Etiquette in golf is not just good manners and being courteous! It’s a code of behaviour that every player should learn.
First and foremost, golfers need to be time managers, both before they get to the course, and while they’re on it. Manage yourself so you arrive early – and be ready to play ahead of time. I know it’s not always possible to do it — especially if you’re battling traffic or a meeting that’s gone on too long — but, in general, you should be at the course at least 45 minutes before your tee time. That will give you the time you need to check in and pay, warm up with a bucket of balls on the driving range, sink some putts on the putting green, and arrive at your #1 tee box 5 minutes ahead of time.
Those 45 minutes can also be used to cut down on the amount of fidgeting you might otherwise need to do if your golf bag isn’t properly organized – so give it the once-over before you hit your first ball on the driving range. That means that your clubs are in order, that you have everything you need. That will include: balls, tees, a pitch mark repair tool, a marker, a counter, and a good glove and may also include a range finder. It’s important to know where everything is within your bag.
When you check in at the pro shop, tell them your name and what your tee time is. Pay for your round of golf and for your range balls, if there is a fee.
Be courteous. Maybe you need to wait in line before you’re able to pay for your round, but that’s no reason to get upset. If you’ve managed your time, you will still have a lot of time before you need to tee off. And if you haven’t managed your time, it’s all on you! Remember: some of the pro shop employees are on their feet for long hours each day – and even when the rain keeps you at home, cosy and warm, they are at work, answering the phone, booking tee times, lessons and the like. Be good to them and they’ll be good to you.
While paying for your round, be sure to ask where the driving range is located, and where you should get the range balls from if it’s your first time there. Some courses have machines that distribute the balls with cards, money or tokens along side of the driving range; other courses have their personnel hand out the baskets from their club storage areas. It never hurts to ask, and solves the frustration of not knowing where to go beforehand.
Take time to warm up your body. If you’re lucky enough to be able to leave from home, you might want to warm up with some stretching before you leave. Then on the range, do some more light stretches before you hit any balls. Be cognizant of other players on the range and make sure you are not impeding on their space or are either ahead or behind the designated hitting line. Sometimes it’s astounding that people will hit balls from the carpet when all the other players are hitting from the grass, in front. Or one lone wolf will get onto the grass when everyone else is playing from the golf matts. Don’t be a lone wolf.
Be sure to over the scorecard. There are can be up to five tee boxes on a course. The Rui most forward tees were at one time called the “Ladies” tees but they are not just for ladies but are usually the shortest tees. First and foremost you should play from the tees that are compatible with your abilities. I like to check the distance of the Par 4’s. If I cannot reach the green in two shots I need to play from shorter tees. PLAY FROM THE TEES BEST FOR YOU, There will be the usual Rules that govern play and exceptions for local Rules. An example of local rules may be to not drive in the fescue on a links course. Make sure you read the rules. Often there is a detailed map of the 18 holes. Bonus!
Greet your playing partners with a handshake and a friendly “Have a good game!” Inform the others in your group as to the tee boxes you will use. Let each person have the tee box to themselves. Don’t stand behind the player – or anywhere in front of them. One of my pros told me once that the only safe place to stand for a right handed player is about two club lengths behind the tee marker on the right side of the tee box. (So just the opposite for left-handed players.)
For the number of seconds or a minute or so that the player has on the tee box, KEEP QUIET. Nothing is so unnerving as chatter, chatter, chatter and then a sudden stop when you start the back swing. There’s plenty of time to chat between the green and the next tee box.
I want to give a big shout out and thanks to our playing partners yesterday at The Canal at Delacour Golf Course – Tony Clark and Taralea Cameron. They were kind enough to let me take pictures of them to use in my etiquette series and just because the pictures show things the wrong way has absolutely no reflection on their golf course etiquette! They were great subjects, and great to play with! Thanks so much!
In my next instalment about golf course etiquette, I’ll talk about what you need to think about regarding etiquette once you are playing.