By Harris Kimani
It is the adherence to small detail, the respect accorded to all regardless of skill and social position, and the respect to the game that makes golf what it is, a gentleman’s game.
Unfortunately sometimes I wonder what went wrong! Players nowadays seem to have utter disregard for etiquette.
One of the most annoying violations is slow play. It seems a round of golf nowadays takes longer than the stipulated time. Sometime back, I had the rare opportunity to play in a Friday corporate tournament. We came up behind a four-ball that seemed to be having a good time, having long chats, walking slowly, and spending an inordinately long time on the green. As we waited to tee off on the first par three hole, clearly marked Call Hole, the group ahead of us calmly ignored the call-hole rule and looked oblivious to their infraction. My day was already going badly, no pars in sight and we had to deal with play behind a slow group. I got close to walking off the course. Later on, when I confronted the offending four-ball, they claimed that they could not let us through since there was a team in front of them. Well, the rule states that slow players shall give way! It is a simple, straightforward rule. That got me thinking. What happened to the game of golf, played as a gentleman’s game? What happened to the inherent respect that is supposed to govern play? Is there a silent mutiny amongst golfers, to enjoy the game at the expense of others by demonstrating a lack of etiquette?
Of course once you start thinking about something, you notice everything. I particularly find lateness on the Tee to be very poor etiquette, be it for a friendly game or a tournament. For heaven’s sake, a 10 am tee off means that you should be on the Tee ready to play at 9.50 am. Not looking for a Caddy, running to the changing room, rushing to pay your fees or parking your car.
We should respect Starters and remember that their decisions are backed by the power of the Captain. Don’t make the poor man’s life hard especially when he is following the rules. For example, many clubs allow Captains, Sponsors, and other officials the courtesy of the course. When the Starter requests you to wait for an official to tee off before you, you should do it cheerfully. Club officials put in a lot of time running club affairs without recompense and sometimes have to finish early so as to prepare for the presentation.
Counting on, other annoying habits that deserve a mention include littering, use of electronic gadgets on the course and wearing outfits not suited for the Course.
While on the Course, due consideration must be given to the players in your four-ball and the ones ahead of you. Don’t hit the ball if you know that it may reach the group ahead. Don’t take a practice swing while facing a player as you may cause unforeseen damage. Don’t throw your clubs around in anger. If you hit a bad shot you certainly bear more blame than the club. It is also considered rude.
Whenever in doubt, always play a provisional ball and remember to assist your teammates to search for a lost ball. When on the Green, do not walk across the line of putt of your opponent, straddle their line with a shadow, ignore pitch marks yours or others or stand across another player’s line of putt. Always rake the bunker and take the shortest path into and out of the bunker. Do not enter from one side and exit on the other, and never exit through the face of the bunker as you could damage the steep walls. When you have finished putting, don’t start practicing your missed putt or mark your card while still on the green. Make it a habit to hustle quickly to the next tee to mark the score.
When another player is making a shot, you should remain silent, frozen like a statue and inconspicuous. Do not play when other players in your four-ball are behind you as really, believe it or not, it is not your turn. When you stop at the turn, do not take more than ten minutes; avoid ordering steak.
The practise of etiquette should not end on the course. When you finish your round, appreciate players in your four-ball and congratulate the winners and honour the losers. It is considered good practice to sit with your four-ball even if for a few minutes before you leave if only to thank them for the game.
Lastly respect to club officials is paramount. The Captain, Lady Captain, Chairman and their deputies should all be addressed using their official titles. Do not exhibit unbecoming behaviour in the clubhouse and environs like walking around in slippers, drinking from a bottle, eating food from other golfer’s tables without an invite or scrounging for drinks.
If we maintain this and other rules of etiquette the game will be better off for all.