Golf Etiquette Tips

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What’s a good pace to follow when out on the golf course?

Playing at a Proper Pace

Whether you're playing in a tournament or just out on the course for some fun, try to maintain a good playing pace. If you should slow up for any reason, causing a delay in the rhythm of play, it is your obligation to invite the group behind you to play through. Here are some to keeping up pace:
- Always be ready to make your shot as soon as it's your turn.
- When you get to the green, leave your bags in position so you can remove them quickly when you move on to the next tee.
- Never dawdle on the green.

What happens when a player deliberately breaks a golf club?

Breaking Clubs, Broken Clubs

Some golfers get so passionate about the game they take it out on their clubs. The U.S. Golf Association says if a player breaks the shaft or head of the club as the result of slamming it on the ground in anger, or intentionally striking something such as a tree, other than during normal play, as in a stroke, practice stroke, or practice swing, he is not allowed to replace the damaged club until the round has been completed.
The reason should be obvious: the club was deliberately damaged out of anger and not as a result of normal play. However, sometimes a club can get accidentally broken, as when a player is leaning on it too heavily while waiting to use it. This might happen to someone who is waiting to tee off or even out in the fairway. In those instances, since the club was damaged in the normal course of play, it would be okay to replace it during the round.

What makes golf different from other sports?

Good Sportsmanship on the Course

Golf is not like a lot of sports. There are no umpires, no referees to make sure everyone is doing everything according to the rules. Golf is a game of individuality and honor, and is played as such. Whether playing for fun or in competition, you're expected to be on your best behavior wherever you happen to be on the course. That means being courteous to your fellow players as well as to those ahead and behind you. Getting into the right spirit requires a good attitude toward the game. When you play golf, you want to play as well as you can, of course, but always play with courtesy and good sportsmanship.

What’s the rule about “quiet time” on the golf course?

Mind Your P's and Q's

When a fellow player or opponent is addressing his or her ball and getting ready to shoot, don't disturb their concentration by moving, whispering, or making any distracting noises on the course. While there won't be any cash prizes or championship titles at the end of your game, take into consideration the concentration and dedication that goes into each swing, just like the pro's. Golfers who love the sport appreciate courtesy, too. Don't be stingy in touting it or sharing it with others.

How can I avoid damaging the course when I play hard at my game?

Avoid Course Damage When You Play

Explosive shots on tee, fairway, and in sandtraps can cause damage to the course. A conscientious golfer will find the divot and quickly put it back in place, tamping it down so the grass can keep growing. And when the ball lands in a sandtrap, after you blast out, the proper thing to do is to find the rake and smooth the sand so the trap is ready for the next player. Take special care when you get on the green and remove the flagstick. Lay it down gently on turf near the edge of the green, far away from the hole. Never throw it down on the green itself because of the damage it could inflict on the surface. It could also become a hazard, an “unofficial” barrier, if a player's ball runs by the cup.

What rules should I follow if I’m playing in a tournament and I hit my ball into the rough or woods or some other hazard and need to identify it?

Identifying The Ball

Even the best of golfers' balls sometimes land in the rough, and if this happens to you and a ball is found, you want to be sure it's yours.
Lift it, identify it, and then, if it's playable, carefully put it back where you found it. Anything wrong with that? Not according to the U.S. Golf Association. However, there is a carefully spelled out procedure to follow. If the player is in matchplay or a tournament, he or she must first announce his/her intention to lift the ball to his opponent or competitor, who must be given the opportunity to observe the lifting, identification, and replacement. There are further complications, however, if the ball is found in a hazard, such as one with loose impediments like leaves and twigs or loose sand. It may be necessary to remove some of the debris and push aside the sand before the ball can be identified. As long as this is done with the player's opponent as witness there is no penalty.

Who goes first when the ball on the green is farther from the pin than a ball that’s still off the green?

Etiquette on the Green

There are certain rules you are expected to follow when your ball is on or near the green.
Suppose one golfer in a Par-3 hole hits his ball into a sandtrap not far from the pin. Another player lands his ball on the green but it is several feet farther away from the pin than the first ball. Who shoots first? According to the U.S. Golf Association, the ball that's farthest from the hole is always played first. So in this case the ball on the green would be played first.
What about finishing out the hole? If the player in the trap gets lucky and places his ball near the cup, with only a tap-in left, can he finish it off before the other player tries his putt? It depends on whether they're involved in stroke play or match play. In either competition there is no penalty for playing out of turn. However, in match play his opponent has the option to recall the stroke and make the player finish his shot in order.

Is taking practice swings ever a problem?

Watching Out for Others When You Swing Your Clubs

You may have a lot of affection for your golf clubs, but the reality is that every club can be a weapon, too. Yes, practice swings are good for your game and help you loosen up, but it's a good idea to look both ways before taking that swing.
If you swing nonchalantly and hit some stones, pebbles, or twigs that suddenly fly off into the air, if someone else is in the vicinity they could get hit and get hurt. When in play, whenever you strike at your ball make sure the other players nearby or ahead of you are out of your range. If they're way in the distance but in line with your ball's trajectory and the ball will be landing close to them, always shout the warning “Fore!” Better safe than sorry, anywhere, especially out on the course.

What should we do if there’s a group playing behind us and one of us loses a ball?

The Provisional Ball

Lost your ball? To save time from frantically searching in the water or up in trees, you could hit a second or provisional ball. Maybe you'll find your ball and be able to continue to play on. But if you've lost a ball and decide to try to find it, the courteous thing to do is to let the group behind you play through.
You may get lucky and find it, but that takes time. And, find it or not, when you and your group decide to play on, make sure you wait until the group you let play through has completed the hole. You must make certain they are out of range when you and your friends step up to the ball to make your shots. This is the kind of courtesy all golfers expect when they're out on the course

Is a cellphone a “no-no” on the golf course?

The Cellphone Syndrome

Good golfers are always considerate of others.
While it may be necessary to bring the cellphone on the course in anticipation of business or family calls, the vibrate function on the phone can be a necessary feature. While minding your cellphone manners for other golfers, it's equally important to pay attention to golf course rules. Many courses enfornce a "no-cellphone rule," which means players can't take their phone on the course. Other courses ask you to silence your phone or simply put the phone on vibrate. If you must take a call, it's courteous to leave the green or stand in the distance of players around you, so as not to disturb their concentration.

Am I free to do as I please with my clubs, such as adding leaded tape to my woods?

Adding Material to a Club

A player can add tape or gauze to the grip of a club and still stay within the rules of the U.S. Golf Association. However, there are restrictions as to what may be done to the head or shaft of a club, and whether it's a wood or an iron. It is okay to add lead tape to the head or shaft to give it more weight. It also meets with USGA approval if you want to apply tape to the shafts of your clubs for added protection. The same goes for decals that are used for identification purposes, and it's okay to cover decals with a clear tape. None of these restrictions may matter at all unless or until you're involved in a USGA sanctioned tournament. But if you follow the rules now, you'll be sure to avoid potential penalties later.

What’s the rule when a golf ball is inadvertently hit more than once during a stroke?

Hitting A Moving Ball

Have you ever hit a moving ball while playing golf? It can certainly happen, and has to some golfers. Here's one instance: a golfer was chipping his ball while off the green and he struck it once at first strike and then again in his follow-through. Not a big deal, maybe, in a game with friends. But if he was playing in a tournament the U.S. Golf Association wouldn't let him get away with it. They'd give him a one-stroke penalty to add to his score. But what if you're on the tee, you swing your driver back getting ready to give it all the power you have, and suddenly your ball begins to move. Quick as a flash you continue with the downswing in time to put the ball in flight. In this case, because the ball started to move after the player had begun his swing, there would be no penalty. In the first case the player hit the ball twice; but in this case only once. A fine distinction, perhaps, but the U.S. G.A. rules are very strict, and rightly so.

Why is it not a good idea to lay the flagstick on the green?

When the Flagstick Becomes a Barrier

Sometimes in a game with friends one of them may be in a hurry to make his putt, so he removes the flagstick, laying it down on the green too close to the hole. As he's doing this, another player makes his putt and the ball runs past the hole and is about to be stopped by the flagstick. So the first player quickly picks the flagstick up and puts it far out of the line of play. Why is this a problem?
In the first place, the flagstick should never be placed on the green. It should be put on the edge of the green for two reasons: so it won't interfere with play and so it won't damage the grass surface of the green. Also, according to USGA Rules, if the golfers are involved in matchplay, the player who removed the flagstick would automatically lose the hole because he removed an obstruction. In stroke play, he would get a 2-stroke penalty. However, there would be no penalties for the second player.

Is it okay to take a “gimmie” when playing with friends?

Are “Gimmies” Legal?

Sometimes in a friendly round of golf a player will putt his ball so close to the cup without going in that his friends will allow him to take a “gimmie.” In other words, he does not have to finish play by putting the ball into the hole. That may be okay when you play with friends, but it's a Big No-No as far as the U.S. Golf Association is concerned. According to the USGA, the Rules of Golf do not permit the use of “gimmies.” In fact the very first Rule of Golf clearly states that each player must play his or her ball from the tee and into the hole by a strok or succession of strokes. In stroke play, if a player fails to hole out according to the rules and does not correct this error prior to hitting the ball from the next tee, he is disqualified.
So what should you do, even in a friendly game? Best to play by the rules, which you'd have to follow anyway if you were playing in a tournament.

What is good etiquette on the putting green?

Good Manners on the Putting Green

The putting green is a fun place to be when you have some time to spare. Besides, good putting is crucial to having a good score. One putt-greens are causes for celebration, two putts is the standard. But more than two, and every player groans. Those crowds at major golf tournaments do a lot of groaning for the contenders when they bogey a hole, especially one they could easily have birdied. So when you get a chance to spend some time on the putting green, make the most of it.
Get some good practice in on one of the most challenging shots in the game. But when you do that, don't forget the always important courtesy to other golfers. The putting green can easily get crowded, but you should never stand in another player's line when he or she is about to stroke the ball toward the cup. Be careful, too, that you don't cast a shadow in their line of play.

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Sherril Steele-Carlin