Reflecting on golf course etiquette reminds of the green on hole number one at Orchard Hills Country Club, Bryan, Ohio. As an eight-year-old, it was the beginning of a great day playing golf with Dad. Dad was putting for a birdie and the author was behind the hole astride Dad’s putting line. Dad bellowed, “G#* John, get out of my putting line!” Yes, Dad was a stickler about course etiquette; and his passion for courtesy on the course is alive in the author today.

Practicing course etiquette respects the legendary core values and guiding principles of the game. Nothing is more frustrating than playing with a golfer who has not taken the time and opportunity to become familiar with course etiquette, the spirit of the game, safety, putting green courtesies and mindful control of disturbance and distraction. Golf coaches, including Dad, always counseled as follows:

  • Live the spirit of the game with integrity: be courteous and considerate of others, count all strokes and play by the Rules. Unless stated in local rules or agreed to before teeing off on the first tee, players are not allowed to improve the lie of the ball on fairways or in roughs. You are on your honor to include penalties for grounding your club in sand traps and out-of-bounds, accidently moving the ball and hitting another player’s ball on the putting green.
  • Prior to teeing off on the first tee: 1) discuss and agree on any special rules for this particular game—mulligans, strokes given or received and changing to a clean ball on the putting green; and 2) flip a coin or tee for honors on the first tee. Honors on subsequent tees go to the player with the lowest score on the hole just finished. In the event of a tie, honors revert to the winner of the preceding hole.
  • Avoid standing close to or directly behind the ball when a player is about to play; and do not disturb play by fidgeting, moving, talking or making unnecessary noise. Noisy electronic devices need to be shut off before arriving at the golf course.
  • When a player drives a tee shot out-of-bounds, a nice gesture is to invite the player to take a short break, get composed and not play another ball until other players have played. Play safe: warn greens keeping staff who may be in danger and shout “fore” when there is danger of hitting someone. When other golfers are ahead of you wait until they are one full shot ahead before you shoot.
  • Repair divots on tees and in the fairway: a good practice is to use sand-seed mixture to repair divots on tees and fairways.
  • Observe golf car movement signs.
  • Always enter and leave sand traps on the low side. Rake footprints and sand divots in bunkers. Replace the rake in the bunker on the side away from the pin with the handle to tee.
  • The player closest to the pin tends the flagstick for other players as they desire. The player whose ball is furthest from the hole putts or shoots first.
  • On the green, when you are closer than other golfers, properly mark your ball with a golf ball marker. Players are on their honor to replace marked balls as precisely as possible. Loose impediments can be removed from your putting line; and fixing ball marks and green damage on the line-of-putt are permissible.
  • Do not stand on another player’s line-of-putt or directly behind the hole when he-she is making a stroke. When someone else is putting, other players should stand well out of his-her line-of-putt and field of vision; and these golfers should be aware of where their shadows are falling: shadows should not be allowed to cross the putter’s line-of-sight and, if possible, should be kept out of his-her peripheral view.
  • Prevent unnecessary green damage. Do not: drag, twist or scuff your golf shoes; place golf bags on the green; pull golf carts on the green; drive golf cars on the green; stand too close to the hole; use club heads to remove the ball from the hole; or lean on clubs on the green or when removing the ball from the cup. Repair green damage caused by golf shoes or ball marks with either a tee or divot tool. When removing the flag stick, carefully lay the pin on the fringe of the green.
  • Wait on the green or green fringe until all players hole out; and move away from the green as a group.
  • Record scores on the way to the next hole.

Hit ‘em high and straight, don’t miss three-foot putts and count all of your strokes. As Sir P. G. Wodehouse offers, “To find a man’s character, play golf with him.”

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