It may not be improper here to mention certain points of etiquette, which as it is of importance, should be observed by all who are in the habit of attending matches of golf. It is understood that no looker-on is entitled to make any observation whatsoever respecting the play – to walk before the player – to remove impediments out of their way – or, in short, to interfere in the most distant manner with the game while playing. The player is at liberty, at all times, to ask advice from his partner or caddie, but from no other person…..Perth Golf Club, 1825.
This extract from the archives of one of Scotland’s oldest clubs may be the first-ever golfing reference to the term etiquette.
It was written at a time when national bodies didn’t exist. Golf clubs could and did devise their own rules. In 1839 the Honourable Company (Muirfield for us plebeians) added the following to its code of conduct: All spectators at golf matches are requested to be silent, and to stand still, while the parties are striking, or about to strike.
One wonders what would befall golf’s modern-day moron – the “in the hole” screamers – should they ever find themselves transported back to a place and time where etiquette meant something. Golf clubs didn’t use security guards back then; they didn’t have to. Any transgressions were dealt with by those in attendance; immediately.
The pace of play – covered in the Rules under Etiquette.
While the Honourable Company did not use the term etiquette, it is clearly implied within their code of behaviour. Golf clubs kept these passages outside the main body of Rules, but over time, the term was to have its own section within the Rules of Golf.
Page 18 of the R&A’s current edition on the Rules is headed: Section 1 – Etiquette; Behaviour on the Course, and includes guidelines on the spirit of the game, safety, disturbances and distractions, scoring, pace of play, readiness to play and care of the course. The section finishes with Penalties for Breach, which includes disqualification. The USGA’s Rules has a similar section.
Golf in Pattaya, as is the case elsewhere in the world, is largely played without the supervision of a referee or umpire. The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players, care for the course and to abide by the Rules.
Put simply, etiquette is a series of guidelines that exist to show other players, whether through divot repair or awareness of your shadow, a degree of fairness which you would expect to receive in return. In short, it is about showing consideration to others at all times.
Etiquette is what sets golf apart from other sports.
How do we golfers, here in Pattaya, measure up in terms of etiquette?
When compared to the average club golfer in the west – bloody poorly.
One key difference lies in the word “club.” A golf club will typically set its own rules regarding admission of members. Part of that will include reference to the club’s code of conduct, including observing the Rules of Golf. Most clubs will have a process to deal with those who transgress. Most clubs will have written and unwritten rules about the playing of the game. Most clubs will actively encourage or promote etiquette. All clubs will belong to a national body which has a responsibility to ensure clubs comply with all aspects of the Rules of Golf.
Contrast that with the situation here in Pattaya. The closest we come to a “club” situation are the IPGC, PSC and Travellers Rest. These three organisations work hard at providing a club-like framework that promotes the Rules of golf. Because they run competition golf, they maintain a comprehensive handicapping system, publish local rules, and attempt to take some responsibility for the on-course conduct of their members. They also attempt to instil etiquette, but are hampered by the huge disparity in golfing experience and cultural backgrounds of their members.
Also limiting their ability to instil good etiquette practice is the temporary nature of the vast majority of members. Although regular visitors, the majority of members will visit for a limited period of time. Adding to the challenge of instilling etiquette is the fact that Pattaya is often the place where newbies learn the game for the first time.
Some clubs in the west will not grant playing rights to new members until they have played a round with the club captain, and satisfied him/her that they understand and will comply with the club’s code of conduct. Imagine trying that, here in Pattaya?
It is the responsibility of every golfer to learn the Rules of Golf. Most golfers get by with a rough understanding, but that is all that is required, most of the time. It is equally important that golfers teach themselves etiquette, particularly as it applies to locations that fall outside their normal environment – locations like Pattaya.
Show consideration to your fellow golfers, at all times, and the chances are your actions will be reciprocated. If you don’t know, ask.