With golf courses getting more crowded each day, a little etiqutte can go a long way.


Etiquette. Time management. Pace of play.

They sound like buzz words for a business meeting, but instead reflect golf’s new paradigm. Courses abound with more patrons, proving golf’s skyrocketing popularity, but that also jams them with slower play.

We won’t feature one course this week, but a concept that resonates through all of them.

Avoiding the five-hour round has never been more important than in the era of time crunch, instant gratification and multi-tasking. Yet playing in a timely manner has never been more difficult. The sport’s marketing both to groups and to youth produces more populated courses. Golf’s genteel, leisurely pace meets a hectic age.

Slow play plagues courses and golfers like clogged arteries, but officials are reluctant to address those who pay greens fees. Even the rangers dispatched to speed play don’t want to be confrontational. Why drive away business? In the long run, courses hope the players simply absorb the rules of etiquette.

Establishments already try to quicken the flow by mowing down rough and lessening hazards in order to keep golfers from getting bogged down. That opens the course for more business. But the sheer volume of players makes any time-saving tip even more valuable.

So here is a collection of first-person experience and suggestions made by players and club officials in the spirit of “everyone’s in this together.” If you incorporate a couple, you may be that much more ahead. There are probably others that you’ll discover on your own.

This is a different version of 9 Holes. A little improvisation can go a long way.

1. Every bit of hustle helps. If each player in a foursome took just five seconds less per shot — five little seconds — the group would finish 25 minutes earlier.

2. Play ready golf. Take a couple clubs with you to your ball, especially if you are using short irons to the green. If you are 100 yards away, for example, and hitting over a sand trap, it’s not a bad idea to take a pitching wedge, a sand iron in case your approach lands on the beach, and a putter.

3. Quickly leave the green after the hole is completed.

4. Don’t look too long for a ball. The standard guide is five minutes, but if the shot can’t be found quickly, the odds are you won’t like what you see if you do find it. A penalty stroke may even make more sense, strategically. In the meantime, watching someone in front of you look for a lost ball, and then attract a crowd of partners helping out, will test the peace you went out there to find.

5. The greens. Tradition indicates that the person furthest away from the hole should putt first, mark his ball, stand to the side and wait for others to putt. Multiply the time lost from marking, waiting, picking up the mark, putting, maybe marking it again, waiting and putting out — times four players. It’s fine to observe the rules, but there is nothing wrong with changing this one. Let a player taking his/her first putt finish the process. If the first putt ends, say, four feet away, allow the person to “putt out.” Players involved in head-to-head matches won’t like this, but others may.

6. Play the appropriate tee boxes. Golfers were once encouraged to hit from the back tees, or the “tips.” It was a badge of testosterone. That’s morphed into a scenario in which players are asked to hit from the furthest tees up and gradually move their way back as their scores improve. The idea is to have players facing shots they enjoy, like a short iron into the green on their second shot, from whichever tee box they select. This beats the opposite: think of playing a 550-yard hole and grounding a tee shot into the woods, 80 yards away. It happens, and may result in a 10.

7. Rake the traps. It’s always appreciated by the next person who lands in the bunker and won’t have the ball stuck in someone’s footprint.

8. Replace divots. If you take that patch of grass from the fairway that got ripped by during your shot, it will help course maintenance and prevent someone else from landing their shot in a hole.

9. Ball marks. When your shot hits the green, it may leave a mark you can easily fix.


You can add your own “back nine,” but here are some proven winners. Get to the course in at least enough time to stretch. That can help avoid a pulled muscle. Sharpen your eye by arriving early enough to hit practice putts and a few tee shots. If you can devote a few minutes to putting, the odds are you will drop at least one putt during the round. Putting is probably the most overlooked aspect of preparing to play.

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