R&A: Drive to speed up golf discussed in St Andrews

By Phil Goodlad & John BarnesBBC Scotland
Golfer at Turnberry
Golf's governing body is holding a two-day conference at St Andrews

Shorter holes and marshals helping to find lost balls in the amateur ranks could help to speed up golf, says the sport's governing body.

A two-day conference is taking place in St Andrews on how to address slow play across all levels of golf.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers says the pace of play is an important issue for golf as it attempts to boost its appeal.

"Time is a key issue and has been for a number of years," he said.

"We want to examine it and come out with practical guidance that we can give to players and courses to really get on top of it.

Martin Slumbers
Slumbers believes golfers speeding up play is good for their game

"There are lots of very practical things that can be done."

Moves to speed up play come after more than 56,000 golfers from 127 countries took part in a survey on the state of the game carried out by the R&A between September 2014 and March of this year.

And Slumbers, who succeeded Peter Dawson at the start of last month, believes some of the suggested measures could work straight away.

"Maybe we need some marshals out on the course to help find balls," he added. "Maybe we need to play over shorter formats, nine-hole golf; playing off tees that are further forward, not cutting the rough as thick and deep as possible.

Scottish golfer Alastair Forsyth
Alastair Forsyth: "It's only going to get worse"

"But the key thing is getting people aware and recognising that playing reasonably quickly and getting a move on isn't just good for their game but fair to everybody out on the course."

Scottish golfer Alastair Forsyth, who has spent 15 years on the European Tour, feels the R&A may have to consider "radical" measures to combat slow play.

"Something has to be done because it's only going to get worse," he told BBC Scotland.

"I think the professionals maybe have to take a bit of responsibility and find a way of getting quicker. Unless we do something radical then I don't see it changing an awful lot.

"It's a serious issue in the game at the top level and at golf club level. We used to go round a golf course in a three-ball in three to three-and-a-half hours. It's now five hours; even club medals are taking four-and-a-half hours.

"It's putting people off the game. I've been reading some stuff this week about saying, 'right, you've got four hours, if you're not round the course in four hours then you're not finishing your round'. A bit harsh, but is it going to take something like that to make people speed up?"