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The re-opening of golf courses necessitates certain rules we must follow. Mostly there are no bunker rakes or ball washers to touch, and we are urged to NOT touch the flagsticks and to keep the proper distance between players. Cups on the greens have been modified so that bare hands needn’t reach down into the cup to get the ball.
One player to a cart is generally still in place, but that will eventually be changed. Golf has long been a sport where etiquette and proper behavior are as important as the game itself. And the new demands of golfing etiquette mean that we all must abide to keep everyone safe. Of equal importance, we need to be courteous to the golf course staff who do their best to keep things running smoothly and safely.
Despite the “new normal” with golfing rules, traditional etiquette remains critical. Within the game of golf etiquette fundamentally concerns courtesy, manners, safety, sportsmanship and above all respect: respect for other persons, the golf course and the game itself. Good golf behavior boils down to what is expected of tour caddies: Show up, keep up and shut up. For us pedestrian golfers, that means show up early or on time, keep up the proper pace of play and play quietly.
Of course, there are many other prescribed behaviors, which are normal displays of courtesy, in the several hours we are playing golf with others. Some are not so well understood by uninformed and casual golfers. For example, most everyone knows that you should not walk in the line of a playing companion’s putt. But not everyone knows that you also don’t walk in the “through line” of his putt. That means don’t put your feet in the line of the putt within six feet on the other side of the hole, where he will have to putt if the player’s ball goes past the hole.
Another example is back on the tee. Players generally know that they should stand well away from the golfer hitting his shot. But not everyone knows that you should not stand directly behind the golfer who is hitting his tee shot, since that is in his peripheral view and is a distraction.
Golf etiquette mostly means avoiding distraction or disturbance like talking loudly while others are trying to play and using phones. We need to be careful where we stand, move and avoid any noise so we do not disturb others. These are basic manners on the golf course that are expected of gentlemen and ladies.
Then there are the mundane matters of proper behavior, such as repairing fairway divots and repairing ball pitch marks on the greens. If you are playing a course that does not yet have sand bottles available, just do your best to retrieve and replace grass divots, or do your best to bump the grass over to cover the divot. We all should carry a small ball mark repair tool or use a tee to repair marks on the greens.
When you are preparing to make a practice swing or stroke, the USGA says this: “golfers should make sure that other players in the vicinity are not standing in a position to be hit by the golf club, ball or any twigs, pebbles or stones.”
And from my personal experience, don’t stand adjacent to the tee markers after you have hit and perform practice swings! My all-time favorite bit of etiquette advice came from Mark Twain: “It’s good sportsmanship not to pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.”
Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact Blanchard at firstname.lastname@example.org.