The game is no longer limited to Captains of Industry at private golf clubs that provided caddies to perform the task of selecting clubs, searching for lost golf balls, raking bunkers, repairing ball marks & divots and such. For those of us who do not have a caddie to perform these necessary tasks we need to do this for ourselves. It is an integral part of the game, just like playing by the rules or having a great swing. Good playing conditions include both the condition of the course and others’ behavior. Here are few etiquette tips for you to follow in keeping with the traditions of the greatest game ever played.
When you see dried out divots or ruts in the fairway, it means a divot was not replaced after a shot and has damaged the golf course. Know that when you take a divot, you must replace it to maintain the quality of the golf course. Most divots in our geographic have a clay base allowing the divot to remain intact. They can be picked up and replaced back from where they came. Once in place, all you have to do is step on it with your foot, allowing the grass to heal & leaving the fairways lush. Some courses have sandy soil & divots fall apart. Courses with this type of soil provide a container with a sand & seed mix to fill in the divot.
Repairing Ball Marks
A golf ball lands on the green with force that displaces the turf where it lands, often leaving a depression. As you approach a green look for your golf ball’s depression and repair it. Use a repair tool in a circular pattern along the outside of the depression to press the grass gently toward the center of the mark and then tap the grass down with your putter to smooth it out. Have you ever noticed the round brown spots on a golf green? That is from people who do not know to correctly repair a ball mark. They use the divot tool to pull up, in a circular motion rather than pushing forward. Pulling up pulls the grass roots out of the ground and the grass dies in that area. If a ball mark is repaired when you get to the green it will repair itself quickly; if left unattended it may take weeks for the grass to regenerate leaving the green with an uneven surface.
When your ball lands in a bunker, walk in the low side & take the rake with you. Following the rules of golf for a bunker shot, pick up the rake when you have finished your shot and smooth out the sand where: your ball rolled in, your shot was taken & you have walked. Rake the sand back and forth placing the sand into the bunker smoothly. A mistake many make is pulling the sand toward them as they exit the bunker, which removes the sand from the center of the bunker and leaves it almost void of any sand at all.
Observe Course Boundaries & Signs
Unless you are playing with a handicap flag provided to you by the course pro who will provide you with different instructions, we all need to understand and follow the course boundaries. Due to the number of people who move through smaller shared areas on the course like tees, cart paths, bunkers & greens, you will often see signs restricting access to these areas. There are few “NEVERS” in life but here are two: NEVER Bring your golf bag, cart or golf car onto a green, and NEVER take your golf bag, cart or car into a bunker.
Pace of Play
Over the winter Hall of Famer & ESPN Analyst Lou Holtz spoke at the 12th Annual PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit and said that the first thing he taught his sons about playing golf was to play fast. Holtz understood that golf is not just a game about you but also about how your actions impact others. When golfers take too much time to play a hole of golf everyone behind them pays the price. To maintain a good pace of play it is important to be ready to take your turn. We can do this by preparing as we approach our golf ball. Think of what club you will need, get to your ball and when it is your turn be ready to go. A round of golf should take no more than 4 hours for 18 holes or 2 hours for 9 holes, less than that is even better. If you are so inclined to spend more time at the golf course consider making a second tee time or spend some time in the grill room or at the practice facility.
Most golfers know not to talk or make any noise or distracting movements when someone is taking their shot. Keep in mind that sounds travels and although no one in your group is taking a shot, if you are yelling across a fairway it will carry to other locations on the course. Someone you might not see could be in their backswing.
For more information on proper golf course etiquette pick up a USGA Rules of Golf Book. Additionally, Gordon Seliga, Certified Golf Course Superintendent at nearby Lake View Country Club has created instruction videos demonstrating the proper way to repair a divot, rake a bunker and repair a ball mark that can be found at http://lakeviewcc.com/turfcare/video/.
A good rule to follow is to leave the course in better condition than you found it. Keep in mind we walk the fairways for a brief moment in the history of the game. We inherited the opportunity to play from others who have honored its traditions of etiquette and rules. Now it is our turn. Carry the torch and pass along the spirit of the game to future generations. Be an ambassador for the great game of golf by setting the example of good etiquette and play the great game of golf in the spirit it was intended.