Golfnutter: Etiquette – Part 1

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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.

This might depict golf somewhere, but not here in Thailand.This might depict golf somewhere, but not here in Thailand.

About nine years back, a keen golfer I know introduced his then partner, a Thai lady, to golf.  Like many locals 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 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.  Consider etiquette under four headings; Safety, Playing the Game, On the Green and Course Consideration.  This week we cover Safety.

Rules for 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.

Next week we will discuss etiquette under the headings of Playing the Game, On the Green and Course Consideration.

Happy golfing,

Golfnutter