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How to be a good Golf Citizen

Welcome to a guide to get you the most from your golfing experience.

While golf is a solo game in the sense that you play your own ball and hit all the shots; it requires collaboration between players for the game to work.  The game works a lot better for everyone involved when players follow some basic, yet not always immediately obvious ground rules.

So let us run you through some of these key concepts and help you get the most out of your golfing game.  Golf is a great game and let’s unlock some amazing experiences this game has to offer.

Let’s start with a checklist.

1.  Arrive early

You should aim to be at the course 30 minutes before your tee time at a minimum.  Then check in at the Golf Shop as soon as you get there.

Showing up early, will give you time to register, pay fees, learn any local rules at the course, while having ample time to prepare for your round. Not rushing is the best way to avoid unnecessary anxiety. By showing up early you are making things smoother for yourself and everyone involved.

2. Keeping up

Tee times provide the structure of the game, yet they also imply a necessary ‘Pace of Play’.

Playing at a reasonable speed means all groups keep pace with the first group on the course.

Tee times are generally at 7 or 8 minute intervals. This means the group in front of you needs to have played well out of your hitting range in that time. If the hole is a par three, the hole needs to be completed in that 7 or 8 minutes.

To keep pace requires you to be aware of your movements, as well as, those of your playing partners.

And while this sounds like a responsibility, it is quite simple.  All you need to worry about is the group that is directly in front of you, and make sure you keep up with them!

Take a moment read this article from the R&A about: Pace of Play

3. Always Err on the side of safety:

Regardless of how long you have been playing, the golf ball will occasionally depart the clubface at some dramatic angles. Also you may occasionally hit a ball further than you anticipated. These things happen.

This may bring people into the line of fire of your ball. When this happens you must call “Fore”. This is golf’s universal warning call. The term comes from the idea of forewarning people of pending danger.

Never hesitate to call, and do it loudly.  It is much better to have heard a call of “Fore” than to have a ball wizz past your head and having had no idea it was coming.

4. Respect other golfers:

Everyone would probably agree that Golf is a challenging game. To do your best requires focus. So if you enjoy the best chance to play your shots then you owe that to everyone else.

This means being aware of how your actions may affect others. Such as maintaining silence when your playing partner is hitting their ball. The more aware you are the less you will distract others and a better playing partner you will become.

5. Respect the course:

The BIG THREE – Divots, Bunkers & Pitch Marks.

Course Care covers all the ways in which your play should not affect other players.

Divots: The mark you make in the turf when you hit a shot should be dealt with before you move on to minimize the impact on other players. What to do can be a bit confusing as different courses deal with divots differently. A common practice is filling divots with sand which you carry in a bucket. Find out the preferred method at the course you are playing before you tee off.

Raking bunkers: If you enter a bunker your responsibility is to smooth out the marks you made so other players enjoy the same conditions you did.  Rakes are usually supplied yet if it is missing do you best with your foot or club.

Pitch marks on greens: The indentation made by a ball landing on the green needs to be repaired so greens can remain smooth for everyone. Carry a pitch repairer learn the correct way to repair then.

This video from the USGA explains the ideal method: Pitch Marks

6. Visiting a new course:

While the Etiquette and rules of the game cover play around the globe, different courses have customs, dress codes and rules of behaviour that vary dramatically.

The colour and length of socks, length of skirt or shorts, not wearing a hat in the clubhouse, where you can and can’t use your phone and the style of the collar on your shirt are all things that have tripped up golfers before you. Not being aware of the dress code can distract you from your game and may require an unexpected purchase to remedy the situation.

Most clubs that have specific rules regarding dress codes, course care or mobile phone use will make these clear on their website. Being prepared will mean avoiding awkward situations and enjoying each club’s unique experience.  So make sure to review this for the golf club you are playing at, before your visit.

Here is an example from Newcastle GC – Dress Code

This from St Michaels covers both – Course Care and Dress Code

Also, don’t hesitate to tell the staff, or any club members you meet, that you are new to the course and ask if there anything you should know. Show interest in the club and you will be made welcome and assisted with any local customs.

7. Playing the Game:

The rules of golf can seem daunting to say least. Open the rule book and you see strange terms and diagrams. So it is useful to start by reminding ourselves of the central premise of the game.

Start at the teeing ground. Play shots to the green until you have hit your ball in the hole. Then count the shots. Repeat.

That’s it.  It is really that simple!

So the key rules to understand are those that apply to situations when you can’t do the above.

Here are the common scenarios and the rules you need to know.

What to do if I lose my ball. (Lost ball) 18.2, 18,3(provisional ball)

What if I hit it outside the boundary of the course? (Out of Bounds) 18.2

What if I find my ball but can’t play it? (Either an unplayable lie or the ball is in a pond or creek etc. that the rules now call a penalty area) 19.1, 19.2, 19.3(unplayable), 17.1 (penalty area)

What are the rules if I hit in a bunker? This link from Golf Monthly explains the rules for bunker and how they changed in the 2019 rules revision.

Why it’s important to understanding these rules is because they affect your score as penalty shots are associated with certain outcomes.

As you play more rounds and rounds at different courses you will come across situations that you haven’t previously faced. This is when other rules (besides the ones we mentioned above) will apply.

You don’t need to know all the rules or the entire book. Just refer to the rules when an unfamiliar situation arises.

Have a copy of the rule book in your golf bag.  But we recommend that you simply download the free Rules of Golf APP to your phone. The search function will help you find what you are looking for in seconds. Get the free Rules of Golf App

Why is knowing all this so important?

In our experience golfers get grouped into two categories by other players.

Those that you would be happy to share a round with; and those who you wouldn’t.

Importantly this is not about how you play your shots. It is how you treat other players, how you care for the course and whether you give everyone the chance to focus on their game.

Regardless of your standard of play you are in charge of your reputation within the game. How you are seen by others will affect your experience and the connections and friends you make.

Respect is the heart of golf culture. Display this trait and you will receive it in return; You’ll become known as a good GOLF CITIZEN.

We believe that if you embrace golf’s ethos, the dividends will be simply huge.  Welcome to this Great Game of Golf! Learn more about getting a golf handicap in Australia.

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