Since the earliest days of golf, this question has recurred, “What are my responsibilities as a golfer to maintain the golf experience?” This question is so big and so misunderstood that I reached out to my good friend and teammate at TPC Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Dallas at Las Colinas, Mike Kiesling, our Director of Golf, to help us answer the question.
It seems that beyond the core philosophy of “leave it as you found it,” those of us who craft the modern golf experience need to start an education campaign to remind the golfer of their responsibilities when it comes to the golf experience and the maintenance of the course. This is Golfer Responsibilities 101m … welcome to the class and please share the content with others.
Simply Follow the Rules
The first golfer responsibility to maintain the golf experience is simple: follow the rules. If it’s cart path only, stay on the path. If carts are not allowed in the parking lot, don’t take your cart into the parking lot. If there is a sign that states a rule or restriction, read it and follow the instructions. If you’re on the matts at the driving range, then that means do not hit any ball off the grass (not even drivers).
As a superintendent, it is a bit embarrassing when I am called to pull a member’s cart out of a low spot that is holding water after a heavy rain when we were clearly still “cart path only.” In over 35 years as a greenskeeper, I am always amazed at the lack of care exhibited at times by golfers, especially club members because it’s their course.
The essential takeaway from this section is that everyone is expected to follow all posted local rules, no exceptions. This also applies to traffic controls, such as rope and stake and the environmentally sensitive areas marked with blue stakes. These are necessary to protect the course and the golfer, so please avoid these areas. Golf is at its best when everyone follows the rules and etiquette of the game.
The Biggest Issues
As a golf community, there have been three items we have been discussing for the greater part of the last few decades. How do we get golfers to fix their ball marks? Why are there footprints in the bunker? Lastly, how do we fix pace of play? All three are valid questions. However, as industry professionals, we would like to ask a question prior to offering a solution for these three reoccurring issues. Is etiquette dead as it pertains to the game of golf?
By definition, etiquette is the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group. When do we as golfers accept responsibility for our actions on the course? Do we hold those we play with, as well as ourselves, accountable while on course enjoying a round of golf? If we did, each of the three previously mentioned actions items would no longer be talking points.
There have been great initiatives started to address these items, including various forms of “Care for the Course” programs. These often will include, but are not limited to, Divot Days, Ball Mark Repair Parties, “Play it in 4” campaigns, or assigning holes of responsibility based on first letter of last name. While all great ideas, they are not programs geared to solving the root of the problem: enablers who will continue to foster the entitled behavior exhibited by the majority of the golfing populous.
At the end of the day, each golfer who tees a ball up on the first tee shares and accepts certain responsibilities. THEY are responsible for fixing their ball marks. THEY are responsible for raking after themselves in bunkers. THEY are responsible for picking up their trash (yes this includes cigarette and cigar butts). THEY are responsible for sanding their divots. THEY are responsible for keeping up pace with the group directly in front of them.
One of the core values surrounding golf is the fact it is a game of integrity. This is a character trait we should all cherish and emulate, not only on the course, but in life. As a parent introducing the game to our children, we should ensure they understand the responsibilities they share with everyone else enjoying this incredible game.
It’s about Etiquette and Protocol
Golf is a great game. All great golf clubs have one thing in common, and that is great members. The most important trait that great golfers and members share is a love of and commitment to the etiquette and protocol of the game. It’s about ownership and a sense of value that is brought to the game when everyone takes the high road of embodying the rules, even the unspoken rules (do you fix your ball mark plus one or more?).
I believe it’s just a small percentage of modern golfers who cause most of the problems when it comes to etiquette and protocol. But we, as the keepers of the game, must never tire of teaching others, setting a good example and instilling the highest virtues of this great game at every level of play. Remember, when reminding others of the rules, to be kind, be consistent and engage the club staff as needed.
Top 10 Responsibilities of the Golfer to Maintain the Golf Experience
- Follow all posted rules and restrictions
- Repair your ball marks
- Repair your divots
- Rake the bunker as you exit, putting all disturbed sand back properly
- Replace the bunker rake as directed by local rule (in or out of the bunker)
- Place all trash in a proper receptacle or take it with you
- Do not drive carts near greens or tees
- Avoid wet areas and steep slopes
- Avoid hitting into maintenance workers
- Be kind to the staff; they want you to have a great experience.
In a perfect world, every ball mark is repaired, every divot filled, and each golfer takes the time to make sure the players behind them, and everyone they encounter during a round, are not negatively impacted by their actions.
We do not live in a perfect world, but as golfers we aspire to be better each day. We hope that in 2021 we see a revival of old-world golf etiquette that causes record levels of golf course responsibility that lifts the golf experience to new heights. The next time you stand on the 18th green after a round of golf, if you were put on trial for proper golf etiquette and course maintenance, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Thank you for your time and attention. Play well and keep reading AVIDGOLFER magazine.