Proper Etiquette Equals Good Manners
The first and foremost rule of golf and golf etiquette is SAFETY. This rule applies to young and old alike. Without some good common sense and a notion of how hard golf balls and clubs are, a golf course can be a very dangerous place. So here are some safety rules to always follow on the golf course:
- Don’t take practice swings toward another person (rocks and sticks and grass can fly up and hit them in the eye.)
- Don’t swing your clubs when someone is walking around — and don’t walk around when someone is swinging golf clubs. There’s a good reason they are called “clubs.”
- Never walk out onto the driving range to pick up a golf ball, even if you hit it. Just use a new ball and hit again. Never step in front of the mats or grass hitting areas or you could be struck by a ball. Also, stay well away from others who are hitting golf balls at the driving range, you could be accidentally struck by their club on a back swing.
- Look both ways when stepping across a golf cart path, or when passing across the street in a designated cart path cross walk. There are fast moving motorized vehicles at a golf course such as mowers and golf carts that may not see you.
- Be very cautious in the parking lot, there are cars, trucks, and golf carts backing up all the time and they may have a hard time seeing you. Do not run in in a parking lot or ride bikes or skates.
Etiquette has to do with manners. Whether you are talking about etiquette at the dinner table, in school, in your family or out at the movies with your friends, etiquette is important. It is through the courtesy we show to other people that we communicate our respect for them and that we show them how important we think they are.
- Golf etiquette is an extremely important part of the game of golf. The etiquette golfers show to one another out on the course is one of the things that distinguishes golf from all other sports.
- Golf is a game that requires a lot of concentration. If you are trying to make a putt, or hit your tee shot into a narrow Fairway, it will be much more difficult if someone is laughing, rattling their clubs, or running around the tee or green.
There are a few rules of etiquette that apply in all situations on the golf course and the practice area and there are other rules of etiquette that are particular to certain circumstances, especially on the green. Below are some of the general applications of golf etiquette.
- Be very careful not to damage or make marks on the short grass areas called greens. Don’t hit the surface with your clubs or make cuts or divots.
- Do not damage or step on the edge of the cup in the green. The golfers after you want conditions just as good as you had them.
- Be careful not to scuff your shoes on the greens, the grass is very sensitive and it is bad etiquette to leave marks for the next golfer to play on.
- Be careful not to step on golf balls or putter heads an make marks in the greens.
- Locate any marks you or your ball has left on the green and fix them with a divot tool. It is also good etiquette to fix one or more divot marks of previous golfers.
QUIET AND NO RUNNING
- Quiet is required on the golf course. Golf requires a lot of concentration, and even if the people in your immediate group don’t seem to be bothered, there are other groups all around you. So keep your voice down.
- Walk, don’t run. Running around is annoying, distracting and causes damage to the course. Walk quickly, but lightly.
- Do your part to instruct young children the difference between a golf course and a park.
PACE OF PLAY
As much as people enjoy playing golf, they don’t want their round to take all day. If golfers have to wait too long in between shots they get impatient and they lose their momentum. So here are some things you can do to maintain a good pace of play:
- Take only one practice swing for each shot, then hit the ball. (Remember: if you take 120 shots in a game and you take an extra 30 seconds for each one you will add an hour to the length of your golf game.)
- Plan your shot before it’s your turn (don’t wait until your turn to start thinking about what club you will hit, or whether to go over the water or lay up to it — be ready in advance).
- As you approach the green determine in which direction the next tee is located and leave your clubs (or park your cart) on that side of the green.
- When playing from a motorized cart, if one player is on one side of the fairway and the other player on the opposite side, drop one player off at his or her ball with a choice of a few clubs, then drive to the next player’s ball and meet farther down the fairway, after both have hit their shots.
- Keep up with the group ahead of you. As they leave the green you should be ready to hit up to the green. Don’t worry about how far ahead you are of the group behind you, focus on staying a reasonable distance from the group ahead.
- If you spend more than five minutes hunting for a ball it is time to move on. Searching too long slows down then momemtum for you and others. If you lose a lot of golf balls consider using “experienced” golf balls or more inexpensive golf balls so you don’t feel bad for leaving them behind.
HITTING INTO THE GROUP AHEAD
Minding your “Pace of Play” will help you stay with the group ahead and you will be sure not to delay any groups playing behind you. At the same time you are being careful to stay with the group ahead, you must also be careful not to be so close that you hit your ball into that group. If your ball was to hit one of the players in that group it could be very tragic, so be careful that all golfers are out of range before you hit.
Sometimes there are golfers who get very impatient if a group is playing slowly ahead of them; that is understandable. However, it is never acceptable to try to speed up that group by hitting a ball at them to send them a message that you are getting tired of waiting. If you are tired of waiting, walk ahead to their group and ask them to speed up play. Or you can call the clubhouse to send out a marshal or get moved to the other side of the course. It is never ok to hit into them, and could result in unfavorable altercations or assault charges.
Playing Through another group is one of the most difficult and contentious parts of golf. It is difficult because, often, there is an implication that the group who is “being played through” is guilty of slow play and they typically resent that implication — even if it’s true. So if you are going to ask another group to allow you to play through them, do so in a courteous manner and at a convenient time in the round.
Here are some tips regarding Playing Through:
- Be sure there is room for you to properly play through before you ask permission. (If there is another group immediately ahead of the group you are asking, they will naturally decline to let you through and they will be annoyed that you bothered them.) Be courteous and quick as you hit your shots in playing through. If you hit bad shots (which often happens because there is extra pressure when you are playing through), don’t take any Mulligans, just drop a ball near where yours was last seen and play on.
- If you are playing slowly (more than a hole between you and the group ahead of you) and you think the group behind might want to play through, invite them to do so. It might be convenient when you are on a green. Wave them up, stand aside and let them hit up to the green. As they are walking up to the green you can putt out. Then allow them to tee off before you on the next tee.
Play “Ready Golf” Whenever It’s Appropriate. If you are not playing golf in an actual tournament, or other sanctioned event, it is okay to play “Ready Golf”. Ready Golf means the golfer who is ready to hit can do so even though he or she may not be farthest away from the hole. Just agree ahead with the others in your group that you will play ready golf when it makes sense. That way they won’t think you are just unaware of the rules. It is good courtesy to acknowledge that you are playing ready golf to move things along.
Ready golf can really help to speed things along, but before you hit be sure that everyone in your group knows that you are going to hit and that you are aware of where everyone in your group is. You certainly do not want to hit someone who is not paying attention, nor do you want several people hitting at one time.
- To drive a golf cart on the course you need some common sense and a great deal of respect for the course and the players around you.
- If you are driving a motorized cart, drive at a moderate speed and keep your eyes open for other golfers.
- Depending on weather conditions and other variables courses will post different rules relating to the use of carts. Be sure to obey the course rules regarding carts such as:
- Keep carts on paths at all times — this is a rule that courses use if the ground is very wet and they don’t want the tires of the motorized carts to damage the fairway grass.
- 90 Degree Rule — this rule requires you to stay on the cart path until you are even (at a 90 degree angle) with your ball. Then you may drive your cart straight out to your ball. When you’ve taken your shot, drive straight back to the cart path. Adhering to this rule minimizes damage to fairway grass as well. but still allows golfers to drive right up to their golf ball.
If you hit your golf ball into a neighbors yard let it lie there. It is bad etiquette to step on their lawn to retreive your ball and it can cause trouble between you, the homeowner, and the golf course. Neighbors yards are considered out out bounds and you should play another ball.
If you hit and damage a house or other personal property it is proper to leave a note or contact the clubhouse so you can recompense the owners. Golfers are responsible for their own errant golf shots. It is not the responsibility of the golf course and it is not the fault of the homeowner for living on the course. Without them there may not be a golf course!
AMOUNT OF PLAYERS
Singles, twosomes, threesomes and foursomes are all acceptable number of players in your group. Beyond that, it is bad etiquette to combine into fivesomes, sixsomes and above is very discourteous and upsets all the other players. Oversized groups result in many calls to the culbhouse and a perception that management is trying to deliberately slow down play. Get another player so you can have two groups to play with.
Remember golf is a lifelong and socially interactive game. If everyone practices proper etiquette on the course more focus can be spent on perfecting your skills and enjoying time spent with friends and family. And like everything, your attitude will affect how happy you are while golfing, and how annoyed you choose to get by other players. Do your part, that’s all anyone can ask!