On-Course Safety and Etiquette

II. On-Course Safety and Etiquette

1. Safety

Golf is a dangerous sport and

if you don't believe me, consider this: Literally millions of people all

over the world with absolutely no training whatsoever routinely step onto

golf courses every day and attempt to propel a very hard little ball tremendous

distances in the fewest number of strokes possible with implements which

few people consider to be adequate for the task. Golf balls themselves

are designed to travel at speeds exceeding 150 miles per hour, but rarely

do so in a straight line.  Players routinely lose sight of their golf

balls after striking them and are often totally oblivious as to the direction

the ball is traveling and the people who may happen to be standing in the

area(s) where the ball could return to earth. People have been killed by

golf balls and injuries are not uncommon. Given the lack of training and

relative inexperience of the vast majority of golfers, particularly in

the USA, it is remarkable that so few deaths, injuries and damages are

reported every year.

While it is impossible to eliminate all

of the dangers and risks on a golf course, there are some things that all

golfers can do that will make the golf course a safer place for everyone.

Most of these suggestions are common sense and hopefully experienced players

are teaching them to the newcomers they play with. This is not intended

to be a comprehensive listing; that would be impossible. But if you use

these suggestions as a starting point and apply a reasonable degree of

intelligence, you should be relatively safe from and to others on the golf

course. If you are a newcomer to golf, following these suggestions will

earn you some respect from more experienced playing partners.

Always be aware of the people around


This doesn't just mean the members of

your group, but also the group in front of you, the group behind you and

the groups on adjoining holes. This is your best protection against hitting

someone or being hit by someone else. When playing along the perimeter

of the course also be aware of the people off the course, particularly

if they are not separated from the course by a high fence or net.


The all purpose warning in golf is the

word “FORE” yelled as loudly as possible. This warns all players within

earshot that a golf ball has strayed from its intended target line and

may pose a danger to other players. You should yell “FORE” whenever you

see that your ball is traveling towards another group of people, if you

lose sight of your ball or if you cannot see where your ball will land,

such as the other side of a hill. Yelling “FORE” is the only warning that

you can give other people on the golf course if you mis-hit your ball.

In some jurisdictions you may be held liable for injuries caused by your

errant shot if you did not attempt to warn the victim(s) by yelling “FORE”.

Even if you think your ball will not go far enough to hit anyone you should

still yell if it is going to be anywhere close. Also keep an eye on your

playing partner's shots. Often playing partners have a better view of where

a ball is going than the player who struck the shot, particularly if it

was towards the sun. A good rule of thumb: When in doubt, shout!

Duck and cover

Having everyone yell “FORE” does no good

if the people for whom the warning is intended don't respond. It is utterly

amazing how many people hear a warning shout and then stand up to look

for the ball! This is a good way to become a nominee for a Darwin Award.

When you hear a “FORE” warning shout the recommended procedure is to immediately

crouch or bend over at the waist and cross your arms over your head to

protect it. Do this immediately because the golf ball will not be far behind

the warning shout. Maintain your protective position for 5 seconds or longer

or until you see/hear the ball land. It is better to be safe than dead

or injured.

Beware of practice swings

This is particularly true on the teeing

ground. Never assume that other players know where you are; always stay

out of range of a practice swing. Before moving forward to take your turn

to tee off, ensure that the previous player is not going to swing his club

again. Never take a swing without looking around your immediate area to

confirm that there isn't anyone in range of your club.

Don't hit into the group ahead

While this sounds so simple and logical,

it happens all the time, sometimes with deadly results. The usual cause

is impatience with a slow pace of play or failure to be aware of where

other players are on the course. Occasionally a player will hit an exceptional

shot that is much longer than their normal distance, but this is fairly

rare. But regardless of the cause, warn the group ahead by shouting “FORE”.

Drive carefully

I am talking about your golf cart, not

your tee shot. Don't drive golf carts across slippery or wet slopes, carts

overturn easily. Don't drive golf carts along the edges of drop-offs, cliffs,

bunkers or water hazards. Make sure the brakes work properly before leaving

the clubhouse area. Don't drive a golf cart if you are intoxicated. Golf

carts are not toys, they weigh hundreds of pounds and can easily kill someone

if you run over or hit them.

On a related note, be aware that improperly

operated golf carts are possibly the single biggest cause of damage to

the course when the ground is soft or wet. Golf carts can easily gouge

deep ruts in soft turf, especially in low areas where water has collected.

Please, for everyone's sake, do not drive golf carts into areas where the

ground looks soft or wet. Drive around the area or walk to your ball. If

conditions are poor, keep the cart on the cartpath.

When golf carts are allowed in the fairways

always use the “90 Degree Rule”. What this means is to drive on the cartpath

until you are even with your ball and the drive straight across the fairway

at a 90* angle. After you have hit your shot, continue straight across

the fairway and turn around in the rough. Whenever possible, avoid maneuvering

the cart in the fairway.

Beware of wildlife

Golf courses have features which many

wild animals find attractive and many rural and suburban golf courses are

built adjacent to uncultivated land. Since animals don't read maps, they

frequently cross over from their wild areas onto the golf course. Most

of the time this is actually a pleasant occurrence, such as seeing a family

of deer or wild turkeys on the course in the early morning or evening.

But sometimes it is a rattlesnake hunting field mice in the rough or a

snapping turtle who has made his home in the lake where you just hit that

brand new ball. In some parts of the world there can be danger from alligators,

big cats, poisonous snakes and insects. Know the dangers associated with

the wildlife native to the area where you are playing.


2. Common Courtesy

Do not leave your ball in the

hole when you make a putt/chip. Golfers are a superstitious lot and many

think that their ball will not fit into the hole if there is already another

one in there. If you putt/chip your ball near the hole and do not plan

to putt out, mark your ball with a coin or ball-marker. Aside from being

a distraction, other players will incur a 2 stroke penalty if they play

a putt from the green and their ball hits yours. As much as it may interest

you, do not stand directly behind another player's intended target line.

This is a violation of the rules if the player is your partner and otherwise

distracting because the player can usually see you out of the corner of

his/her eye. When playing for the first time with someone, be conservative

at first about complimenting or critiquing a shot. Follow the lead of his

friends, pay attention to his comments, and wait until you have a good

understanding of what is a good and bad shot for a particular player. Don't

assume that everyone's standards are the same as yours.

Repair your ball marks and replace (or

fill) your divots. I cannot emphasis this enough. I am sure that you

don't enjoy playing out of a divot hole or putting across unrepaired ballmarks

and you can rest assured that the players behind you don't appreciate it,

either. Check with the pro shop or the scorecard to see whether the course

you are playing prefers that divots be replaced of if the divot holes should

be filled.  Many courses provide a bottle of “divot mix” (a sand/seed

mixture) with each cart that should be used to fill divot holes. Proper

care makes the course more attractive and playable for everyone. For more

information on how to properly repair ball marks, divots, aeration and

other information about maintaining the golf course, please go to the Golf

Course Superintents Association of America website.

3. Avoid Slow Play

Unfortunately, at many courses

there is a significant problem with slow play. On weekends and holidays

4, 5 and even 6 hour rounds are not uncommon. This is especially true in

areas where there are a small number of golf courses relative to the population,

such as the San Francisco Bay Area. Due to this problem of slow play, many

courses have instituted a policy known as “Ready Golf”. This essentially

means exactly what it says, as soon as you are ready to play your next

shot, do so. Of course this does not mean that you should compromise safety

or interfere with other players. It does mean that you should limit the

number of practice strokes you take and that you should be prepared to

play your shot as soon as it is safe to do so. For example, the first person

to the next tee box should not wait for whomever has the honor, but instead

should tee off immediately, presuming the fairway is clear. On the putting

green, after hitting your first putt, if you only have a tap-in remaining,

finish putting instead of marking and lifting your ball, as long as you

do not interfere with another player. When you have finished playing the

hole do not write your scores on the scorecard until you reach the next


When playing from a cart, drop one player

off at his/her ball with several clubs and if it is safe, drive the cart

to the second player's ball. This way, the two players sharing the cart

can both prepare for their shots at the same time. If you are not allowed

to take the cart off the path, drive the cart until it is roughly even

with your ball and take several clubs (maybe the one you think you will

need and one above and one below) with you to your ball. If you really

have no idea what club you will need, pull your bag off the cart and take

the whole thing with you to your ball.

Perhaps the most critical factor in avoiding

slow play is maintaining your position on the golf course. In order to

maintain the pace of play, your group must keep up with group ahead. Your

proper position on the golf course is directly behind the preceding group,

not directly ahead of the following group. This is true regardless of the

pace of play being set by the preceding group. This means that if the group

in front of you is on a pace for a 3 1/2 hour round, then you should also

be on a pace for a 3 1/2 hour round. Early morning players often find themselves

in this situation. Always remember that if you are the third group of the

day and fall behind, it is impossible for the time to be made up. Every

group for the rest of the day will have a slow round because you did not

maintain your position. If for any reason you are not able to maintain

the pace of play you must allow the faster group(s) behind you to play


4. Serious Offenses

If attending a pro tournament,

never shout “U DA MAN!” after a drive or “IN DA HOLE!” after a putt. If

you do and are publicly identified as such, your RSG posting privileges

will be revoked for a period of not less than 2 years per incident. 🙂

This FAQ is Copyright 1999-2002 by Daniel J. Driscoll, all

rights reserved. Product and company names used in this document

may be trademarked or copyrighted by the respective owners. This

document may be replicated in whole or in part, without

alteration. All replications must include this copyright notice.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *