Listen... it's not that hard... just hit the ball. No, seriously. Just hit it.
It seems silly to me that we're even talking about this. Could you image another pro sport, say basketball, where the shot clock existed as a "rule" but there was no actual buzzer, whistle, or violation. We would all know when a team or player was clearly violating the shot clock "rule" but we'd allow it to happen in the name of artistry and shot significance. It would be fucking chaos. Social media would be a complete dumpster fire.
Yet here we are in the WORLD of golf in 2019. I say world in all caps because this problem isn't just at the professional level. I think that's one of the most fascinating things about slow play. It's an epidemic regardless of how good you are or what patch of dirt on this spinning rock you're standing on. IMO it's the greatest barrier to entry golf faces right now when trying to grow the sport. My experience says that in general people think golf is too expensive and takes too long. We can fix too expensive - lower your prices. Offer twilight rates, weekend rates, local vs. out-of-town. Knock a few bucks off range buckets. But what about takes too long? How do you fix that?
Funny you should ask. You'll be happy to know that the rules of golf we all pledge allegiance to have an answer: Rule 6-7. Now, before you go digging around for your 2019 copy of the Rules of Golf let me sum it up for you. Rule 6-7 says, play within the time you are given to hit - otherwise you're getting penalty strokes. It's really that simple. At the tour level, the fact that players are out of position - warned - continue to lose more ground to the group head and still don't receive a penalty is bogus. Unless you're looking for your ball it doesn't take 5 minutes to hit a shot. Flat out. If I were on tour I would be in the ear of everyone involved. I'm just a fast mover though. I can't stand there and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. The whole time I'm thinking, "Let's get on with it already. I've got a wife and kids at home tapping their feet wondering where hell Daddy's at.".
But I'm not on tour. Not even close. Im at the local muni playing for pride and to "have a good time" (wink, wink). How do we improve the overall 'pace of play' there?
I think if we really want to see the needle move on this then we need to make 'pace of play' a game-wide priority. Everyone. Have it be some sort of mission statement from the USGA and/or R&A. Have every pro shop mention it. Every tee starter mention it. Make sure you plug it in commercial spots, especially during the US Open and Open Championship. The First Tee could get on board and join forces and we could have a whole generation of golfers growing up with 'pace of play' being an important rule to up keep. At the very least we could say we tried. On tour, bring in a shot clock. Seriously. You want to make the game more engaging for fans and increase ratings? Bring in a shot clock. Vary it like a speed limit. Some tracks offering more or less time depending on playing conditions.
And if not, well, then "Pull the fuck over already! You've had your blinker on for the last 15 holes and haven't made the turn once. Let's go! You're going to make me pass your ass grandma! Move it or lose it, eh! I've seen better swings at the playground. Just hit it already would ya?!"