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All about etiquette
Local PGA pros talk about what not to do

08/14/14



Unethical golfers can affect all five senses: They cast shadows over your ball when you’re trying to hit; they’re loud when the foursome next to them is trying to tee off; they leave behind a trail of divots that can affect your swing and the way you play the hole; they reek of booze from having one too many on the course, and, boy, do they leave a bad taste in your mouth.
 
Etiquette rules
Mike Ryan, the PGA professional at Derryfield Country Club in Manchester, believes that a lot of this stems from a lack of education and from watching the pros on television.
 
“The biggest mistake I see [in players] is for them not to care about the course,” he said. “I don’t think for most players it’s intentional; they just don’t know they’re supposed to repair [divots]. You watch the PGA tour and you see the players making great shots, but you never see the people who fix the divots they make or rake the bunkers.”
 
For aspiring golfers, learning the rules is challenging, especially for those who want to simply walk onto the course and figure out the sport as they go. Many golf professionals in the area learned golf through early jobs as caddies. Nowadays, with the lack of caddying opportunities, the pros are leading etiquette classes in order to help those who are new to the game.
 
“The caddies picked up the game and then they learned. They saw how the players swing the club, how to pick up the grass if they’ve
made a divot. They have all that engrained,” said Ryan. “Now we don’t have [a lot of caddies], so we have instructors to help teach [the players] not just about what to do, but why to do it.”
 
According to several professionals, etiquette is just as important to the credibility of a golf player as the ability to swing the club correctly. For example, in order to compete in the New Hampshire Golf Association’s Junior Golf Tour, players must pass a “rules & etiquette quiz.”
 
What not to wear
Todd McKittrick, the head golf professional at Manchester Country Club, said one of the most important rules he teaches is one he broke during his early years at the links.
 
“My first mistake in anything organized was at a little outing. I knew it was cold, so I dressed for the weather. Sweatshirt, jeans, hiking boots,” he laughed. “My very first golf tournament experience was spending about $100 in the pro shop [to dress properly].”
 
On a private course, players typically need to have a membership and are required to abide by a dress code. On a public course, all golfers are welcome to play and there is not such a strict dress code (though your nicest pair of Doc Martens or high heels might not be the best choice). 
 
It’s an integrity thing
There are safety tips and guidelines for pace of play, or how quickly your group should be moving through the course.
 
“I think the biggest mistake a new person makes is just how to behave on the green,” McKittrick said. “Walking without scuffing your feet, not walking into someone’s line — or even knowing what a line means — shadows over balls. All this is stuff a new golfer would do that would drive an experienced golfer nuts.”
 
According to McKitterick, there is an unwritten rule of etiquette that even “experienced” golfers seem to forget: Make sure you know what you’re talking about.
 
“That’s the worst when I see someone giving someone else unsolicited advice,” he said. “People give out so much incorrect advice that they have to come see me.”
 
Etiquette changes a bit based on whether a course is public or private. McKitterick, who works at a private course, said the course breeds a different set of responsibilities. 
 
“On a public course, [players] have no responsibility to look out for others; there’s more responsibility on the player to act on his own,” said McKittrick. “On a private course, you do have a responsibility for your peers because you’re going to be playing with these people a lot. You don’t want to do anything that’s going to give you a bad reputation.”
 
The pros said that what makes golf different from other sports is that not only are there rules for respecting the course and the players playing behind you, but there’s more emphasis on respect for yourself as a player.
 
“To my knowledge, I think golf is one of the few sports that has etiquette written in its rules,” said McKittrick. “Other sports have unsportsmanlike conduct called out by refs. Our game is self-policed. It’s an integrity thing.” 





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