Golf Course Tips
We all want to learn to play better golf and hit better shots, but there’s one skill in the game that doesn’t take any talent—etiquette. When you’re confident that you’re wearing appropriate (and flattering) clothes, you’re up on the basic rules of golf and you’ve been making solid contact with the ball, it’s time for the true test of golf: playing on the course. These simple guidelines will keep you in the good graces of your playing competitors. I always tell my students that no one remembers whether you shot 97 or 107, but they’ll never forget the time you answered your cell phone in their backswing.
- Keep Up
- Keep Quiet
- Be Safe, Be in the Right Place
- Care for the Course
Keep Up: Fast golf is fun golf, and you don’t have to be good to be fast. Most of the time wasted in a round is on the greens, so be ready to putt before it’s your turn.
- Putt out your tap-ins—every time. The more you do, the more confidence you’ll build! Plus you won’t have all that extra time to fret about that two-foot knee-knocker—you’ll already be in the hole.
- Take two clubs with you from the cart so you don’t have to make an extra trip when you realize the wind direction has shifted. Also, when you’re around the greens, it’s sometimes hard to notice how much green you have to work with until you’re at your ball. It’s just as easy to carry two clubs as one. It’s a lot more effort to walk back to your cart!
- Walk briskly and ahead when you’re in a safe place in the fairway. Always pay attention to your fellow golfers, though. You don’t want to be making noise while they’re hitting.
- Write down your scores when it’s NOT your turn. There’s no greater waste of time than writing your score down while you have the honor on the tee. Ready golf doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to be oblivious when it’s your turn.
- If your group is behind pace, let the first person to putt out start walking to the next tee so they can hit as soon as your last player putts out. I learned this trick from my college golf coach, Martha Richards, at the University of Texas. You’ll be amazed how much time this saves!
Keep Quiet: This may be obvious for many, but golf is a gentlemen’s (er, gentlelady’s) game and being polite is a big part of it. Friendly conversation is too! Knowing when to end the chat and when to play is important. Jack Nicklaus was rumored to have a “40 pace” rule: once he was within 40 paces of his ball he went into “game mode” to stay focused. Maybe 10 paces is enough for your Sunday foursome, but having the focus in the right place will help both you and your playing partners. When in doubt, don’t make noise or talk after someone has started taking practice swings or is lining up their shot.
Be Safe, Be in the Right Place. If you imagine an overhead view of a person hitting a golf shot, the safest place to be is to the rear and on the “belt-buckle” side of the player, and at least 6 feet away. Any of the other three quadrants are susceptible to sculled shots, shanks and flying equipment. If you’re already on the “backbone” side of a player, try to be at least 12 feet away. Again, always pay attention to your fellow golfers’ shots. Never stand on or behind the line of a shot, especially on the putting green, and be wary of everyone’s position on the green before you accidentally step on their line—this is a major faux pas.
Care for the Course. Leaving your mark on the course is normal, and good, but try to leave the course better than you found it.
- Rake bunkers. Push the sand—don’t just pull it, or you’ll leave rake grooves. Leave the rakes outside the bunker and on the outer edge away from the green.
- Repair divots. Most courses in America have gone to sanding divots (from small canisters on the side of the cart), but in the correct conditions you can also replace your divots. Most importantly, smooth the sand over with your foot and stomp your divot down. The idea is not only to get the grass to grow back quickly, but also to make the ground smooth to allow a ball to roll through the divot without getting stuck.
Repair ball marks. I constantly see this done wrong! The idea is to replace the middle of the ball mark with the surrounding healthy grass, so whether you do this with a tee, a switch blade, or a “divot repair tool,” you should be pulling in, not lifting up.