Will the new shot clock format be the actual cause of improvement to the game of golf?


The Shot Clock Masters, hosted by the European Tour at the beautiful Diamond Country Club in Atzenbrugg, Austria, was marked as the first tournament in professional golf to use a shot clock on every stroke, with the intent of showcasing golf played at a faster pace.

A brief explanation of the format: If a player was the first in their group to play an approach shot, chip or putt into a green, they were given 50 seconds. The players that followed were then given 40 seconds to play their shots. On par 4s and 5s Tee shots were also restricted to 40 seconds. As you’ve probably figured out, failure to complete a shot in the allotted time resulted in a penalty stroke. Clocks were set up on carts to illustrate each player’s countdown – these were subjectively triggered by the marshals assigned to every group.

Now obviously I have a vested interest in the pace management space but I was thoroughly impressed by the spectacle and concept. It certainly was entertaining to watch!

The format created a heightened sense of urgency akin to that courtside at your regular NBA franchise game. Additionally, the round times clocked by golfers improved dramatically; +/- 40 mins on average.

I can totally see room for select applications of this type of format on the professional circuit – perhaps a few adjustments here or there – for one, if you are going to put the effort into staging such an event why not turn up the heat a little and cut that 40 seconds in half. And whilst we’re in the racy mood why not put some time par pressure on each hole as well?

Falling behind are you, Mr. Mickelson…WHAM, red card – you’re out of here! I want to watch sub 2….or dare I even say sub 90 min rounds!

Do I see all major tour events adopting this type of format though? Certainly not.

Whilst I enjoy the notion of stopwatches, red cards and penalty strokes I am not sure if the Puritans of the sport would appreciate its application on the hallowed fairways of Carnoustie or Augusta. But then again… maybe that’s what’ll be needed in a post-Tiger world in order to retain viewer interest?

The other major impediment to full-scale adoption is the cost. The dollars required to support the system of clocks, display monitors and course marshals whilst balancing the synchronization of penalties with scoreboards and live broadcasts is prohibitive.

Whilst these challenges might be something the deep-pocketed treasurers of the European or PGA tours can overcome for a handful of events, the proverbial adage, “the juice just ain’t worth the squeeze” may ring true for mainstream competition.

More importantly, is the format going to impact the golf industries broader slow play effort?

Given the media coverage events of this nature will surely generate, I think the professional game may begin to set a healthier example for amateur golf lovers to follow – but I can’t see a viable way of implementing the format (or a variation of it) during regular Saturday play where field sizes regularly top +140 players. Nor do I think the game’s traditional base would want to push themselves to the extent this type of gamification promotes every time they tee it up.

Think about it; how would one discern when to start the shot clock on every tee box, for every player… on every shot? Where would practice swings or delays caused by the groups ahead be factored in? And who would assess penalties accurately and consistently?

No, there would need to be a considerable technological advancement in the realms of shot tracking, pace measurement and live scoring to make it work…. but maybe therein lies an opportunity?

That doesn’t mean the game shouldn’t be adopting technologies already out there to measure and improve experiences for its regular patrons. To the contrary in fact – creating a superior playing experience for this generation of golfers and thereby keeping them engaged is vitally important.

In order to manage the enjoyment and quality of their product, the game’s organizers and course operators have to start augmenting historic methods, embracing tech-based tools available to them in a considerate way while remaining respectful to the game’s traditions. Nowhere is this more necessary than in the area of on-course management and course flow i.e. pace management strategies.

Spoiler Alert: I am about to speak to my book!

A smart option would be to consider exploring Tagmarshal’s golf course intelligence system.

To address one of golf’s biggest challenges, SLOW PLAY, and to keep on track of on-course management, all whilst gathering up-to-date analytics and realizing substantial ROI, global courses are turning to Tagmarshal.

Its impact on experience is almost immediate; as are the gains in efficiency through the use of the system’s actionable data and intuitive technology. Easy-to-use pace analytics, weather data integration, and geo-fencing complete the offering.

Product punt over!

Do you have any thoughts on new formats or the changes for the modern game? How does your golf course set, monitor, and evaluate individual on-course flow and or pace goals?

I’d love to hear from you:

About the author

Craig Kleu, COO, and Co-founder of Tagmarshal.

A passionate golfer, Craig was inspired to create a smart technology solution to benefit course operators and golf players alike. More than our Operations Director, Craig maintains the soul of a customer success manager for Tagmarshal.


Tagmarshal, the market leader in on-course optimization technology, provides courses with full, real-time operational oversight and reporting, giving golf operators the tools to manage pace and flow of play effectively, resulting in enhanced player experiences, increased efficiency through automation, and additional revenue generation.

Tagmarshal’s technology has collected over 1 billion data points from more than 50 million rounds of golf and has relationships with in excess of 500 partners, including Hazeltine, Whistling Straits, Baltusrol, Fieldstone, Bandon Dunes, Serenoa and Erin Hills.

Tagmarshal partners with several golf management groups, private, daily fee, public and resort courses, including 35 of the Top 100 US courses, as well as many $30-$50 green fee courses, which are seeing excellent results using the system.