One of the greatest challenges facing the game of golf is how long it takes to play. This page is designed to give NCGA members all available information on how to improve pace of play for yourself, at your facility or in your competitions.
Quick Reference Table of Contents
Tips for the Everyday Golfer
Tips for the Tournament Golfer
Tips for Facilities and Professionals
Northern California Golf Association Policy (One Checkpoint)
Northern California Golf Association Past Policy (Two Checkpoints)
Northern California Golf Association Match Play Policy (Stopwatch Timing)
USGA/NCAA Policy (Four Checkpoints)
USGA Opens/PGA Tour Policy (Stopwatch Timing)
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’s 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 five 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.
Pace of Play Tips 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.
Pace of Play Tips 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 seven 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 greenskeeper 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.
USGA Pace of Play Resource Center
PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 6-7:
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.
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
There are a number of different policies to use for competitions and which is the most appropriate will depend on a number of factors: a) the size of the event, b) the starting format, c) the level of the competition, d) the number of officials or volunteers available and c) the experience level of the officials implementing the policy. There is no 100% correct policy to use for any one event, but the only policies that work are the policies that are enforced. Below are various examples used in competitions at the state and national level.
Northern California Golf Association
One-Checkpoint System (Current Policy)
Scorecards have printed on them the MAXIMUM allowable time to complete the play of each hole based on a group’s scheduled starting time. These times are established 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 FASTER than the time indicated on the scorecard. If a group falls behind, they must play efficient golf and make up the lost time. This might mean playing ready golf or continuous putting, which are both permitted 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 Pace of Play guidelines will result in a penalty of two strokes. The Rules Committee only may communicate with groups throughout the stipulated round regarding their pace of play position, but are not required to do so. NO WARNINGS ARE ISSUED.
LEAD GROUP(S): The lead group(s) must finish their stipulated round within the maximum allowable time established by the Committee. If they finish over their maximum allowable time, each player will be assessed a penalty of two strokes to their score for the final hole.
Exception: If the lead group is delayed by play that was sent out before them or that began on the opposite tee, they will be exempt from penalty if they finish over their maximum allowable time but within 14 minutes of the group in front of them.
FOLLOWING GROUPS: Any subsequent group must finish their stipulated round within the maximum allowable time established by the Committee. If they finish over the maximum allowable time, they must finish within 14 minutes of the group in front of them. If they finish over the maximum allowable time and more than 14 minutes behind the group in front of them, each player will be assessed a penalty of two strokes to their score for the final hole.
EXEMPTION FROM PENALTY: If a group does not finish within their maximum allowable time or within 14 minutes of the preceding group due to circumstances which the Committee deems to be exceptional but was otherwise in position during the play of the final four holes, the Committee MAY determine not to assess the penalty. Being in position means to be immediately behind the preceding group.
GROUPS MAY BE MONITORED: 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. The Committee may also monitor a group that is failing to play within the maximum allowable time, whether or not a player has requested it. If the Committee identifies that a player(s) in the group is the cause of the group failing to maintain pace of play and determines other players are playing within the requirements of this policy, those meeting the requirements of this policy may be absolved from penalty while others may not.
UNDUE DELAY: If the Committee determines that a group or player(s) in a group are failing to play in accordance with the established guidelines severely disrupting the play of fellow-competitors or following groups, the player(s) or group may be subject to penalty for undue delay. Penalties for undue delay are independent of penalties issued under the above pace of play policy (see Rule 6-7).
The NCGA Committee reserves the right to review all penalty situations.
Two-Checkpoint System (In Use from 2002-2015)
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 choose 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
Match Play Policy
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, the allotted time for today is 3 hours and 54 minutes.
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, reaches the tee of a par-4 hole and the putting green is clear, OR reaches 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 is out of position, the players in that group may be timed. However, a group may not be notified if they are out of position or if 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: If a group is out of position, it may be monitored or timed for failing to comply with this pace of play guideline. When a group is out of position each player in the group is expected to play any stroke within 40 seconds after timing of the player’s stroke begins. 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: Any player in a group being timed, who exceeds the applicable time to play a stroke, will be advised as soon as possible. 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:
One bad timing of more than 40 seconds – Warning
A second bad timing – Loss of hole penalty
A third bad timing – Loss of hole penalty
A fourth bad timing – Disqualification
NOTE: If the group in question regains its proper position, any previous timing 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.
American Junior Golf Association
Colored Card System with 6 Checkpoints
AJGA Pace of Play Policy
United States Golf Association & NCAA
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 three. 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.
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*
*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.
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.
Maximum Allowable Time
Maximum allowable time is the MAXIMUM time deemed necessary by the Committee for a group to complete its stipulated round. This is expressed in a per-hole and aggregate time format on the chart attached to this document (chart not attached on this web page)
• A group’s maximum allowable time begins at its assigned starting time, or if the starting time is delayed, at the adjusted starting time.
• Time associated with playing the game, e.g., for ruling and walking times between holes, is included in all maximum allowable times.
Definition of “Out of Position”
A group is out of position when it:
• Completes play of a hole (replaces the flagstick) later than the maximum allowable time given and:
a) Reaches a par-3 hole that is clear of all play and all players in the preceding group have played their strokes from the teeing ground of the next hole.
b) Reaches a par-4 or par-5 hole which is not clear of all play but which becomes clear of all play before all players in the group have played their strokes from the teeing ground.
c) Reaches a par-4 or par-5 hole which is clear of all play.
Note: If a ruling or some other legitimate delay occurs which causes the group in question to be out of position, that group is expected to regain its position within a reasonable time.
The walking referee with each group can be a source of information about the group’s pace of play. A player may ask the referee at any time about the group’s pace of play status. Each referee has been instructed to proactively alert the group if it is approaching an out of position status as defined herein.
When the Committee determines that a group (or individual) will be timed, all players (or a specified individual) in the group will be notified by a Rules Rover.
Other than on the putting green, the timing of a player’s stroke will being when it is his turn to play and he can play without interference or distraction. Time spent determining yardage and other conditions (such as wind) will count as time taken for the next stroke.
On the putting green, the timing of a player’s stroke will begin after he has been allowed a reasonable amount of time to mark, lift, clean and replace his ball, repair ball marks and remove loose impediments on his line of putt. Time spent looking at the line from beyond the hole or to the side of and/or behind the ball will count as part of the time taken for the next stroke.
A player is permitted a maximum of 40 seconds to play a stroke, and an extra 10 seconds (for a total of 50 seconds) will be permitted for the first player to play:
a) A stroke on a par-3 hole;
b) A second stroke on a par-4 or par-5 hole;
c) A third stroke on a par-5 hole;
d) Around the putting green; and
e) On the putting green.
Any player in a group being timed who exceeds the maximum allowable time to play a stroke will be informed as soon as practicable by the Rules Rover.
A Rules Rover will not advise a group that it has regained its proper position on the course and is no longer being timed. As previously noted, a player may inquire at any time regarding the group’s pace of play status.
Note: The Committee reserves the right, at any time, to time a group when deemed necessary. Further, if the Committee determines a player to be unreasonably slow, he may be timed individually at the Committee’s discretion regardless of whether his group is out of position. Players should also be aware that the Committee may assess a “bad time” to a player in a group which is out of position if the player makes no effort to help his group get back in position. An example of this would be a player who delays play between shots or holes.
Pace of Play Penalties
The following are the penalties, in sequence, for any player in a group being timed who takes more than the maximum allowable time to play a stroke after timing of the player’s stroke begins:
1st bad timing exceeding allowable time – Warning
2nd bad timing – 1 stroke penalty
3rd bad timing – Additional 2 stroke penalty
4th bad timing – Disqualification
Note: If a group being timed regains its proper position, any previous “bad times” will be carried over for the remainder of that round in the event that group requires additional monitoring. Any player who has a bad time(s) will be reminded of the bad time(s) if he or his group requires additional timing during the round.