The R&A - Working for Golf

Pace of Play

Golfers, competition organisers and club staff may have differing views on what constitutes an acceptable pace of play but slow play can detract from the enjoyment of the game for many golfers. Few golfers are heard to complain about play being too quick!

There is a responsibility on players, administrators and green keeping staff to ensure that golf is played at a good pace and at a pace that is appropriate for the course being played.


A pencil lies in a bunker next to the player’s ball. The pencil is made of wood therefore is a loose impediment and cannot be removed.

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What Influences Pace of Play?

There are three factors which influence the Pace of Play:

  • The players
  • The management of play
  • The course design and set-up

Explore the panels opposite to find out more information on each of the topics.

Player Behaviour





Player responsibilities

Very few golfers would admit to being slow players but we can all do our bit to play a little bit faster.

Be ready to play

  • While you are waiting to play, use your time wisely so when it is your turn you are ready to play.
  • When it is your turn to play, play promptly.
  • Consider your pre-shot routine - saving even a few seconds will help.
  • When play of a hole has been completed, leave the putting green quickly.

Play at a good pace

  • Always play at a good pace.
  • Keep up with the group in front.
  • Invite the group behind to play through if appropriate.
  • Play a provisional ball to save time if you think your ball may be lost.

Learn more

Management Practices





Management practices

Good management practices can assist with pace of play and enhance the enjoyment of golfers.

General considerations

  • Increasing the number of players per group increases round times.
  • Avoid mixing two-balls and three-balls with four-balls.
  • Consider restricting certain forms of play to specific days and/or times.
  • Accurately assess the course and set achievable pace of play targets

Starting intervals

  • Do not overload the course by using short starting intervals.
  • Follow guidance on starting intervals (see guidance on running a competition).
  • Ensure players start on time.
  • If possible include gaps between starting times throughout the day


Encourage players to play from tees that suit their ability and remind them of their responsibilities with regards to pace of play.  Course marshals should politely encourage players to catch up with the group in front if they have fallen behind.

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Course - Design & Set Up





Course design

It can be difficult and expensive to address inherent pace of play problems caused by the course design once the course has been constructed so it is important to have pace of play in mind during the design phase.

Design considerations

  • Who will be playing the course?
  • Course length and difficulty?
  • Can long walks between greens and tees be prevented?

Course set-up

When setting up the golf course, one of the most important things to do is to think about your “customers”, i.e. the golfers.

What is their level of ability? The average handicap for golfers in the UK is around 16 for men and 25 for women. The course should be set up with the ability of the majority in mind. The course can be set up to be more difficult for competitions involving elite golfers.

Set-up considerations

  • Who will be playing the course?
  • What is the level of ability for the majority of golfers playing the course?
  • Are the fairways wide enough? Deep rough is a common cause of slow play
  • Are daily hole locations and green speeds suitable for the ability of the majority of golfers?

Learn more

Pace of Play Video Library

Pace of Play Policy

At R&A Championships, a hole by hole pace of play guideline is in force with shot by shot timing procedures if a group is out of position and exceeding the prescribed time limit. Such a policy is appropriate at competitions involving elite golfers when sufficient referees are available to enforce the policy; it is inappropriate for general play.

At registration at R&A Championships, players are provided with a note outlining their pace of play responsibilities; the note is translated into the native languages of each participant. Players are also required to watch the short video on the implementation of The R&A's pace of play policy.  This is as per the video titled, ‘Pace of Play Policy: Timing Players’ in the Video Carousel above.