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Although not official rules of the game, golfers
are expected to observe these practices to make the game of golf safer
and more enjoyable for golfers and to minimize possible damage to golf
equipment and courses.
Divots are part of the game, and should always be repaired
to keep the game enjoyable for all those playing the course. A golfer
should replace the loose grass and gently step on it to set it in place.
Some courses may have buckets of sand or seed used for repairing divots.
Regardless, golfers should fix any damage inflicted on the course.
Golf demands concentration, so quiet is required on the
golf course. Golfers should not run during play, which can be annoying
and distracting to other players and may cause damage to the course. Golfers
should walk quickly but lightly during play.
Golf carts are a convenience, a luxury even, and should
not be used to annoy or distract other players. The cart should be parked
behind or beside the tee, but never in front of it. Carts should normally
stay only on the paths, and are required to do so on many courses. When
a golfer gets out to walk to the ball, he or she should take a few extra
clubs along to save an extra trip should a different club be needed, thereby
keeping the pace of play moving along. Should carts be permitted off the
paths, golfers should observe the "90 degree rule": make a 90
degree turn off the path towards the fairway to a given ball, and return
straight back to the path, not along the path of greatest convenience.
Carts inflict wear and tear on the course, and can be accidentally driven
over another player's ball. Golfers should keep the noise of backing up
to a minimum and must always set the brake when leaving the cart.
The first player has the honor of teeing up first. This
can be decided by drawing straws, flipping a coin, or just by offering
the honor to a player. Should a player be offered the honor, he or she
should promptly accept and start playing, to maintain the pace of play.
Play should begin from the back tees first, and the next player should
be ready when the previous player has finished. After the first hole,
the player with the lowest score has the honor.
A golfer should always know which brand of ball he or she
is using to avoid confusion during play. It can also help to mark or otherwise
distinguish the ball, so a golfer can identify it more easily without
having to pick it up. Not only does this save time and help avoid penalties,
it also helps to demonstrate organizational skills and seriousness about
Line of sight
In the tee box, other players should stand alongside the
person playing, safely out of the way and not behind the player getting
ready to swing. While another golfer is playing, his or her playing partners
should not take practice swings, select a club or replace one in the bag,
cough, sneeze, or make other noise and distractions. Even small movements
are frowned upon, as they might be seen in the player's peripheral vision.
Should the player about to play the ball ask his partners to move, the
request should be honored. In fact, the USGA recommends: "Players
should not stand close to or directly behind the ball, or directly behind
the hole, when a player is addressing the ball or making a stroke."When
getting ready to swing, a golfer should make sure that no one is behind
him or her or in the path of the swing. A golfer should remember to pick
up the tee after a drive.
Pitch marks on the green
A ball hitting the green often leaves an indentation, a
pitch mark, where it strikes the ground. These need to be repaired to
keep the green in good condition. After golfers have arrived at the green,
they should make a point to find pitch marks and repair them. The process
is simple, fast, and painless.The golfer should insert a turf tool into
the ground on the high side of the pitch mark, then press the tool forward
to push the soil back into place, not backward. A backward motion pulls
the roots loose and further destroys the grass. If needed, the process
should be repeated on the other side of the mark, redistributing the soil
evenly. The golfer should finish by gently tapping the spot with the putter.
Playing in turn
On the tee, the player who "has the honor" is
the first to tee up and play. After each golfer has played from the tee,
the person who is furthest away from the hole is next to play. Depending
on the circumstances, a player may hit more than once before the turn
passes to another player.Normally, playing in turn always proceeds from
the person furthest away in towards the next player. However, there are
cases where it is more reasonable for a player closer in to play again,
such as on the green when the player's ball is very near the cup and potentially
blocks another player’s shot, or if a player is waiting for the
green to clear in order to take his or her shot.
On the green a golfer should be aware of many things. One
of them is the putting line of each player. Every ball is connected to
the cup by an imaginary line, the path the ball will (hopefully) travel
into the cup. Walking, standing, or stepping on these lines creates footprints
that can deflect the ball off its path toward the cup. Golfers should
note each player's putting line, and avoid stepping on it as they play
on the green. A golfer should walk around the lines or step over them.A
second but related concern involves the hole itself. A golfer should avoid
stepping within at least a one-foot radius of the hole. Golf instructor
Dave Pelz, among others, has described a "doughnut effect" around
the hole caused by players’ footsteps pressing down the ground around
the cup, especially when a player goes to retrieve a ball. While subtle,
these footsteps interfere with the path of the ball and can cause missed
According to the rules of golf, a player is not allowed
to "ground" the club in any type of hazard. This means that
as a player is getting ready for a shot, he or she cannot allow the club
to touch the ground, sand, water, or anything else during a practice swing.
A player is allowed to thrash as much sand, water, etc., as necessary
during the actual shot. A player should always enter and leave a bunker
from the low side. After the shot, a player should rake the sand smooth
again to leave a fresh surface for other players. Normally, the rake should
be replaced alongside the bunker, not inside it.An important rule is that
loose impediments inside hazards cannot be touched or removed. Sticks,
grass, leaves and the like must remain. Trash and other debris such as
cigarette butts or beer cans, can be removed and discarded. Should the
ball have landed in casual water within a bunker, a player is permitted
to move the ball to a dry area of the bunker, provided it is not moved
closer to the hole.A golfer should always be aware of his or her pace
of play. In informal play, if a golfer has attempted two or three times
to get the ball out of the sand and failed, he or she should surrender
to the hazard. The golfer should pick up the ball and drop it outside
the bunker for further play. While not allowed under tournament conditions,
this will help move the game along in informal play.
Slow play is a critical problem with the game of golf,
and has little to do with skill level, age, gender, or experience. From
the first drive to the last hole, each player should be ready to play
when it is his or her turn. Normally, the player furthest from the hole
(being "away") plays first, and continues until another player
becomes "away." While this is a good tradition to follow, golfers
may play out of turn if their playing partners agree that it will speed
up the pace of play. A golfer should avoid taking unreasonable time over
his or her swing, which might well produce a bad shot.Golfers should try
to follow closely the group ahead of them, and not to be "pushed"
by the group behind them. One rule of thumb is that golfers should have
to wait on the group in front of them to hole out as they are teeing up.
Otherwise, their pace of play may be too slow.A golfer should not waste
time after a poor shot before hitting his or her next one. Although professional
golfers often seem to take long amounts of time before each shot during
televised tournaments, they have their careers on the line. And even the
professionals are subject to penalties for extremely slow play. A quicker
pace of play makes the game more enjoyable for all golfers.
A golfer should choose the correct tee for his or her skill
level, regardless of where the other members of his or her group are playing.
The different tee lengths are one way to help even the playing field.
A golfer should tee the ball between the two markers for his or her given
distance. The ball must be even with or behind the markers. Should a golfer
swing and miss, it counts as one stroke. Should a golfer knock the ball
off the tee during a practice swing, he or she is allowed to re-tee the
ball without incurring a penalty.Even in informal play, a "mulligan"
is not automatic. If a golfer wishes to take one, he or she should ask
permission and not waste time about it. A mulligan is technically not
part of the game and goes against the very essence of the game.
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