Take just a moment and think of those with whom you most enjoy playing golf. What is it that makes them so welcome in your foursome? Is it their ability to hit long drives? Probably not. Is it that they putt so well under pressure? Not likely.
In fact, though we might judge ourselves based on how well we play, others remember us by how we conduct ourselves on the golf course. It is the exhibition of respect and the observance of etiquette that gives the golfer a chance to stand out, even those days when nothing else is going right.
This is the first of two parts on golf course etiquette. You might file some of what you read under “the bleeding obvious.” If that’s the case, be glad the beginner is having it spelled out. We’ll discuss more about how you might improve next week. I’ll start at the green because it is there that most etiquette violations take place.
First of all, never walk on or near the space between anyone’s ball and the hole. Chances are slim that walking on someone else’s line will interrupt the roll of their putt, however, making an attempt to avoid it is a show of respect.
Speaking of respect, always fix your ball mark and one other immediately upon arriving at the green.
The same goes with raking the bunker. Just because you’re not going to be in a particular bunker again doesn’t mean someone else won’t be. Try to do a good job shooting out the surface of the sand. Always use the rake provided, as a rake is more properly suited for the task than is the side of your shoe.
Also, enter the bunker on the side that will leave youth the fewest steps to your ball. That will leave you with less sand to rake after your shot. Let’s now move out to the fairway.
Most know that whoever is farthest from the hole is next to play. There are times, however, when it’s acceptable to break the law of “correct playing order.” For instance, when two players are near one another, but that player who is actually farthest from the hole isn’t ready, the other player is certainly within his or her rights to say, “If it’s all right, I’ll go ahead and play.” This is acceptable because it is in the pursuit of play, and will almost always be received that way.
Now, the teeing ground.
Many golfers don’t care too much about “honors,” but don’t assume that to be the case. Always be ready to give the first teeing privileges to whoever scored the lowest score on the previous hole. Even if your playing partners announce early on that they play “ready golf” (no concern with honors), always acknowledge who you’re jumping in front of before thoughtlessly racing to the tee.
You should also give your playing companions “quiet time” once it is his or her time to play. Though continuous chatter doesn’t bother some golfers, others are looking for someone to blame for an errant shot. With respect to that, keep in mind that others are giving you quiet time as well, so be expeditious about getting to your shot and playing it. No one likes to stand quiet and motionless while you spend two minutes deciding which club to hit.
A golfer must go the extra mile to lean about course etiquette. Fellow golfers are much more willing to critique your swing than critique your etiquette (at least to your face).