Earlier, we talked about proper golf attire. Since we covered that, I assume that you are now ready to play some golf!
Well, not so fast. Before you hit the first tee, there are some best practices and etiquette tips to keep in mind and make sure your round gets off to a good start.
When you arrive at the course, you will usually have a few options with regard to getting your clubs close to the pro-shop. You can either park and carry (or roll) your bag yourself over to the grounds, or you may see a bag drop where you can briefly park and unload your clubs. The bag drop may or may not be attended by a staff member. Always use caution when leaving your clubs unattended for any period of time; you never know what can happen. You will usually be fine dropping your clubs, but do so at your own peril. All it takes is one shady character to really ruin your day. I know this from experience; my brand new Burner Superfast driver was stolen out of my bag while I was paying for range balls. This is the only time I’ve ever had anything stolen at the course, but that one time did hurt.
After parking and approaching the club, you will often be greeted by a staff member asking if you’d like to have him/her load up your bag(s) on a cart. Most of the time, you can politely decline if you wish; however there are some places where this service is not optional. You are never required to tip, but in my opinion if you have your bags loaded up, it’s good form to do so. $1 per bag or more is usually adequate. Of course, there are times when you may be walking the course (if allowed) or simply working on your game at the range, practice greens, etc, so some of these tips may not apply to you. We’re focusing today on the days when you will actually be playing a round of golf and riding in a cart, so we’ll assume that to be the case as we continue this discussion.
Head inside the pro-shop and check in with the attendant. Here, you can pay for your round and purchase any other items you need for the day. Make sure you have enough golf balls (even scratch golfers lose them) to last at least the front 9, tees, a glove (if desired), and a scorecard so you can keep track of all your birdies!
Most courses also offer some selection of food and beverage, available for purchase. If you are going to eat, consider how much time you have before your tee-time. Use common sense: Don’t order a steak well done when you have 5 minutes to get to the first tee box. If you’re short on time but need to get something, you might want to consider food that is easy to eat while in your cart. It can be pretty annoying trying to eat a sloppy meal, take shots between bites, and keep your hands clean enough not to muck up your grips. Bananas and apples can be good choices; if you want more of a meal, maybe opt for the wrap instead of the open-face sandwich covered in sauce. Finally, and this one is pretty important: if you purchase beer or other drinks, make sure to ask for a bag of ice to keep your beverages cold while on the course. Some places may charge you a couple of bucks, but you’ll find the cost well worth it when your drink is ice cold on hole #17.
If you have enough time before your round, you may want to warm up a bit. Some players never do so; I’m not one of them. I like to be able to have a little time to hit at least 20 range balls and putt for 5-10 minutes. I’m not always at the course with enough time to spare, but ideally this is my routine. Again, warming up is optional, but if you decide to hit the range / putt / chip there are a few things to keep in mind.
On the range, BE SAFE! Getting hit with a full swing of a golf club can literally kill you. At the very least, it’s going to hurt. Keep your distance from the hitting stations. Walk down to your desired space, and then make a 90 degree turn and walk up to your station. Do not walk in at an angle behind other golfers. If children are with you, make sure they are old enough and mature enough to handle the responsibilities of staying safe at a driving range. If they are not, keep them off the range – period. Once hitting, NEVER wander onto the range itself to chase a ball or for any other reason. Range balls usually cost about 10 cents each; don’t get hit in the head because you just need to hit one more ball.
Talking at a moderate volume level at driving ranges is usually acceptable at the range, but don’t be obnoxious about it. The range is more casual than the course when it comes to making noise while others are hitting, but there should still be a basic level of respect for others. Some may be trying to focus or to enjoy a few minutes away from work.
On the practice green or chipping facilities (if available), similar rules of etiquette apply. If you are putting, try to focus on one of the cups / flags at a time. Don’t spray all over the place. Try to give other players a little bit of space, if possible. Make sure to replace flags. Finally, unless the practice green or chipping facilities are empty or nearly empty, resist using an excessive number of balls to practice with. 3-5 should be plenty, and preferably should be the same golf balls you are going to use during your round.
Alright, you should be all warmed up, paid and checked in, fed and watered, and ready to hit the links! Grab your cart and head over to the first tee and get ready to tee-off!
Did I miss anything? Surely, I did! Please share your knowledge or stories below in the comments section! Happy BallFrogging!