Golfnutter: Etiquette in Pattaya

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The Rules of Golf give a detailed explanation of Etiquette.  Under the headings Spirit of the Game, Safety, Disturbance, Scoring, Pace of Play, Lost Ball, Playing Priority and Care of the Course, they outline what is expected.  The overriding principle is that consideration should be shown to others on the course at all times. 

The Rules go on to state that in the case of a serious breach of etiquette, the Committee may disqualify a player under Rule 33-7.

That is all very well if one is playing golf under the protective umbrella of a golf club, somewhere in Western suburbia, where the Committee rules.  Here in Pattaya, however, life is a little different.

Wot, me beech etikat?Wot, me beech etikat?

Like playing behind slow Korean five-balls that don’t rake bunkers, having angry Thais hit up on par-3s, or having the starter insert a Thai six-ball into the middle of your field, just after they have finished a boozy lunch at the half-way shop.

We all know that a golfer is responsible for the actions of their caddies.  What do you do if your caddie breaches a rule of golf?  You don’t think he/she does that?  Think again.  Most do it repeatedly.

These and other instances are examples where golf etiquette in Pattaya needs to be different.  Furthermore, there is no ultimate authority for golf in Pattaya, at least as far as Farang are concerned.

Here are some commonly held conventions accepted by most:

  • When encountering Koreans it helps to remember that they rarely get the chance to play real courses.  It follows that their on-course etiquette will be found wanting, initially.  Same for Japanese newbies.  These people play their home golf from driving ranges.
  • Sports shirts are mandatory, as are sports shorts or trousers, provided they are not denim.  Soft spikes are required for all courses.
  • Always bring a change of clothing for after the round.  You will need a shower before entering the clubhouse restaurant.
  • Farang golf societies do not recognise a few local conventions.  When playing competition golf, we don’t use drop zones, locals do.  Most courses encourage par-3s to be played as call-up holes.  We don’t.  If you are in the last four-ball of your society, be prepared to recognise local custom by calling up any Thai four-ball following you.  Better that than to feel the heat of balls landing amongst you.  And before you react angrily, realise that you don’t know who they are.  Might be embarrassing to discover they carry some heat.  When in Rome……
  • If the starter allows a Thai group to insert themselves amongst your field at the turn, realise that they are likely to have influence.  My advice; just accept it and move on.  Making a fuss will get you nowhere.  TIT.  If the course is Plutaluang, those inserted are likely to be high-ranking navy staff.  That course is owned by the Royal Thai Navy and exists purely to provide navy staff with a golf facility.  They don’t give a monkey’s about any commercial considerations.  Farang are tolerated at best.  We get a good deal.  Don’t push it.
  • Caddies are the golfer’s agent and as such, any breach incurred by them would normally see the player being forced to accept the consequences.  But in Thailand, where their use is mandatory, their ignorance of the Rules needs to be tolerated.  This has been the subject of more than one Golfnutter column.  Some golf societies allow one error per event per caddie.  Others probably don’t even consider it a problem as they haven’t thought about it, or don’t play competition golf.  I believe there is a strong argument to redefine the definition of what a caddie is when referring to golf in Thailand.  Do not regard them as a player’s agent.  By so defining, the caddie-rule thingy goes away.
  • When paying your green fee, you will also be required to pay a “caddie fee.”  The golf course will keep a portion of this.  Having paid this fee, an amount varying between 250 and 400 baht, you are still expected to tip your caddie at the end of the round.  The amount you tip is entirely up to you.  Most societies regard 200 as a minimum.  Expats playing here several times a week will not thank you for over-tipping.  Three-hundred would be a good average if you encountered a good attitude.  Do not expect expert advice.
  • In most of the golfing world, the golfer who is “away” is the player whose ball is furthest from the hole.  Here in Thailand, the convention is to have those whose ball is off the putting surface to play on to the green, even if they are closer to the hole.

I’m sure there are more that I’ve overlooked.  Hope this helps.

Golfnutter