I spent 3 hours at the Australian Masters yesterday. I don’t typically go to the golf, would rather watch it on TV or better still, go play myself. But because the event is being played at Metropolitan (I’m still a member there) I thought I’d drop in and check out the course (the course presentation has attracted a lot of media) and catch up with some friends.

Yes, the course is amazing. It is always in fantastic condition and it’s a privilege to be a member there. And this week the staff have improved upon perfection – there is hardly a blade of grass out of place and the greens look to be as good as I’ve ever seen them.

I wish I could say my time there was all good. While it was great to have a beer in the new clubhouse and chat with some friends, I found the golf to be boring. And it was boring because the place of play was ridiculously slow…

Slow play is a blight on the game and I think it’s the biggest issue facing golf. I don’t think two and a half hours for a three-ball is acceptable for nine holes. It’s too long! There was too much mucking around.

I appreciate that the conditions were tough – a swirling wind and fast greens. But these guys are just too slow. If regular members played (in a fourball) much over 2 hours they’d be in trouble. I once got a letter for slow play because I took 12 shots on the last hole. That was a bit rough, but I did cause a slight delay.

Yesterday I noticed player after player backing away from his ball. And this always came after standing around waiting for the group in front to clear. Surely, when they have a few minutes to wait they can make up their mind and play without too much fuss.

Another player was in trouble on the 5th. He spent around 3 minutes looking at his ball, trying to decide what to do. He eventually opted to play it, made a hash of it, and only advanced it 30 metres. He then spent a similar amount of time weighing up his options for his third shot. It’s just too much thinking and way too much time. With all due respect, he didn’t play very good shots on either of them.

On the 8th another guy was left with a very basic pitch shot to the 8th green (65 mteres). The pin was back and he was hitting into a nice little breeze (the wind had almost stopped by then). For a seasoned golf pro you can’t get an easier shot. But this guy decided he needed to walk up to the green and then walk back (it was a gentle stroll) and then take around 10 practice swings. From the time he first got to his ball to the time he played was one minute and 33 seconds. I know because I timed him.

This is way too long. And if most of the guys are doing the same thing it’s not hard to see why rounds are taking 5 hours to be played. It’s criminal and something needs to be done about it.

The only solution in my mind is to introduce a shot clock. It couldn’t be hard to have a timer walk with each group and from a distance time each player’s pace of play. And the penalty shouldn’t be a monetary fine. Fining players obviously doesn’t work (supposedly they have been fining them for years). You’ve got to hit them where it hurts. There needs to be penalty strokes added for slow play.

Maybe introduce a card system where a player gets one or two warnings before being penalised. There could even be a sort of “time out” system where each player can ask for extra time for special circumstances (like playing out of water or some other difficult shot). Give each player 2 or 3 “time out” shots but that it.

I’m convinced this stricter adherence to pace of play would help change the game. We’d all be able to see more golf in less time. I’m sure the TV networks would love it and the follow on effect in golf would be enormous. I’m also convinced we’d see no drop off of standard – in fact, I’m willing to bet we’d all improve by playing a little more quickly.

Kids would grow up knowing they can’t stuff around and take so long. They’d need to pick a club and then go hit the ball (to be fair kids for the most part do this anyway. It’s only when they get older and much too serious that they slow down). Regular club golfers would get the picture. Slow play would become socially unacceptable and if you’re going to take 12 practice swings and look at putts from 7 angles then we don’t want to play with you.

Golf needs to change. And now. It’s time the PGA and golf’s governing bodies do something before things get even more out of control. There’s no time to be mucking about because slow play is destroying the game for all.