Checkpoint Golf, the English fight slow play

In the realm of golf, the quest for an optimal pace of play has been a recurring theme.

by Andrea Gussoni
Checkpoint Golf, the English fight slow play
© Getty Images Sport - Naomi Baker / Staff

In the realm of golf, the quest for an optimal pace of play has been a recurring theme. Slow play, at best, irks golfers; at worst, it infuriates them, sometimes leading to unrepeatable utterances or turning any club in the bag into a makeshift sword.

Waiting five, six, seven minutes to play a hole is understandably frustrating. But in the birthplace of golf, a potential solution has been devised, one that might seem like a linguistic contradiction but could, in fact, be a stroke of genius.

Introducing the Checkpoint Golf system, invented in England, where the sport has deep roots. If this innovation proves effective, it could indeed be the proverbial "Eureka!" moment in the world of golf. The concept is simple: timing teams three times at consistent intervals during a round.

Those who maintain a swift pace proceed unhindered, while slower groups find themselves facing consequences. The issue of pace of play has been discussed ad nauseam. The lethargy, at its best, annoys golfers. At its worst, it exasperates them, occasionally leading to outbursts or transforming any club into a weapon.

Waiting five, six, seven minutes to play a hole is understandably irksome. And in the homeland of golf, they've come up with a potential solution.

Three Checkpoint Golf, Three Different Penalties

In all competitions organized by the English Golf Federation, starting with the Brabazone Trophy (the national amateur open), a new method will be implemented to enforce proper pace of play.

Each team will be timed at three distinct checkpoints: the first after the fourth hole, the second after the ninth, and the third after the fourteenth. Thanks to a tailored local rule, teams will face penalties if they exceed the allotted time for the preceding holes.

So, at the end of the fourth hole, the total expected time for the first four will be calculated, and so forth. Skipping the first checkpoint will result in a warning issued to the entire team by the marshal. Missing the second checkpoint will incur a one-stroke penalty for all four amateurs.

The third infraction will result in an additional two-stroke penalty. This revolution is significant. Slow play is no longer just about the time each individual golfer takes to address, swing, and hit (roughly fifty seconds in total).

Now, it's about group dynamics, establishing a rule that leaves little room for interpretation (by the marshal) and ample space for calculation. The ideal distance between two teams is estimated at twelve minutes. Any group penalties won't be enforced at the end of the round but during the competition, potentially weighing down the scores of all four players in the flight.

The penalty stroke will be recorded on the scorecard for the ninth hole, and any double penalty on that of the fourteenth. It falls to the marshal to urge teams on the brink of the time limit, encouraging them to pick up the pace.

It's also their responsibility to time and penalize individual golfers who are conspicuously slow. According to England Golf, such a strategy will compel golfers to maintain an appropriate speed on the course.