Yesterday I missed a great pay it forward opportunity. I went to play nine holes at 3:30 p.m. and got paired with three singles. One fellow announced that he was, “attempting to fix a slice and that all unsolicited words of advice would be welcome.” Normally, I don’t give unsolicited advice to anyone, much less a stranger. As we moved through the round, I learned that he had been playing for 18 months and it became apparent that he needed assistance with golf etiquette more than his swing, and after I got home, I was recounting all the breeches to my wife and she asked if I had helped him in this learning opportunity. Well, I had not and am regretting it. I was in my own world compiling a Do’s and Don’ts list for my Monday charity scramble and only saw the etiquette breaches as irritants rather than learning opportunities. So, making up for that now. Here’s a list of etiquette points to make golf more enjoyable for novices and their playing partners.
KEEP YOUR CONVERSATION DOWN ON THE DRIVING RANGE. Players are getting loose and working on their games and need to concentrate. If you have to converse with a friend, keep it low enough so others can’t hear.
BE READY TO PLAY WHEN IT’S YOUR TURN. On the first tee, ask your playing partners if you can play “ready golf”. That means whoever is prepared to tee off can, without maintaining the honor (low score goes first.) Most players are fine with this but ask. One caveat; it’s bad form to step in front of someone who just made a birdie even when playing “ready golf”. Get to your ball quickly and think about your club selection on the way. This saves time and keeps play moving. If you think your ball may be lost, put a spare in your pocket before beginning your search. Also saves time in the event you need to drop one. Limit your search to three minutes.
BE STILL WHEN OTHERS ARE PLAYING. Holds true for full swings and on the putting green. Ensure that you are not in the direct or peripheral vision of a playing partner. Above all, do not stand directly on the extended line of someone preparing to putt. If I can see you out of the corner of my eye, it’s a distraction. In late day rounds, be cognizant of where your shadow falls. Do not leave it in someone’s view.
POSTION YOUR BAG CORRECTLY BY THE GREEN. When walking, place your bag to the side of the putting green nearest the next tee. When riding, park your cart by the green and bring any clubs you may need to finish the hole with you to eliminate the need to go back and forth to the cart.
LEARN TO MARK YOUR BALL ON THE GREEN. Use a coin or ball mark (not a tee) to mark your ball. It should sit flat to the surface and be barely visible to other players. If your mark is in the putting line of another player, ask if they need you to move it to one side and by how much. Use your putter head to measure how far to move your mark.
CLEAN UP YOUR LAG PUTTS. When you putt a ball that does not go in, either finish the next putt or mark the ball. Do not leave it sitting on the green near the hole where others can see it during their turn.
There are many other pointers to learn, especially when playing out of carts. The COVID pandemic has brought out a lot of new players to the game and exacerbated the need to convey the knowledge, courtesy and norms that make the game enjoyable to all. If you work with this list, you’ll be off to a great start.