Five reasons why good manners matter to all of us on the golf course

Getting paired on the golf course with someone you don’t know can be a great experience. I’ve met new golfing partners that way.

But there are times – not too often, but often enough – when you get stuck with someone you never want to see again. Here are five ways to not be the PTA (Player to Avoid):

Mark your ball on the green … every time

I ran into this last week. We got paired up with a guy – he said he was a regular at the course but sure didn’t act like it – who simply did not want to put a marker on his ball. His putt would stop three feet from the hole, not far from another player’s line, and he would act as if that was perfectly fine. I had to ask him to mark it several times.

If you’re new to the game, one of the first things to know is that, when someone else is putting, you should mark your ball no matter where it is in relation to the hole or other players. It’s not just that it could be in the way; it’s also a distraction.

And if you want to look as if you know what you’re doing out there, you also want to know where to place the marker. You put it behind the ball, keeping the ball between the marker and the hole. I’m amazed how many people don’t know that.


Pay attention to putting lines

This guy we had to endure last week had another annoying habit: If he decided to putt out or if, wonder of wonders, he went up to mark his ball, he had absolutely no clue about stepping in your line.

Several times, he walked all around the area of the cup and put a big old footprint right where my putt needed to go. It got to the point where I expected him to do it. Sadly, I kept being right.

Smoking stinks

This guy did something else that got to me after awhile: He’s a chain smoker.

Now I realize that we’re outdoors. And I know that everyone has a right to do whatever they want out there, as long as it’s legal. But I urge smokers to keep in mind that second-hand fumes do travel, especially if there isn’t much wind, and having to deal with that stench can really detract from a nonsmoker’s round.

To me, standing near me on the green and smoking while I’m trying to putt is as offensive as blowing an air horn. It’s an assault to the senses. Out in the fairway, I can stay away from it. On the green, there’s no escape.

I would argue that subjecting your playing partners to unwanted smoke is every bit as bad as getting drunk and acting like a bozo. Both are offensive.


Keep the complaint department closed

There’s nothing sadder than someone of marginal ability acting shocked when they don’t hit the shot just right. And then doing it again … and again … and again.

The fact is, even the best players hit a funny-looking shot sometimes, and lesser players who have much worse fundamentals are going to hit a bad one most of the time. It’s just the way it is.

We’ve all had bad days out there, and we all have gotten a wee bit disappointed with an awful swing now and again. But keep it in perspective. If you normally shoot 102 and you’re on track for 114, well, stuff happens. Get over it. Don’t let your foul mood make everyone else miserable, too.

The flip side: When you hit a good one after a series of flubs, be happy. Don’t give us the it’s-about-time speech. Learn how to celebrate your victories.

Speed thrills

Even if you do some of the negative things listed above, you can make up for those sins by being a speedy player.

No one wants to play with a turtle – except maybe other turtles. Don’t take five practice swings. Be decisive about club selection. Have your putt read before it’s your turn. And do something with your ball as soon as you putt – either finish or put a mark on it. Right away.

I know that some of these things might seem trivial to some people. Every group has a different sense of what etiquette really means.

But they’re important to most people who play our great game, not just me. Most golfers won’t say anything when they encounter bad behavior, especially by a stranger. I’ve also heard stories of people who got upset and started yelling at the violator, and that’s no good, either.

It’s a balancing act. Not everyone knows all the rules of etiquette. If you see someone who’s open to a little teaching, help them out. Let’s all work together to make it a great experience … and not be the PTA.



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