● The Latin America Amateur Championship was one of the first to be played under the new Rules of Golf.
● Officials note improved pace of play throughout the championship.
The Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) was played at the Teeth of the Dog Golf Course in the Dominican Republic from 17 – 20 January and was one of the first international amateur events to be played under the new Rules of Golf.
Many of the competitors embraced the opportunity to play Ready Golf and try out some of the other new Rules such as putting with the flagstick in the hole. These Rules changes combined with several other factors contributed to a much improved pace of play for the tournament.
Pace of Play
Introduced by The R&A and USGA on 1 January, the new Rules encourage quicker play as well as promoting Ready Golf – which allows golfers to play when they are ready and when they can do so in a safe and responsible way, rather than adhering strictly to the “farthest from the hole plays first” stipulation.
Officials at the region’s premier amateur championship, which is jointly administered by The R&A, the Masters Tournament and the USGA, were encouraged by the significant improvement in timings since the championship was last played at the challenging Teeth of the Dog course three years before.
The average Pace of Play across all four rounds this year was under four hours and forty minutes – a time that only one group managed to achieve in 2016. In fact, the 108-player field reduced the average time for the second round by 19 minutes from 4 hours 52 minutes in 2016 to 4 hours and 33 minutes in 2019.
Rules of Golf
Grant Moir, Director – Rules at the R&A and chief referee for the event, highlighted a seminar which the players attended on the eve of the championship as one factor in improved Pace of Play.
“Hopefully, the Rules meeting was a reinforcement of a lot of things,” said Moir, who led the seminar with Thomas Pagel of the USGA. “It also gave us the opportunity to talk a little bit about the golf course and their specific options.”
“I would say that the players embraced our Pace of Play guidelines, they embraced Ready Golf, which obviously now features in the new Rules.
“The daily course setup was excellent, and the weather was also slightly more kind, in terms of wind and the like, compared to 2016.”
The new Rules include reducing the time allowed to search for a lost ball from 5 minutes to 3 as well as players being able to putt with the flagstick in if they prefer.
Moir continued, “The new flagstick rule is helping, and the new dropping procedure is quicker. I think we as a committee have also managed the course better, in terms of understanding where our problem areas would be. We were able to minimise those problems quickly and effectively.”
While pleased with the noted improvements in Pace of Play, the Rules team will continue to further educate players on and off the golf course while being mindful of the fact that there is a lot at stake for the competitors.
“Pace of Play was good but that does not mean that every golfer in the field played as quickly as they should. Our referees and rovers had to encourage some groups in order to achieve these pace of play times. But what’s particularly encouraging is that when groups dropped out of position, most of them got themselves back into position on the golf course within two or three holes. They’ve worked with us to resolve the issue, and that’s really all you can ask.”