A glacial pace of play will kill the game of golf. The USGA recognizes this and is making new suggestions and Rules for 2019 to encourage everyone to get a move on.
Specific suggestions include things like preparing in advance for each stroke and moving promptly between strokes or when going to the next tee.
But it’s the new Rules for pace and order of play that are key.
The new version of Rule 6.4 allows and encourages players in stroke play to play out of turn in a safe and responsible way to save time or for convenience — also known as playing ready golf.
So if no one is standing in the way and the away players aren’t ready to go, HIT IT! It is permitted by rule, including shots from the tee box, the fairway, or chipping and putting.
But know that if the away/honors player is ready and able to play and indicates that he or she wants to play first, other players should generally wait until that player hits. Also, if you and another player agree to play out of turn to give one of you an advantage, you both get the general penalty of two strokes.
In match play, it’s a bit different: playing out of turn may only be done by agreement in advance.
The USGA is making the Committee more responsible for pace of play, too. They suggest Committees truly adopt a Pace of Play Policy instead of just talking about playing faster. The Rules can’t force players to move, only the Committee can. Committees should use their authority to enforce prompt play. A pace of play policy should be clear and concise so that all players on the course know what completion times are expected.
There is another new option to allow the Committee to help boost pace: set a ‘maximum score‘ for each hole. Using this concept as part of the competition allows a player to pick up his ball and move on to the next hole and take the max score to speed play. Certainly an idea worth considering…