayed because of circumstances beyond control of the player or the group
-          Delayed because of another player in the group


American Junior Golf Association

Colored Card System with 6 Checkpoints


United States Golf Association & NCAA

Four-Checkpoint System

Pace of Play Policy: Rule 6-7 states, in part: “The player shall play without undue delay and in accordance with any pace of play guidelines which may be laid down by The Committee.” Please carefully review the following Pace of Play Guidelines:
Allotted Time: The allotted time for today is (determined by Committee) for groups of 3.  A hole-by-hole time chart would be located on the bottom of this sheet.
Checkpoint System:  Check-points will be on completion (flagstick in the hole) of the 4th, 9th, 13th and 18th holes.  Players have “missed” a checkpoint if they are both behind the allotted time AND out of position.  A Checkpoint official will notify the group that they have missed a checkpoint.  Any players in doubt as to their status may ask a Checkpoint official. (Checkpoints can be at the 4 or 5, 9, 13 or 14, and 18).
Definition of “Out of Position”:
FIRST GROUP (off the 1st and 10th holes) – The first group is considered out of position if they take more than the allotted time to finish a checkpoint hole.
FOLLOWING GROUPS – Following groups are considered out of position if they complete a checkpoint hole more than 14 minutes behind the group in front of them AND take more than the allotted time to complete a checkpoint hole.
Monitoring Groups:  Any player in a group may ask to be monitored by a rover for pace of play purposes. 
Pace of Play Penalties: Following are the potential penalties for missing checkpoints.  Potential penalties are subject to appeal at the scoring table with the Rules Committee.
Stroke Play:                                                                                       

1st Missed Checkpoint – Warning

2nd Missed Checkpoint – 1 stroke penalty

3rd Missed Checkpoint – Additional 2 stroke penalty

4th Missed Checkpoint – Disqualification

*If a group clears the 3rd checkpoint and has not missed any other
 checkpoints, but is out of position at the 4th checkpoint, each player in
the group is liable for a one stroke penalty if in the Committee’s view
a reasonable effort was not made by the players to complete their round
within the allotted time to finish a checkpoint hole.

Pace of Play Penalty Appeals:  Potential Pace of Play penalties due to missed checkpoints are subject to appeal.  Players must remember to state that they wish to appeal a pace of play penalty PRIOR to signing and returning their scorecard.  Potential Pace of Play penalties may be rescinded for the following reasons:
a)      The player(s) were delayed by the Committee for a Ruling or other reason;
b)      The player(s) were delayed by circumstances beyond their control;
c)       The player(s) were delayed by another player in the group.
Penalties are applied to the checkpoint hole where the breach occurs.


United States Golf Association (Opens) & PGA Tour*

Timing System

Pace of Play Policy: Rule 6-7 states, in part: “The player shall play without undue delay and in accordance with any pace of play guidelines which may be laid down by The Committee,” and thereafter prescribes penalties for slow play. In order to prevent any such penalty we suggest that you review carefully the following guidelines.
Allotted Time: The overall time is the sum of each per hole time located on the score card.  The allotted time for today is (Determined by Committee).
Definition of “Out of Position”: The first group to start will be considered out of position if, at any time during the round, the group is behind the prescribed schedule as determined by The Committee.
Any following group will be considered out of position if it (a) is taking more than the allotted time to play AND (b) reaches the tee of a par 3 hole and the preceding group has cleared the next tee, fails to clear the tee of a par 4 hole before the preceding group clears the putting green, OR arrives at the teeing ground of a par 5 hole when the preceding group is on the putting green. Both (a) AND (b) must apply for a group to be out of position.
Group Out of Position: If a group (stroke play) is out of position, a rover will monitor it. However, a group will not be notified when they are being timed. A player(s) may inquire as to whether they are being monitored, in which case the rover or, if applicable, the referee will advise them of their status, but only if they are asked.
Timing: A group may be monitored or timed for compliance with this pace of play guideline if it is “out of position.” When a group is “out of position” a player in the group is expected to play a stroke within 40 seconds. The timing of a player’s stroke will begin when he has had a reasonable opportunity to reach his ball, it is his turn to play and he can play without interference or distraction.
Except on the putting green, if a player has reached his ball, it is his turn to play and there are no distractions, timing will begin after he has had reasonable time to select his club. Time spent walking backward or forward for determining yardages will count as part of the time taken for the next stroke.
On the putting green, timing will begin after a player has been allowed a reasonable amount of time to lift, clean and replace his ball, repair his ball mark and other ball marks on his line of putt and remove loose impediments on his line of putt. Time spent looking at the line from beyond the hole and/or behind the ball will count as part of the time taken for the next stroke.
Pace of Play Penalties: The following are the penalties, in sequence, for any players in a group out of position who takes more than 40 seconds to play a stroke when it is his turn to play:
Stroke Play:                                                               

One bad timing of more than 40 seconds – Warning

A second bad timing – 1 stroke penalty

A third bad timing – Additional 2 stroke penalty

A fourth bad timing – Disqualification

NOTE: If the group in question regains its proper position, any previous timings of more than 40 seconds will be carried over for the remainder of that round in the event that the group requires additional monitoring.

Rulings or Other Incidents: If a ruling or some other legitimate delay occurs which causes the group in question to lose its position, that group is expected to regain its position within a reasonable time.
*The PGA Tour penalty statement and implementation may differ from this policy.  This is just one example of "Timing" as a pace of play policy.