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Rules & Etiquette

[Excerpts from USGA and Golf Digest]

Golf is fun and understanding a few guidelines and etiquette makes it fun for you and your golf mates.

“Playing at a better pace is not about hurrying up or rushing around the course.  It is simply about being more efficient with your valuable time, as well as, everyone else’s.  Adopting this mindset – and not being afraid to share it with your fellow players – will ultimately add enjoyment to your golf experience.  Here are some recognized tips for improving pace of play.” (USGA)

Minimize your time on the tee

It is usually acceptable for players to “hit when ready” (ready golf).  Play a provisional ball (Rule 27-2) if you think your original ball might be lost or out of bounds.

Think ahead

Once you are off the tee, think ahead.  Determine your yardage and make your club selection before it is your turn to play.  Very often, you can do this while others are playing, without disruption.  If you take your glove off between shots, have it back on before it is your turn to play.  Even a small step like this saves time.

Keep your pre-shot routine short

Pick your line of play once and trust yourself.  Try to take no more than one practice swing, then set up to the ball and play your shot.  Most importantly, be ready to hit when it is your turn.  Be efficient after your shot too.  Start moving toward your shot promptly.  If you are sharing a cart, hold your club until your reach your partner’s ball, then put your club away before they swing.

Develop an eye for distance

Grab your GPS or electronic rangefinder before you reach your shot.  Be aware in advance of your distance.  Does every shot require a distance determination or can you use the markers to estimate the distance?  Rules permit players to exchange yardage information without penalty.

When sharing a cart, use a buddy system

Don’t wait in the cart while your cart mate hits and then drive to your ball.  Get out and walk to your ball with a few clubs.  Be ready to play when it is your turn and then let your cart mate pick you up.  Or, drive to your ball after you drop your cart mate off and pick him/her up after you hit.

Be helpful to others in your group

Follow the flight of all tee shots, not just your own.  Once in the fairway, help others look for their ball if you already know the locations of yours.  Volunteer to fill in a divot or rake a bunker for another player if needed.  Be ready to attend the flagstick for others.

Keep up with the group in front of you

Your correct position on the course is immediately behind the group in front of you, not immediately in front of the group behind you.  Arrive at your next shot just before the group in front leaves the area in front of you.  If you are consistently not able to keep up and a gap opens in front of you, invite the group behind you to play through, irrespective of the number of players in the group.

Be efficient on the putting green

Mark your ball and lift and clean it when you arrive at the putting green so you will be ready to replace it when it is your turn to play.  You can usually line up your putt while others are putting, without disturbing them.  Leave your clubs on the side of the putting green closest to the next tee, and leave the green promptly after holing out.   Wait until the next tee to record your score.

Putt ‘em out

Unless your partner/opponent specifically tells you that your putt is “good” – don’t assume it is and pick it up.  The hole is not over until your ball is in the cup.

Pick up your ball permitted by the USGA Handicap System

If not in an individual stroke play competition, it is generally OK to pick up your ball and move on to the next hole if you are “out” of a hole and want to maintain pace of play.  This applies in match play and forms of stroke play, including Stableford and best-ball play.

Silence please

Golf is a social game.  It’s one of the best things about it.  But golf is also a game of concentration.  Don’t talk to a player or anyone else when someone else is hitting.  Your voice is a distraction as they swing no matter how quiet you think you might be.  And please don’t hold the group hostage by starting a story at the tee box, not allowing others to hit.

Leave the course like you found it 

Fill your divots, fix your ball marks, rake your bunker.  On the green, fix your ballmark and perhaps one more.

Watch your shadow

Don’t allow it to get in someone else’s putting line or have it moving in the visual field as another player is hitting.

Watch your positioning

Do not stand too close to another player.  Directly behind a player’s hitting/putting line can be a distraction.  Really, anywhere that can encroach in a player’s visual field as they swing.  When on the green, if you want to “learn” from another player’s putt, move to the correct line behind them AFTER they’ve hit the putt.

Tend the pin

It’s never a bad thing to ask someone with a lengthy putt if they want you to ‘tend the pin’.  That is, keep the flag in the hole until the putt has been struck and then remove it before the putt gets to the hole area.  Also, if someone is just off the green, ask if they’d like to keep the pin in or out.  It is expected that first in the hole replaces the pin when everyone is done.

Don’t sandbag

If you’re in a competition, whether a tournament or friendly game, don’t inflate your handicap by recording higher scores or deflate by recording lower scores.  This is cheating.

Miniature Golf Balls

I didn't miss the putt.  I made the putt. The ball missed the hole."

Don Christopher

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