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Birchwood Park Golf Club Members

Pace of Play

The R&A Rules of Golf on ‘Pace of Play’ - Guidelines for Clubs

Clubs, public courses, resorts and competition organisers have differing views on what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable pace of play, but the fact is that slow play detracts from the enjoyment of the game for many players. Few golfers are heard to complain about play being too quick! 

“ ...as a general rule,
try to keep up with the group in front. ”

There is a responsibility, therefore, on all players and administrators to ensure that golf is played at a good pace, and a pace appropriate to the course being played. Factors that may influence what is considered to be an appropriate pace may be the difficulty of the course, the distances between greens and tees, the climate and also the range of ability of the players on the course.

In addition, it is necessary to make some distinction between golf played as a leisure pursuit and elite golf, where allowances have to be made for players trying to earn a living. At the elite level, there will often be officials on the course who can monitor pace of play and implement a strict policy, which involves groups keeping to a hole-by-hole schedule, and potentially being subject to timing of individual strokes with the threat of penalties if they fail to keep to the clock.

Keeping Pace

  • Keep up with the group in front.
  • If you lose a hole, call the group behind through.
  • Be ready to play your shot when it's your turn.
  • Leave the green promptly.

For ‘normal’ golf, it is still important for administrators to set targets for round times. As stated above, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ model for round times, but it is important that the targets are achievable without being too soft.

Two-ball rounds should take no more than 3 hours 10 minutes; three-balls should take no more than 3 hours 30 minutes, and four-balls no more than 3 hours 50 minutes.

If slow play has become an issue at your club, course or resort then strong and decisive action should be taken to resolve the problem. And as a general rule, try to keep up with the group in front!

How administrators can minimise round times:

  • Do not overload the course by using short starting intervals. When play is in two- balls, at least eight minutes should be allowed between groups and in three or four balls, at least 10 minutes should be given.
  • If possible, incorporate starter’s gaps throughout the course of the day to allow for clearance of any delays that have arisen.
  • Encourage players to play from tees that suit their ability and ask the starter to guide the players in this respect before the round.
  • The rough for daily play should be of such a length so as to avoid numerous lost balls.
  • Hole locations for daily play should not be too severe and neither should the green speeds.
  • Advise players of the time that should be taken to play the course and remind them of their obligations with regards to pace of play, i.e. keep up with the group in front and allow quicker groups to pass through.
  • Remember that increasing the number of players per group increases round times. In particular, limiting stroke play groups to two-balls or three-balls will avoid the delays often experienced in four-ball play.

How players can minimise round times:

  • Be aware of your position with regard to the group in front and keep up with that group.
  • If you feel that your group is losing ground, tell the other players in your group.
  • If your group is behind, try to catch up.
  • If you lose a clear hole and are delaying the group behind, or if there is no group in front of you and you are delaying the group behind, invite the group behind to play through.
  • Be ready to play your shot. While exercising due consideration for other players in your group, put your glove on, check your yardage, pick your club and line up your putt while others are playing.
  • At the green, speed up your exit by positioning your bags on the way to the next tee.
  • Move off the green as soon as all players in your group have holed out and mark score cards at or on the way to the next tee.
  • Play a provisional ball if your ball may be lost outside a hazard or out of bounds.

6-7. Undue Delay; Slow Play

The player must play without undue delay and in accordance with any pace of play guidelines that the Committee may establish. Between completion of a hole and playing from the next teeing ground, the player must not unduly delay play.


Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.
Bogey and par competitions – See Note 2 to Rule 32-1a (In the R&A Rule book)
Stableford competitions – See Note 2 to Rule 32-1b
(In the R&A Rule book)
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, in the R&A Rulebook) 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(In the R&A Rulebook), 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;

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