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Because golf is always attracting new players, we make no apologies for emphasising etiquette
Golf courses can be intimidating places. When new golfers take their first tentative steps out of the clubhouse they often feel they're in a hostile world whose rules of behaviour are arcane and complex. They are also, of course, often unnerved by their own relatively limited ability but be assured, other golfers are much less concerned with the distance you hit the ball than the way you behave.

Unlike many other sports, golf is a game where sportsmanship is of paramount importance, and where etiquette among players distinguishes it from many other sporting activities, thus elevating it into being far more than a case of hitting a golf ball around a manicured field, but rather a sport that requires a great deal of concentration and decorum. It is also a game enjoyed equally by men and women who have acquired the art of etiquette on the golf course, and so are familiar with rules of behaviour.

The most important thing to remember on the course is the safety not only of yourself but fellow players. Speaking as one who has been at the receiving end of a badly aimed golf ball I can testify that they can be lethal objects, as too can an over enthusiastic swing from a golf club. Fatalities have been recorded involving both types of incident.
Never practice swinging when other players are in the vicinity;
Always check behind you before making a practice swing;
If your ball looks to be heading towards other players (or to an area you cannot clearly see), shout 'fore' loudly.

Silence is Golden
Concentration is imperative for good scoring so any unwarranted diversion, whether it is someone chatting, jangling loose coins in their pockets or moving around beside you can ruin your train of thought.

Always keep a respectful distance when an opponent or fellow competitor is ready to play;
Don't make noises or movements when another player is preparing to hit the ball - in effect, do to others as you would have done to you

There is no doubt that golf provides everything you would require from a sport. It helps keep you fit and healthy, is the ideal way of getting out in the fresh air, it can work on all parts of the body, and is perfect for helping to lower stress. In fact, many golfers can spend hours walking around the course, rueing missed shots, discussing tactics and so on, oblivious that there may be 10 or 12 players hot in pursuit. So it is important to remember that you are not alone.

Forward plan your next and subsequent shots;
When it is your turn to play, be ready;
After you have played be prepared to move on and mark your scorecard after leaving the green;
Leave your clubs and/or trolley close to the partof the green nearest to the next tee.

Happy Medium
Some golfers play faster than others and it is not only courtesy to invite speedier golfers to play through, such a requirement is encapsulated in Section 1 of the Rules of Golf. At least, threeballs and fourballs are expected to call through a twoball but the principle should always be, if others are moving faster, let them pass.

Incidentally, the same section of the Rules mentions that single players have no standing on the course and this is one of the most widely misunderstood parts of the Rules. It means that you are not obliged to call a single through simply because he or she is (inevitably) moving more quickly. It does not mean that you ignore the single player while you, for example, spend five minutes (or even one minute) looking for a lost ball.

Alternatively, should the situation be that the group ahead are having their own problems you could always politely suggest that perhaps you could play through but either way, remain courteous, cool and calm.

It remains a truism of golf that the group ahead always plays with maddening slowness while those behind are always in an all-fired hurry.

Keep calm
All golfers have bad days even professionals who have been playing for years. But it isn't anyone's fault so don't fly into a temper, don't take it out on fellow players, and above all don't take it out on the green.

Care of the course
Some courses suffer the pain of 30-40,000 rounds of golf a year, not to mention the divots gouged from fairways, trails of sand emitted from bunkers and dents, or pitch marks created by balls falling onto the green. It takes a lot of hard work and long hours to bring a course to the high standards golfers demand and yet it can only take a couple of hours for a group of people to undo all that work.

Rake bunkers that you have visited;
Replace any divots you create;
Do not fling or drop the flagstick to the green when it no longer needs to be tended but lay it down. If you have a bad back, use your putter to gently lower it to the ground;
When replacing flagsticks do so gently, harsh use can damage the hole;
Remember that unrepaired pitch marks may take weeks to recover, whereas those that are instantly repaired heal within 24 hours;
Get into the habit of repairing your own pitch mark and one other;
If you wear traditional spikes in your shoes, be considerate and pick your feet up when walking on the green, especially in the vicinity of the hole
If the ground is soft, do not lean on your putter while your playing partners putt as this can leave indentations in the putting surface.

Golf Carts
You may not need a driver's licence to drive a golf cart but the way some golfers operate these vehicles, perhaps there should be an obligatory driving test.

Drive at a moderate speed, you aren't on a race track;
Make sure you keep to marked pathways;
Always keep carts away from the greens and off the teeing ground;
Remember that on loose surfaces, such as gravel or pine needles, or on wet grass, it's easy to lock the wheels and skid;
Don't overload your cart.

Finally, don't be a bad loser. Or perhaps as Bobby Jones, joint founder of the US Masters put it so succinctly: 'In golf, customs of etiquette and decorum are just as important as rules and governing play.'

©    30 - MAY 2002

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