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THE PATH TO PROPER GOLF COURSE ETIQUETTE
By Jack Gale
PGA Master Professional
With the tremendous recent influx of golfers to the staid, traditional game of golf, many experienced golfers feel that proper golf etiquette has been lost during this transition period. Golf, for many years, has been learned from father to son or as a caddie. Today many people are beginning the game as an adult without the help of an elder or the chance to learn as a caddie. John Paul, PGA Director of Golf at Burlington Country Club in Vermont, made the statement, “Today many golfers know how to reach the first tee, and then find their way to the eighteenth green, but do not always understand what to do in between”.
“Etiquette Day” tips have been divided into ten categories including being in position on the course during a round; playing ready golf; safety on the course; filling divots, fixing ball marks and raking bunkers; standing still while others play; paying attention to the shots of others; where to place bags and park carts; dress code at the course which you are to play; where to record scores; and finally how to mark your ball if it is in someone’s way. Slow play is a major concern at all courses whether private, public or resort. Many of the “Etiquette Card” tips highlight this touchy subject.
First and foremost is to keep play moving so that your foursome is in position on the course meaning that your group is right behind the players in front of you, not just ahead of the group behind you. New players should be prepared to set a maximum score on each hole early in their golfing career to keep with their friends. Be ready for your next shot by carrying an extra golf ball in your pocket to hit a provisional ball if your first ball may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds. Also be sure to bring a couple of clubs to hit your next shot so you will not have to walk back to your golf cart. When it is time to record scores, leave the green and move to the next tee to do this task.
Safety of yourselves and others on the course is paramount. Be extremely careful when swinging a club with others near you. When hitting a shot from near a tree, rocks or rough, debris may fly after the shot, which may hit you or fellow golfers. Make sure that golfers in front of you are out of the way of your shot before you play. Watch the shots of others in your foursome to assist when looking for the golf balls of others. Be sure to be quiet and to stand still while others are preparing to or playing a shot. When your ball is on the green, be sure to mark its position to keep it out of the way for others. Care of the course includes filling divots with a prepared mix or with your divot, fixing ball marks on greens with a divot repair tool and raking bunkers after playing a shot from the sand. Many courses have dress codes. Call ahead to find out what is allowed at the course. Safe golf attire is slacks or Bermuda length shorts (also skirts for ladies) with a collared golf shirt. Jeans and tee shirts are discouraged at most courses.
- Safety: Prior to a stroke or making a practice swing, the player should ensure that no one is standing close by or in a position to be hit by the club, the ball or any stones, pebbles, twigs or the like which may moved by the stroke or swing. Before playing a stroke, the player must ensure that the group ahead is not in range of the shot.
- Standing still: No one should move, talk or stand close to or directly behind the ball or the hole when the player is addressing the ball or making a stroke.
- Keep up with the group in front of you: To be in proper position, your foursome must be in position relative to the group in front of you, not just ahead of the group following you. If there is more than one clear hole between your group and the group ahead of you, let the group behind you pass through. New players to the game should learn to set a maximum score for each hole, and pick up on a hole when your group is out of place.
- Paying attention: Watch the tee shots of the other players in your foursome to save time in looking for balls.
- Play ready golf: Carry an extra golf ball in your pocket to be ready to hit a provisional ball if your original ball may be lost. As you approach your ball, be prepared for your next shot by bringing a few clubs with you.
- Placing down bags and parking carts: Be sure to place your golf bags well off the teeing ground, out of the way of other players. Park carts in the designated area near the tee. When you get to the green, put your bag or cart near where you will exit the green so you will not delay the group behind.
- Fill your divots, fix ball marks and rake bunkers: Be sure to use the prepared divot mix on the tee to repair your divot. When a ball lands on the green, it will leave a small indentation. Be sure to repair the ball mark. Before leaving a bunker, the player should carefully fill up and smooth over all the holes and footprints made by the player or other players.
- Your ball is in the way: When your golf ball is on the green, mark its position with a coin, placed directly behind the ball, if it is in the way of another golfer. Never walk on the intended line of putt of any golfer in your foursome.
- Recording scores: When a hole has been completed, immediately pick up your equipment and leave the green. Record the scores on the next tee so you do not delay play.
- Dress code: Find out what style clothes are appropriate at the course you are playing prior to going to the course.