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Golf Tips from a Pro: Evolution of golf etiquette

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One form of golf course etiquette is proper golf cart parking (pictured here) next to tee boxes. PHOTO BY MARK WEHRMAN, PGA

By Mark Wehrman EBS CONTRIBUTOR

As I was playing the other evening I started thinking about golf etiquette and how much it has evolved over the years. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the changes to traditional golf etiquette, while also recognizing the things that have remained a standard over time.

When I think about traditional golf etiquette certain things come to mind. Stand still and stay quiet while people are hitting a shot. I feel these courtesies are “in the past” now as you will see many people sporting Bluetooth speakers, listening to music while they play, which is allowed as long as it doesn’t become a disruption to others on the course.

Another thing of the past is the hitting order or the “honors” of whom hits first. In my opinion, everyone should be playing “ready golf” at all times. Playing ready golf means not worrying about hitting order and instead focus on making sure you are ready to hit your ball whenever it is safe for the others in the group. Forget about who is farthest out from the hole or who has the “honor” on the tee; ready golf keeps the game moving at all times and decreases waiting time when others are not prepared to hit their ball. Ready golf can mean playing out of turn at times to keep play moving forward and even include two people hitting simultaneously, as long as there is no danger for any of the players in the group.

Another form of traditional etiquette is wearing a collared shirt when golfing. As a traditionalist, I am still in favor of this practice. My guess is that most all people, especially males, have at least one polo or “collared shirt” in their closet and, in my opinion, golfing is the perfect time to use it. Although it is not a requirement at most courses anymore, I believe that looking like a golfer and acting like a golfer will lead to feeling and playing like an experienced golfer yourself. I’m certain that there will be plenty of opportunities to display your favorite Skid Row tee shirt elsewhere. But, like I said, collared shirts are not a requirement here, instead they are strongly preferred. Other dress code etiquette requirements will always include no tank tops or cut-offs. Avoiding these garments is a must at every facility I have ever played and should be followed when visiting any course.

Golf etiquette also refers to how we care for the course while we are playing, such as repairing your ball marks on the green and replacing your divots or filling them with sand. Following these guidelines will also provide you, and everyone else, the opportunity to play the course in its best condition, which we all want. 

Other course etiquette and care procedures have been relaxed over time as well. I feel that walking in someone’s line on the green is not that important anymore due to the fact that most golf shoes no longer have spikes and especially now that the rules allow you to tap down spike marks and fix any imperfections in the turf on your line. In my opinion, it’s just not as “disrespectful” as it was once considered.  

Other considerations that will always be recommended are following cart signs on the course, and always keeping your golf car on the cart path, especially around all tees and greens. Again, it is for your own, as well as all other golfers’ benefit, to adhere to golf course care etiquette.

Lastly, when I think of golf etiquette, I also think of the golf course and the residents around it that need to have a mutual respect for each other. In our case here at Big Sky Golf Course, when marking the course each spring with hazard stakes and out of bounds stakes, I always make sure to mark out of bounds areas whenever we have a hole that is bordered by homes. Psychologically, golfers are more concerned about losing their $2 golf ball than breaking a $1000 window-pane. Appalling, I know, but it is amazingly true, so as golf course operators we do everything we can to protect the homeowners around the course.  

In return, we ask that the residents of golf courses respect the course by not walking their dog on the course when we are open from the months of May to September, as this is for the safety of you and your pets. As a current homeowner on the course for the past 8 years, I can honestly say that I strongly adhere to this recommendation myself. Until this past January, when our beloved dog went to doggy heaven, I would look forward to getting home every night and immediately taking my dog to the park to enjoy a beautiful walk by the river. 

We are so fortunate to live in a community with a multi-use park that welcomes all people and pets and we should enjoy our pets at places like these, rather than on the golf course where people are paying good money to enjoy their golf game. Even if you are being careful, it is the perception of people walking their pets on the course that makes others think this practice is ok. We kindly ask that you respect these policies for the enjoyment of all people, pets, and golfers. 

Mark Wehrman is the Head Golf Professional at the Big Sky Resort Golf Course and has been awarded the PGA Horton Smith Award recognizing PGA Professionals who are model educators of PGA Golf Professionals.

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