Respect for the Golf Course

Ever watch an outstanding golfer taking care of business around the course? It’s a thing of beauty and inspiration – and we’re not talking about awesome swings and low scores. As we head into the heart and heat of the summer season, let’s hear it for the players who treat the course with care.

It’s not easy being green … a golf course takes a tremendous beating. A properly repaired ball mark takes only a day to mend – it’ll be a 3-week scar if we don’t do it right. Those lifeless sods of turf on the fairway are sad testament to players who didn’t take 15 seconds to replace and repair divots. Bunkers – there IS a proper way to rake them. And cart damage – don’t get us started down that path!

USGA has good tips on course care: Being a Good Player Does Not Make You a Good Golfer

Golf’s a game of R-E-S-P-E-C-T – for traditions and honor, for partners and competitors, for the meaningful moments and indescribable pleasures the game gives us. Let’s give back by taking care of business around the course. Leave it better than we found it, smooth the way for all who follow us, and gladden the hearts of grounds superintendents everywhere.

Teeing is Believing – Again and Again

Teeing off – does anything on the course offer up such an exquisite blend of promise and anxiety?  A new fairway before us with a wealth of possibilities!  Not all of them good, as we know, and folks are watching.  Tee it up!

We posted 9 Notable Things to Know and Do Around the Teeing Area a while ago.  Inspired by new experiences, and an entertaining new book, On Par, by Bill Pennington, we’ve got a few more things to say.
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Level-Best
Do you place your tee nosed right up to – and in the middle of – the imaginary line between the markers?  An uneven and divot-dinged place, perhaps.  Seek level ground, as far back as 2 club lengths, because it’s easier to hit a good shot when your feet are level and level with the ball.  As Pennington says, “You’ll never miss the 3 feet.”

Marker Madness
The markers aren’t there to help you line up.  Deploy whatever personal lining-up routine you have – but ignore where the markers are pointing you.  The mowers probably placed them there.

Ball Falling Off Tee
When we tee up the ball, it is not yet in play – we haven’t tried to hit it, we haven’t made a stroke.  Along comes the wind, or we accidently knock it off at address or with a practice swing.  No penalty – we have not intentionally tried to hit it.  See USGA Section II, Definitions,“Stroke” and Rule 11-3.
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Wrong Tees
Is it the scent of freshly cut grass or the heady mix of friendship and competition?  Every year one of our group drives a ball from the incorrect tee.  We don’t notice at first, then we do and are sad … and then inspired because she takes her penalty – 2 strokes! – re-tees in the right place and keeps on smiling.  She’s our club champion in more ways than one.

The Good Golf Partner – A Fine Art

There’s a personal pantheon of folks I love to play golf with.They have that spot-on combo of thoughtfulness and golf smarts.Some have a great game of golf and others are almost beginners.What they have in common is the fine art of being a good golf partner.

After you’ve trekked together over hill and dale, missing shots, finding hazards, taking penalties, are there smiles for the mission accomplished? That’s what a good partner brings to the game.

Here are some good partner habits worth acquiring…

Be on Time
There’s so much to think about on the first tee – “Where is my partner?” shouldn’t be in anyone’s mental mix.Get to the course early with plenty of time for all the pre-game details.Orderly and unrushed – that’s a great way to start a round together.

Be Quick
We’re not talking speed golf here, just an ever-efficient mindset.Gauge yardage, select a club, read greens while others are playing – when it’s your turn, you’re ready. Be smart with your cart too.

Attitude is everything.
No matter how you’re playing, keep it upbeat.Stressed out?No sharing.Your bad mood is no one’s idea of a good day on the golf course.

4 Eyes Are Better Than 2
Always track the path of everyone’s ball, and join in the search when a ball is lost.

Mind the Flagstick
Simple, yes.Overlooked, often. If you’re closest to the pin, pull it.If you putt out first, move over near the flagstick so you can pick it up and replace it when everyone’s done.It’s all about efficiency and doing your part.

Be Prepared
An extra ball marker, energy bar, the tab for the snack cart, those are the little kindnesses a good partner has at the ready and offers up at just the right moment.The small, thoughtful gesture goes far on the golf course.

Just Don’t Offer Up Any Unsolicited Golf Advice
The reasons are too numerous, and the consequences too complex to mention.Unless you’re a golf pro, keep your personal “6 Sure Steps to a Better Golf Swing” all to yourself.

And last, but surely not least …
Raise a glassto the good golf partner, she of generous gestures and bullet-proof humor
. Long may we appreciate what she does for our golf game!

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Golf Cart Smarts

Last week during league play, an empty golf cart rolled down the hill and tipped into a bunker. File that under amusing/unexpected/semi-dangerous golf moments – really, the game never fails to entertain.

The runaway got me thinking about smart cart usage …

Who doesn’t love golf carts with their cartoon look and silly beep-beep backups?  Is there anything finer than hopping aboard with your favorite partner, anticipating the hills and thrills of the next few hours?  It’s worth noting though – carts cause much more damage to the course than walkers, and are involved in many serious injuries each year.

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BE KIND TO THE COURSE
ALWAYS, AND ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S WET

  • Know the local cart rules
    Before beginning a round, ask about the course’s cart rules – they may change daily based on course conditions. Can you drive on the fairway, is the 90 degree rule in effect, etc.
  • What IS the 90 degree rule?
    Use cart path until you get parallel to your ball, then enter fairway at 90 degrees. (My friend has her personal interpretation – when it gets to be 90 degrees out, take a cart!!)
  • Steer clear of delicate areas of the course.
    Don’t drive:
    – Within hazard boundary lines
    – Close to water hazards or bunkers (unless there’s a path)
    – Over or close to tee boxes
    – Through mud or casual water
    – Close to greens

CARTS SHOULD INCREASE SPEED OF PLAY, NOT HOLD IT UP
Always be thinking how to use the cart efficiently.

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  • Drive & Drop
    If you and your partner hit balls to different parts of the course, drive to nearest ball, drop off the player with several clubs and proceed to the next ball. Players can be ready more quickly,  and play moves along. Likewise, as you come to the green, you might drop off a player with his wedge and putter while you go park the cart.  Efficiency in all things!
  • Be a smart parker.  When you get to the green, park your cart at the back or on the side, positioned so that you can walk off the course and be quickly on your way to the next tee. You will not hold up the players in back of you. Remember – score when you get to the next tee.

BE KIND TO OTHERS

  • Carts are noisy. Stop when someone is about to hit the ball. Carts are VERY noisy when going in reverse.
  • If you have to drive to another part of the course – say you’ve left a club behind – be very aware of other golfers and where/when they are hitting.

CART SAFETY CAN BE BOILED DOWN TO THREE WORDS – “DON’T BE STUPID”
It’s a day of golf, not Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
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Tending the Flagstick

Rule 17 in the Rules of Golf is devoted to the flagstick.  It’s essential reading. Remember:  no ball that begins on the green may touch the flag stick, whether it’s in the hole, lying on the green, or being held by another player.

Sometimes it’s difficult for a player to see the hole on a green. A player may ask another – often the person whose ball is closest to the cup – to attend the flag stick while she’s putting.

Knowing the rules, possible penalties and basic etiquette is important. Here’s how to attend a flagstick.

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  • Lift flagstick from the hole to be sure it isn’t jammed and then return it.
  • Stand at a distance so your arm is outstretched and grasp the stick firmly.

  • Pay attention to where you’re standing. Avoid casting a shadow and also be aware of the putting lines of other players.
  • Once the ball is in motion, remove the flagstick straight up (that’s delicate territory around the cup) and walk away.
  • Lay the flagstick on the green out of the line of all players.

A few last notes of niceness:

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  • Closest to the flagstick
    Did your shot land closest to the pin? Head over to it and be ready to tend it if asked.  You may ask the putter if she would like you to tend the flag. If she declines, take it out and lay it out of play.
  • First to putt out
    If you are first to putt out, mosey over to where the flagstick is lying and be ready to pick it up and put it back in the hole. Efficiency in all things.
  • Did you leave your wedge back at the last hole?
    The smart golfer places extra clubs she’s brought to the green next to where the flagstick is lying. Hard to forget them there.

At Home On The Range – Etiquette at the Driving Range

The other day at the range I put my money in the ball machine and ALMOST forgot to put the bucket in place.  Only two balls escaped – comedy averted – but it got me thinking about being at the driving range.  Whether it’s a basic facility, a well manicured hitting area with practice balls in nice pyramids, or a full-service operation like Miles of Golf, there are ways to make your visit safe, considerate and fun.
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Don’t Go There
Never retrieve that mis-hit ball lying seductively just a few feet in front of you.   The unbroken tees out there aren’t worth your noggin either.

Keeping an Eye on the Other Guy
Don’t set up too close to other players or walk in back of them.  Before you walk into a stall, wait until golfers on both sides have finished their swings so they are not distracted.
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Curb Your Cell Phone
Enough said.

Pace of Practice
If it’s crowded, you don’t need to rush your practice.  Be mindful, work efficiently, and move away quickly when you’ve worked through your basket of balls.

The Art of Saying  “Thanks….. and Goodbye!”
You know him/her – Helpful Herbie.  This is the person who has personal insights into your golf swing… and apparently all the time in the world to share them with you.  Try saying, “Thanks, I’m working on that with my coach”.

What’s Right?
It’s perfectly OK to set up right-handers next to lefties.  No particular etiquette there.

Save the Grass
On grass tees, try to keep divot pattern close together to minimize area that gets abused.

A Word About Winter
If you’re playing at heated tees, keep your clubs close to keep them warm – and turn off the heater when you leave.
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Picking on the Picker and Other Strategies For a Good Time at the Range
You know what they say about golf, it’s just a stick and a ball.  It’s all about having fun.  So go ahead… it’s OK to try to hit the ball picker (we checked!).  Play some games, promise yourself some rewards, (I WILL go shopping if I hit 10 wedge shots within a yard of the target.  OK, make that two yards of the target), try something new, shake it loose…. you get the idea!

By all means, put that basket under the spout on the ball machine
At least once a week at Miles of Golf, someone doesn’t… who said golf isn’t fun?

Tips on Tipping at the Golf Course

Run down your get-me-to-the-golf-course mental checklist.Clubs, check.Shoes, check.Glove, hat, balls, check, check, check.Sunscreen, got it.Dollar bills to tip the bag boy?Whoops!

Bag boy, beverage cart driver, golf pro, caddie…. Where does tipping start, and please, where does it end?Is there any one who has not driven the cart directly to their car after a round just to avoid all the confusion and save a couple of bucks?

If you play at municipal courses you probably won’t encounter tipping situations, but sooner or later in the universe of golf you’ll find yourself face to face with a person who has given you a service. What to do?We’ve collected golf tipping guidelines from local pros and from the web, mere suggestions and educated guesses to help navigate one of the biggest mysteries in golf – tipping.

Generosity generalities
Adjust gratuities according to where you’re playing and the level of service you receive.If you’re at a high-end course, tips should be higher.And if you’ve received outstanding service, a larger tip is always appropriate and welcomed.

Bag Drop
Taking your bags from car to cart, $1-3 per bag.
On the return, taking bag to car including cleaning, $2-5 per bag.

Beverage Cart Driver
25% with a $1 minimum is about right.And if it’s an outing where the refreshments are free, you should still tip.Folks rely on tips to supplement their wages.

Starter
Not usually, unless something out of the ordinary has been done.

Caddie
If you’re playing at a course with a caddie, you’re at a high-end place.Tip an experienced caddie $50, a somewhat experienced caddie $40, and a rookie $30.  Caddies are usually independent contractors who rely on your tip. You don’t have to tip the caddie master.

Golf Instructor
A tip is always appreciated, but is not customary.  If an instructor has rocked your golf world, go ahead and show your appreciation.  

Club Personnel
If you belong to a club, don’t forget the folks who man our clubhouses, listening to our personal play-by-play wrap-ups, answering our questions, carting our clubs, attending to our needs over the whole season.  Instead of handing over a tip each time you golf,  you might give a larger tip a few times over the season.  

“Got it!”
At moments of sheer tipping confusion at the golf course, is there a sweeter sound? My partner is handling the tip!.I vow to be better prepared next time.

Got more tipping insights?  Send us a post.

Disclosure:The author is related to a former bag boy!

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Teeing is Believing

ETIQUETTE AT THE TEE BOX

Tee the ball and get set up for the drive; envision a beautiful arc down the fairway, and the bounce and roll that carries further still. Brava!  The teeing area is like a stage, each golfer stepping up to perform, every drive a soliloquy of motion.  Alas, poor golfer … sometimes we flub our lines.  Well, that’s golf.
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The teeing area is a pretty staightforward piece of real estate, but like everywhere on the golf course, there are things to know.  Learn the little details by heart, and then go ahead and deliver that top-flight performance.

Nine notable things to know and do around the teeing area

Brand your ball
Ever hit someone else’s ball on the course? You take 2 penalty strokes… and many self-inflicted lashes of embarrassment, regret and distraction. Save yourself! Before you begin your round, know what brand of ball you’re playing, tell the other players, and be sure to mark them with a distinctive squiggle, dot or initial. Golf is confusing enough.

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Ready or not
Has your group decided to play ready-golf? If so, there’s no order to players teeing off. Be aware, though, many golfers play honors; the player with the best score on the previous hole has the honor of teeing off first. If no one wins the hole, then the order of play does not change from the previous tee. Who tees first on the first hole? That’s often determined by random, or sometimes the player with the lowest handicap gets it going.

Hitting from the “ladies tees
Stina Sternberg, former editor of Golf For Women Magazine and current TV golf personality, has some strong opinions about what tees to use and she shares them in her Golf Digest blog“Ladies tees” is an out-dated term – like calling a flight attendant a stewardess. It might have been acceptable years ago, but today it’s insulting. Tees should have nothing to do with gender and everything to do with the golfer’s skill level. If you’re a short hitter, you should play from the forward tees, no matter your age or gender. It pains me to watch men who can’t hit the ball 200 yards off from the whites – or heaven forbid, the blues. The reverse is also true: Long hitters should move back, even women. I know many men who cringe when they play against a woman who bombs it from the reds. It’s a huge advantage”. Thanks, Stina.
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Behave
When someone’s teeing off, stand safely and courteously out of the way and out of her peripheral vision. Turn off your conversation and stand still, no banging of clubs, blowing of noses, sneezing, coughing or wiggling of anything. This is the theatre, remember?

Pretend you’re a caddie
Watch everyone’s drive and make note of the spot where each ball lands. Have you ever disowned your errant drive, its pathetic path too painful to watch? It’s great to have another pair of eyes. I always appreciate it when someone can quickly and accurately help me find a hidden ball.

When it’s your turn…
Have your club ready, and ball and tee in hand. Rule 11 defines the teeing area as “a rectangular area two clubs lengths in depth, the front and sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee markers”. Think of a rectangular box. You may stand outside the box, but your teed ball must be inside it.

When you’re done, attend to some housekeeping, filling in your divot with the sand mixture provided. Don’t forget to pick up your broken tee.

Curb your cart
Motorized carts should not be driven on the teeing area, and the best-mannered golfers will even leave their pull carts and carry bags off of it.

Just a wee bit of tee history
Early golfers made tees from piles of sand. At each teeing ground, courses provided sand in boxes as well as water so golfers could clean up. Sand tees are long gone, but the term “tee box” has remained and is now used by golfers to refer to the entire short-grassed area where a hole begins. A more accurate name would be “teeing area” or teeing ground”.

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Exit stage right, stage left, just exit!
When your group has finished driving, be ready to move out with dispatch. Show’s over.

Good Manners in the Bunker

When you see your ball bound into a bunker you know your round just got a little tougher.  And what’s a player to do, but shake off dejection and bound into the bunker too.  Just don’t shake off the etiquette.  Be thoughtful and fair to other players and maintain pace of play.  Here are 10 tips just for the sand.
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  • Before you go into bunker, pick appropriate club, visualize your shot and take your practice swing in the grass.
  • Enter at low point near your ball. Protect those fragile, high-maintenance bunker faces.
  • Don’t touch sand with club or rake, or kick it around with your shoe. This isn’t etiquette – it’s the rules.  You can scootch your feet a bit as you set up for your shot.
  • Take same path out of the bunker to minimize raking and time.
  • Leave no footprints behind.  Rake it back and forth, nice and smooth, and use the back of the rake too.  No ridges, please.
  • Put the rake in its place.  In Misc./2 Decision the USGA admits there’s no perfect answer for position of rakes, but recommends placing them outside the bunker.  In addition, The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America recommends that rakes outside the bunker be placed flat on the ground (tines up) and parallel to the hole’s direction of play. These guidelines seek to minimize rakes’ influence on play.  Extra etiquette points for placing rake at some distance from other rakes, saving steps for the next sand-bound soul who comes this way.
  • Some courses ask that you leave the rake inside the bunker, so pay attention.
  • Lend a hand.  Sometimes a player gets out of the bunker but is still the next to play.  She’s got to rake, dust herself off, move to her ball, size up her shot, pick her club,  all those things.  If you’re nearby, offer to rake while she prepares for her next shot. This ranks somewhere between, “May I wash your kitchen floor”, and “Could I watch your kids for the afternoon”  – one cool and friendly move indeed.
  • Speaking of smooth moves, have you noticed the way the pro’s bang their shoes with their club after they exit a bunker?  It’s an emphatic, “I’m-out-of- there!” flourish.  Probably worth a try.
  • A matter of terminology.   You won’t find “Sand trap” in the Rules of Golf. “Bunker” is the word for it.
  • And check out the USGA video on bunker etiquette!

 

Dancing on the Green

“You’re on the dance floor,” is music to a golfer’s ears. You’re on the green!

Watch an experienced foursome, each moving about the green with quiet dispatch, precision and cooperation. It’s a beautiful thing – to the players and to the golfers behind them. Etiquette ensures fair opportunity for all players and moves play along.

Miss Manners of Golf? Please, not me. But knowledge and courtesy on the course are always prized. I’ll never master golf, but I can practice and become a good partner on the “dance floor”! Here are suggestions.

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When you get to the green

  • Don’t step on anyone’s putting line.
  • Ball farthest away putts first.
  • Mark your ball if you’re not first to putt, or if you wish to line it up.
  • Look for dent or ding left by your ball and fix it. Repair other divots too.

Flagsmanship

  • Take flag out and put it back nice and straight. It’s fragile around the cup.
  • Place flag GENTLY out of all golfers peripheral vision and putting lines.
  • Occasionally a player will request that you tend the flag. Do this correctly and you’ll score extra etiquette points. More on this in a later post!
  • No scooping the ball out of the cup with your putter head. Ouch!

Putting in Progress!

  • Stand out of the peripheral vision of person putting. You can “go to school” on someone’s putt with a similar line to yours but don’t get your education at her expense.
  • Don’t wiggle, waggle or whisper, or crinkle the wrapper of your granola bar. Or anything like that!
  • Keep your shadow to yourself.
  • Be ready, by lining up your putt while others are doing the same.
  • Putt-outs are allowable and courteous when you’re only a few inches from the cup and it won’t interfere with another’s ball. Ask, “Okay if I putt out?

Loiterers will be shot at – by the folks behind!

  • Put clubs at back of green or on side where you’ll exit to next tee. ALWAYS think of how to save steps. Never leave clubs at front of green.
  • Park cart so it is on shortest line to next tee.
  • When you’re finished putting, move to the flagstick, ready to pick it up and replace it in hole after everyone is done.
  • As you leave take a look over your shoulder for forgotten clubs.
  • Record your score when you get to the next tee.

That’s it – some smooth moves around the green.  Do you have more?