Want to put your best foot forward on the golf course? Here’s a list of the eight things you should never do, no matter how tempting.
1. Never take a call from your stockbroker/plumber/hairdresser.
Mobiles are prohibited on most public and private courses for a reason. At best it’s irritating enough for others to listen to your conversation and at worst, it can put your playing partners off their game. The best you might manage is a discreet peek at your phone while others are busy teeing off. In this intense digital age, why not relish the opportunity to go off-grid, focus on your game and be “in the moment.”
2. Never take bathroom relief unless it is a medical emergency.
Urinating on the course can, at times, be tolerated. We turn a blind eye for the guy who, through old age or poor planning, needs to duck behind a tree. However, any other type of pit stop is just not acceptable, people. Check the course map or ask the pro shop about bathrooms on course.
3. Never cheat.
We’ve all been faced with that opportunity to improve our lie away from the prying eyes of playing partners. However, one of the fundamental and beautiful truths about golf is the commitment we share about honesty, so while you might think about it — don’t do it!
Once, from the corner of my eye, I saw a good friend tap down a divot in front of his ball. He assumed we were all busy with our own shots. Sadly, each time I play with him I see him miraculously locate lost balls and scramble super-human shots from what appears to be impossible lies when I could have sworn the ball was caught in deep rough. His one misdemeanor many years ago has permanently affected my playing relationship with him. He’s still a great guy but I can’t trust him on the course, and feel that I have to watch over his play.
As P.G. Wodehouse said, “Golf… is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.”
4. Never look for lost balls when dangerous wildlife abounds.
A sliced ball off the first tee in Western Australia many years ago reminded me of this “never.” We were like kids in a candy store… a cache of near-new golf balls had congregated in the very same spot and we squealed with delight as yet another ProV1 turned up in this patch of rough. Our delight turned to terror as the starter raced towards us shouting “snakes, snakes.” We had failed to see the small sign advising to stay out of the rough.
The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook abounds with alligators but was especially memorable for their size and desire to sunbake on the fairways. These guys might look docile and uninterested, but they can turn on a dime and pick up speed. And while strictly speaking cactus are not wildlife, beware the jumping chollas at Dove Mountain, Arizona. Any nearby movement will activate their ability to fly through the desert air and embed themselves on any part of your body that presents as fair game!
5. Never swear.
I am no prude and can launch an f-bomb when appropriate. The golf course is just not that place. Despite taking another demoralizing 3 putt or shanking it into the drink – backing up with expletives at volume does little for your game or those around you. In part, the art of golf demands a certain “zen” and your game will benefit from a cool head and an ability to roll with the punches.
6. Never walk away from a divot or pitch mark without making some attempt to repair it.
Perhaps you’re ball has never settled in front of an unrepaired divot that is sitting up like a lost hairpiece. Replace, repair, hack down and/or fill with sand, as per local expectations.
7. Never assume that everyone else is slow except you!
Be very aware of your course practices and procedures. Are you ready to play the ball when it’s your turn? Have you left your bag in the best spot to maximize time? The guy who arrives at his ball, locates his glove, puts it on, adjusts his trousers, takes out his rangefinder, tosses loose grass to test the wind and changes his club several times before his practice swing is slowing down play. Friends may be reluctant to point this out but we should all be hyper-aware of our own on-course behaviors that affect the pace of play.
8. Never arrive at the golf club ready for the nightclub or the gym.
Whether you are having a hack at the local public course or taking advantage of a generous invite to a private club – check the dress code. Every club has one. If in doubt, be conservative and don’t be DQ’d on dress! Hop online and check out what the pros wear or, better still, visit the web page of the club and read up on the dress expectations. Some novice golfer friends were recently refused play in Singapore as they were not properly attired. No amount of gentle persuasion was going to convince the staff, and some were forced to invest in expensive golf clothes on the spot in order to get on the tee.
— Nancy Incoll