Golfnutter: Etiquette

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Welcome to Golfnutter’s Blog – a weekly commentary highlighting contemporary golfing issues, in Pattaya and beyond.  For more on matters golf, especially Pattaya golf, visit golfnutter.wordpress.com.

Etiquette: The overriding principle is that consideration should be shown to others on the course at all times – Section 1, page 18, Rules of Golf.

That says it all, really.

Despite etiquette being a major tenet of golf, it remains a subject only occasionally spoken of and seldom taught.  It is unfortunate that in Pattaya knowledge of etiquette is left very much up to the individual.  He or she, it is assumed, will already know all about etiquette from the conventions of their “home” clubs – yeah right.

And spare a thought for Freddie the Farang whose first exposure to golf is here, in Thailand.

About seven years back, a keen golfer I know introduced his then partner, a Thai lady, to golf.  Like many natives, they would take a long lunch, or dinner, at a driving range somewhere in Bangkok, as you do, and hit balls – hour after hour.  They would then have a hit on the nine-hole pitch-and-putt course attached.

He got more than he bargained for.

Being a competitive type, her thirst for matters golf really took off.  The quest for a decent swing was matched by a keenness for a good short game.  As her skills increased so did her pitch-and-putt scores.  After six months she was justifiably asking to be taken on to a course proper to play alongside my mate in his competitions – not something he was all that keen on.

My mate’s defence was obvious and he resorted to it.  Her response was predictable; “Ettakit?  What is ettakit?  Why you not talk about before?”  she demanded, in a tone that stated she was far from happy.

Lessons hitting balls were then accompanied by lessons in course management, scoring, Rules, consideration to others, pace of play and so on.  They played several rounds together on a 9-hole course, just the two of them, where the focus was on the how as opposed to how many.  By the time he took her to Pattaya, for her first competition game, her exposure to etiquette was as good as or better than many golfers when first they are admitted to their golf club, back home.

Compare this to what happens to most golf newbies.  Our golf societies don’t have many limitations to entry, nor should they.  But we should give some thought to those new to the game.  The normal assumption – that they will know enough about course conduct and etiquette to get by – leaves the golf newbie up the creek without a paddle.

Golf organisers need to be encouraged to mix their newbies with the more experienced players to ensure some transfer of knowledge.  The experienced player should be prepared to do his bit for the sake of maintaining standards, even if this means mixing the 5-handicapper with the 35-marker on occasions.

Beginners and this includes those who introduce others to the game, need to realise that competition golf is not the place to be introduced to course conduct.  Such ignorance is unfair on them, their playing group, and to the rest of the field.

Etiquette can mean different things to different people, depending upon where you learnt your golf.  Here follows a list under four headings; Safety, Playing the Game, On the Green and Course Consideration.

Safety

 

  • Never hit if there’s a chance your ball might reach the group ahead of you.  If it does, yell “fore” immediately, and make a point of apologising to the players concerned – at the earliest opportunity.
  • Practice swings – never make a stroke or practice swing in the direction of other players or caddies.  Small stones, pebbles, twigs or the like often fly from the ground when people make practice swings.
  • Always check the area of your club’s arc when making a practice swing, especially when on the tee.
  • If green staff are in the area of your intended play, alert them.  Green staff will normally have right of way.
  • Never throw clubs.  I once witnessed a golfer, irate with his lack of ability, hurl his pitching wedge sideways – straight into the legs of my caddie.  Not sure whether it cost him more in lost friends or baht, and I didn’t care.  To those idiots who get off by throwing their clubs; there is one reason why you shouldn’t do it – you’re not good enough to justify getting that angry.

 

Playing The Game

 

  • The convention in Pattaya is to tee-off in order of handicap – lowest first.  From the second tee on, the honour goes to the player with the best gross score on the previous hole.  If there is no outright winner of a hole, then the order of play does not change from the previous tee.  This teeing order does not apply if, in order to speed up play, your group decides on ready-golf – whoever’s ready, hit.
  • On the teeing ground, a player should not tee-up until it is their turn to play.
  • Displays of frustration are a part of the game.  Continued outbursts of temper, however, are not.  Yelling, screaming and continual high-volume swearing are not too far removed from club-throwing, in my view.  Again, to those who think they have the right to impose their presence in such a way, I suggest your skills are simply not good enough to warrant getting that angry.  Shut it.
  • Do not stand directly behind the player when he is about to play.
  • Always try to keep pace with the group ahead.  This generally means your group should be about a half-hole behind.  If this stretches to more than a hole behind, you should consider inviting the group behind to play through.
  • If looking for a lost ball, and it looks likely your group will take the full five minutes allowable under the Rules, then the group behind should be invited to play through.

 

On The Green

 

  • In most countries, the player whose ball is farthest away plays first, irrespective whether his ball is on the green or not.  In Thailand, if your ball is the only one off the green, then it is your shot, even if you are closest to the hole.  TIT.
  • Unless physically impaired, golfers, real ones, repair their own pitch marks.  This, more than any other single action, shows which golfers learned the game in Thailand.  “We don’t bother because that has always been the caddie’s job.”  Rubbish!  It is the job of every golfer in the four-ball to repair any pitch-mark they see, whether they caused it or not.
  • Never walk on someone’s line of putt.  The area around the hole in particular is sacred ground.  The first thing to note when you walk onto a green is the location of every ball in your group, then steer clear of their lines to the hole.
  • Do not stand on a line that is in the line of sight, either ahead or behind, of a player who is attempting to putt.
  • When marking your ball, ensure your marker is placed directly behind the ball.  To those used to having their caddies mark their ball, be aware some will place their marker nearest to where they are standing, and replace it in a different position.  This could result in a penalty.
  • If asked to move your marker, as it impedes another player’s line, do the following: Align the heel of your putter-head at a 90-degree angle to your ball marker, with the putter-toe pointing at a nearby tree or some other feature. Reposition your marker at the point where the toe of your putter touches the ground. Sometimes you will need to move the marker two putter-head widths. When it’s your turn to putt, repeat the procedure in reverse, ensuring your ball is placed back in the identical position it originally occupied.  Be aware, very few caddies will follow this procedure.  Best you do it.
  • Whenever other golfers are similarly required to move their ball, be the first to remind that golfer to replace his marker, before he plays from the wrong position.
  • The Rules state that pitch-marks only may be repaired.  Some caddies will repair any mark they think is on your line.  Their actions are your responsibility.
  • When replacing a ball marker, many caddies will thumb-press the area of green immediately behind the ball, at the point where they extracted the marker.  This is illegal and can/could incur a penalty.

 

Course Consideration:

 

  • Always repair your divots.
  • After playing from a bunker, always ensure it is left in a better condition than you found it.  You should ensure your caddie observes this practice as well.
  • Courses have different protocols on where and how to leave rakes.  Personally, I prefer to leave them outside the bunker, in line with the pin, shaft pointing back towards the tee.
  • Be aware that in Thailand golfers will be held accountable to make good any damage incurred to the hire cart.  This may apply even if your caddie is the driver.  TIT.
  • Should carts be permitted off the paths, golfers should observe the “90 degree rule”: make a 90 degree turn off the path toward the fairway to a given ball, and return straight back to the path, not along the route of greatest convenience.
  • When sharing a cart, drive to the first ball and drop that player off with his club/s, then immediately drive to the second ball.
  • When carts are limited to paths only, always take more than one club before approaching your ball.  Especially so if you don’t know the lie or distance.
  • Keep carts well away from greens or hazards.  Beware many courses over-water the area immediately in front of their greens.
  • Avoid using the putter-head to support you when near the hole.  Especially noticeable when retrieving the ball after putting out.  The green is not designed to support your body-weight whilst leaning on a putter.
  • When attending the flag-stick, hold it at arms-length and in a way the flag doesn’t flutter in the wind. Always stand away from the sun so the hole or putting line is not in your shadow. Loosen the bottom of the flag-stick before the putt, so it doesn’t stick when it comes time to remove it – which is immediately after the player has hit the ball.
  • When laying the flag-stick down, always lay it off the green.
  • It is normal for the caddie whose player will putt last to replace the flag-stick.  If playing without caddies, it is good form for someone other than the last player to putt, to replace the pin.

 

Remember the Rules of Golf: The overriding principle is that consideration should be shown to others on the course at all times.  Do this and your thoughtfulness will be repaid several times over.

Happy golfing!

Golfnutter