Nepali Times
Tee Break
Course conduct


I sometimes wonder: if there was no such thing as golf etiquette, would golf be as much fun as it is? I certainly don't think so.

Yes, golf has a deep tradition of expected behaviour. We should thank those that created and implemented these strict norms that have become so much a part of the game. No doubt, they are one of the biggest reasons why the spirit of the game is still so alive.
Seasoned golfers out there know what I am talking about. For new comers to the sport, golfing etiquette is the convention of social behaviour followed on the golf course. You aren't penalised for violating etiquette, however it is considered very impolite to breach it. Try to circumvent following the norms and the golfing community will quickly shun you.

Moving or whispering even (let alone talking), while another player makes a stroke, stepping on the line of an opponent's putt and even leaving one's shadow across that line while he putts are some simple examples of bad golfing etiquette. Some golfers knowingly breach good golfing behaviour, often trying to make their opponent hit a bad shot or to get psychological advantage. Others can be just careless and inconsiderate. However in most cases, 'bad behaviour' is due to ignorance. It ends up disturbing fellow golfers and unnecessarily causes embarrassment to everyone involved. Basic etiquette is part of what golf professionals teach during the initial lessons on the golf course.

It would take pages to explain the many subtle rules of proper conduct around a golf course that one is expected to know, so I'll limit myself to a few of the major and important aspects. Let this be a refresher for those who are already aware and an eye-opener for those new to game:

. Right from the start, while a fellow competitor makes a stroke, you should not move, talk or stand right behind or in front of him.
. Always try to keep the pace of play, meaning don't play too slow. Slow play results in delaying everyone across for the whole course and disrupts not only a golfer's rhythm but the whole fun of the game.
. Never play a shot if players ahead are within reach of where the ball may stop. If your ball heads towards where other golfers might be, shout "fore" loudly to warm them of the danger. This is the only time shouting is acceptable (and in fact expected).
. Don't talk or laugh loudly, shout and never make big displays of extreme emotions that will inevitably disturb other players on the course.
. Take extreme care not to damage the putting green while walking and avoid taking divots on your practice swings. This helps keep the course in good condition for everyone to enjoy.

Good conduct includes replacing divots, repairing ball marks on greens and restoring disturbed bunkers after playing a shot out of the sand. Where caddies are used, players usually ask their caddie to do some of these tasks. However, it is still totally a player's responsibility to ensure they are done.

Remember, even as a spectator, once you are on the course golfers expect you to know and follow golf etiquette. As a golfer, take a refresher read through the etiquette section of the Rules of Golf or bring it up in a discussion with your golf professional. Adhering to proper golfing norms will help avoid unpleasantness and embarrassment, and will add to everyone's enjoyment of the game. It shows you respect the game, keeping its beauty and tradition intact while making it enjoyable not only for yourself but also for others.

Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Golf Director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)