With nearly 6,000 members competing in more than 100
tournaments, the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) provides high-level competitive
opportunities for the best junior players in the country. The organization also
has instituted an aggressive pace-of-play policy that has reduced the duration
of the average round by 14 minutes – the approximate time it takes to play an
For 2013, the AJGA has set a goal of four hours and 19
minutes for the average length of a round, down from four hours and 35 minutes
To achieve this standard, the AJGA uses several policies.
For each of its tournament courses, the AJGA has set a time par, which is the
expected duration for juniors playing competitively in threesomes. Some of the
factors that influence time par include the size of the field, tee-time
interval, green-to-tee distance and green speed.
There are six checkpoints during a round – one every three holes.
“We time from the first tee,” says AJGA Executive Director
Stephen Hamblin. “We used to not time anyone until the first warning, but we
found that to be a harassing situation. Now, we don’t have to push. Rules
officials can be Rules officials, not timers.”
In addition to clocking players against the time par at each
checkpoint, volunteers measure a group’s position relative to the group in
front, an interval known as gap time.
At the first checkpoint, the players in the group receive a
green or red card. A green card means the players are within the time par or in
position against the previous group. A red card means the players are both
behind the time par and out of position.
By the next checkpoint, three holes later, the group can earn
a green card by either regaining position with the group on front or coming in
under the time par.
Alternately, players will keep their red card but avoid a penalty
by gaining one minute against time par.
If the group fails to meet any of those conditions, the
players receive a double red card and a one-stroke penalty. After a double red
card, individual players may receive additional penalties after recording
multiple bad times.
A double red card is a rarity; a single red card is usually
sufficient to spur players back into position. In 94 tournaments during 2012,
the AJGA handed out 3,235 red cards. Of those, officials assessed just 29
AJGA competitors also play ready golf for the entire round, even off the
tee. On every green, the first player finishing the hole must walk ahead to the
next tee and prepare to tee off, no matter who has the honor.
After introducing this policy in 2011, the AJGA reduced its
average round duration by 10 minutes.
“We’ve gotten some criticism from the walk ahead,” says
Hamblin. “But we think we have some creative thinking here. The AJGA has a
moral responsibility to the industry to wean the next generations to fast
The players quickly have adjusted to the policy and have found that good shots and
better pace of play are not mutually exclusive.
Rinko Mitsunaga, 16, received a one-stroke penalty at the Exide
Technologies Junior Open presented by Mizuno earlier this year. Afterward, she spoke
with the AJGA staff about how she could play faster. The following week, she
not only improved her pace of play, but also her level of play, winning the
Brian Harman Junior Championship.
“I definitely learned how to play faster and that it’s not
necessary to take as long to take each shot because the results are the same,”
says Mitsunaga, of Roswell, Ga. “Even when I’m not playing an AJGA event, I am
still using the policy because I want to play faster.
“I’ve seen that AJGA players are unintentionally playing
faster because of the AJGA pace-of-play policy.”