Top 10 things to know before you start playing golf:
1. Arrive on Time: Whether playing at the local course or the exclusive country club, players should arrive at least 20 minutes or more prior to their designated tee time. Golfers need ample time to warm up on the driving range and get a feel for the greens before starting a round.
2. Look Sharp on the First Tee: Whether it’s your first time or your 30th round this month, golfers should always look presentable. Most courses require their members to adhere to a certain dress code, which usually includes a collared shirt, no jeans, cutoffs or tank tops. Proper golf shoes are encouraged at most courses with soft spikes built in for tread. Sandals or street shoes are acceptable to wear following a round while enjoying a drink in the clubhouse.
3. Equipment: Players are allowed a maximum of 14 clubs in their bag; however, there is no minimum number of clubs a player can carry. Before heading out to the course, players should ensure they have plenty of tees and even more importantly, plenty of golf balls.
4. Teeing Off: On the teeing ground, players must place their balls between the tee markers, even with the markers or up to two club lengths behind, but never in front of them. Tee markers can usually be identified as small colored objects used to help golfers determine which tees they will be playing. The order of play off the first tee can be resolved randomly by drawing straws or rock-paper-scissors. On following tees, the player with the best score on the preceding hole goes first. “Honors” determines which player tees first; on subsequent shots, the player who is “away” or farthest from the hole plays first. Many golfers play “ready golf” and encourage the player who is ready to go first.
When on the teeing ground or putting greens, golfers should stand out of the way of their playing partners and remain quiet while another golfer is preparing to hit. Fairways can be located very close to one another so it is recommended that players keep their voices down throughout the round so other golfers aren’t disturbed.
5. Safety Comes First: Although golf does not seem like the world’s most dangerous sport, when metal objects are involved there is always the risk of injury. Prior to teeing off, players should ensure the group ahead is out of striking range. If a shot could potentially hit another player, “fore” should be yelled loudly enough so the player has fair warning to avoid the incoming golf ball.
6. Care For the Course: After hitting a golf shot, a player should always replace the divot (grass that has been removed from the ground as a result of striking the ball) in an attempt to speed up the re growth of turf. Pitch marks (indentations in the putting surface created by incoming golf shots) should also be repaired so other players can enjoy smooth greens as well. After hitting a shot out of a bunker, the player should always rake the sand. Remember, players must play their ball as it lies, even if that means in a footprint, so cover your tracks after hitting out of the bunker. Do everything you can to leave the golf course the way you found it.
7. Etiquette on the Green: The player who is farthest away from the hole will generally putt first. However, if a player’s ball is near the hole, about two feet or less, the player might want to putt out. When on the putting surface, players should be careful to not step on the line where another player’s ball could travel. You also will want to mark your ball’s location with a small coin or similar object. You are allowed to clean the ball after you mark it on the green, and this will prevent your ball from getting hit by your playing partners’ putts.
The flagstick stays in the hole until all players’ shots have reached the green. Players may request for the flag to be removed while hitting a shot from off the putting surface. If the player putts and the ball strikes the flagstick while on the putting green, there is a penalty of two strokes. If a player is unable to see the hole from where they are putting, another player can tend the flag by holding it at an arms length away and standing to the side of the cup. While tending the flag, the player should be careful not to stand in anyone’s putting line, and ensure their shadow does not fall over the cup or in the putting line of their playing partner.
8. Pace of Play: Once off the tee, the person whose ball is farthest from the hole will play first. To keep the round moving, try not to spend too much time looking for lost balls. Players should always be ready to play when it is their turn to hit. Be quick and decisive when choosing which club to use; remember, there are other players following your group that are waiting on you. If you are unsure of the yardage bring several clubs to the ball to avoid walking back to the cart.
9. Wayward Golf Shots: No matter what level of player you are, bad golf shots can almost always be expected at some point during a round. When a player’s ball crosses either white stakes or clearly marked white lines, the ball is considered “out of bounds.” The penalty for hitting a ball out of bounds is stroke plus distance, which means you add one stroke to your score then go back to where you hit the shot from and play it again. This process takes time, so to save yourself from upsetting players in the group behind you, if you think you have hit a ball out of bounds, you should play another ball, known as a “provisional ball.”
Another problem area for your golf ball is water hazards. Similar to out of bounds, water hazards will be clearly marked on the course. Yellow markings indicate a water hazard and red markings indicate a lateral water hazard. If a player’s ball enters an area staked by yellow markings, the player can either hit the ball out of the water or take a one-stroke penalty and drop a ball on the line where the original ball entered the hazard, but on the same line as the flagstick. For areas marked by red stakes, a player can drop a ball within two club lengths of the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, but no closer to the hole.
10. After the Round: One of the best aspects of the game occurs when you finish your round. The camaraderie with your companions as you settle bets over a drink reliving the round or shopping for a memento in the pro shop is not to be missed. But don’t forget to post your score! You can do this at the computer in the clubhouse or even from your mobile phone. It’s the best way to track your progress and solidify your handicap for the next time you play.
What else would you tell someone just learning the game?
– Ariana Patterson