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It’s time to talk about golf etiquette. Etiquette is a nice word that translates as “stop doing stupid thigs to annoy others and make you look like a fool.”
Unlike sports such as tailgating and mud wrestling, golf is thought to be a genteel game that is rich with tradition and has quite a number of practices falling under the umbrella of sporting manners.
Arnold Palmer once had this to say: “From the time I first stepped on a golf course, my father made sure that I observed golf etiquette. What that meant to me then, and what it means now, is being considerate of other golfers, taking care of the course, playing quickly and controlling my temper.” Amen.
For some who are new to the game, and some who simply have not had anyone explain golfing things to them, golfers are expected to adhere to some rather universal customs and behaviors; in other words they practice good golf etiquette.
Golf is a game that relies on the integrity of each player to show respect for other players, to not only abide by the rules of the game but to play fair and be considerate to fellow golfers. According to the official USGA dictum, “All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be. This is the spirit of the game.” With the help of the USGA guidelines, let’s look at some of the “do’s” and “don’ts.”
First: Be on time and ready to play so that you don’t inconvenience others.
Next: Dress neatly and appropriately in normal golf attire and in accordance with local dress codes.
Choose the teeing ground that best matches your ability. Play “ready golf” whenever possible, meaning that the player who is ready should step up and play without delay. Stay silent and still, while other players are hitting their shots or putting.
Wherever you stand, strive to be as unobtrusive as possible when other are hitting. Wait until the group up ahead is out of range of your best shot. Hitting into the group ahead is the most common source of antagonism on the golf course.
Walk or ride briskly between shots and holes, and be ready to play when it’s your turn. Respect the golf course by replacing or sanding divots and raking bunkers. It’s a courtesy to leave the course in better condition than you found it.
Carry a small ball mark repair tool with you and be sure to repair your ball mark (called a “pitch mark”) on the putting green.
Avoid stepping on the line that other players are putting on. Brush up on your rules of golf so that rules and decisions and procedures go smoothly and quickly.
Throwing and slamming of clubs, temper tantrums, and rude, obnoxious behavior are never acceptable. Keep your motorized golf cart well out of the way and behind other players; drive safely and away from greens, while minimizing damage to the turf.
Treat others with respect. Behavior should be always as a gentleman or a lady.
Other suggestions would not necessarily be found in USGA or PGA Tour instructions but they are certainly worth heeding.
First, never stand directly behind a player hitting on the tee, or any other place on the golf course for that matter. It’s simply inconsiderate; on tour it may be grounds for a penalty.
On the putting green, be conscious of the line of the putts for other players and walk carefully to avoid stepping on the “thru lines,” which are those lines directly on the other side of the hole following the through direction of the putt. Thru-lines are roughly 0 to 8 feet as an extension of the player’s putt beyond the hole.
When it’s your turn, try to walk briskly, carry a couple of clubs that you may need and hit within 15 seconds of addressing the ball. Every golf course played by amateurs requires soft spikes. Metal spikes are a no-no.
We haven’t covered everything, as there are lots of other situations where we need to know prevailing protocol and customs, such as playing “business golf,” playing at an exclusive private club, playing in “member-guest” events and pro-ams. A future column in the making.
Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed sports psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at email@example.com.