Is etiquette a notion of the past for club members at your golf club?

Stay clear!!!!

Over the last few decades golf has become a popular game and people have started playing the game for a number of very good personal reasons. But one of the main traditions within golf, etiquette, has slowly eroded away. So much so I have made a number of on-course observations of golfers exhibiting poor etiquette. I have also had a number of conversations with fellow golfers who all admit to encountering similar experiences on the golf course. Golfers these days appear to make more complaints, express more indirect comments about other fellow golfers and their attitudes toward the golf course, membership, slow play & etc.

The topic of slow play illustrates some of those complaints. Some of the seasoned golfers blame beginners for being slower because they cannot hit the ball as well as they can. Then same group suggests that beginners do not have a grasp of the rules of golf and it takes the beginner a longer period of time to make the right rules decision during play. But not everyone new to the game of golf can or should be considered to be slow players. Seasoned Golfers, may also be those players filling out score cards on the side of the green instead of doing that task on the way to the next tee. Some seasoned golfers spend too much time looking for balls unaware that they maybe over the five minute rule. Some seasoned golfers play slowly and walk slowly or adopt a pace of play to suit the slowest member of their group. Other seasoned golfers do not seem to want to keep up with the players in front of their group and the examples can go on & on.

Now there are club members that feel because they have paid a lot of money to become a member of a golf club. This new membership somehow justifies playing at their own pace and to hell with due care for the golf course and everyone else playing on the golf course.

This observation was confirmed in the numerous comments I received concerning the lack of respect some golfers have for the course and the hard work (often on limited budgets) the greenkeepers do every day. Most comments mentioned were; bunkers have not been raked and golfers too lazy to repair their pitch marks. Golfers often moan about the bare patches around the green, yet some are often observed taking the direct route through the small barriers the greenkeepers have put up to encourage golfers to use a different path to go to the next tee. This list of examples is endless too!

So what are clubs doing about this?

I asked a test sample of new golfers that has joined a golf club within the last two or three years and other golfers that simply play daily fee golf courses, the following questions:

• Q1. Did you receive any club etiquette or club rules & regulations induction from the golf club when you joined? 98% of the sample that answered that question said no.
• Q2. Do you receive any on-course golf etiquette information from the point when you check in to play golf to the 1st tee box? 70% of the sample answered the question said no. The other 30% said that they were unsure and did not understand the course instructions given, because nobody else on the golf course seem to do what was instructed at the golf shop.

As result of my survey, I have had subsequent conversations with various golf clubs about how they inform new members to the club rules and golf etiquette. Some clubs said they offer their new members a club induction night, which provides a brief description of what the club is about and who are the current officers within the club.

However the overriding consensus from the surveyed golfers is that these inductions rarely provide any insight into how the club member should conduct him or herself. Another point; is the club has not briefed their newly joined members on the club's etiquette, rules and procedures. This was summed up by one response that the evening provided, “nothing memorable and the club Captain didn't even show up”. Clearly, this experience was a waste of time for the person I was talking to and a missed opportunity by the club itself.

If clubs are not doing enough to promote good etiquette, then bad etiquette is prevailing. How and why is this happening? Where is the root source of all this bad etiquette? Quite simply, it lies with how the tradition of golfing etiquette has been handed down from the previous generation of golfers to the next generation of golfers.

So what can be done?

Should another club committee be created? 
I believe committees  can work really well if they have set out clear goals and work together as a team to reach those goals. But there is always the risk that self interested people join committees and pre-sue their own agendas. 

Golf Clubs should create a committee tasked with developing the club's etiquette information program. The committee can establish what is the best suited method to present the information to its club members. The program should be proactive and inclusive. It should NOT:

  Present the information on a bland printed copy, pin it on a notice board in the members/visitors section where no one bothers to look at.
  Provide a sounding board for unproductive rhetoric with "yes we should do this and we need to do that".
  Resort to sending letters to junior members of the club’s policies and Dos & Don’ts or rely on sending notices to members.
  Hold a rules night and invite a rules expert to host the evening's rules quiz. 

To succeed the committee SHOULD:

  Understand that golfers do not like being told what or how to do it!
  Leaders lead by example; at all time show members and golfers alike that they should take responsibility for their own actions. They should play golf with the up-most respect for fellow golfers and repair the golf course replacing divots, repairing pitch marks, raking bunkers & etc. (this action is easier said than done)
  Re-draft and re-introduce the club's Rules & Regulations. Golf clubs will need the support of their members for this to happen. (again, easier said than done)
  Persuade the individual that agrees with the cynic’s narrow minded, self-centred view to become more a club member and promote what is good for the club community as a whole.
  Make existing members responsible for the golfers they proposed to join the club. The proposing member should take 100% responsibility for the education of the new member's club etiquette. The proposing member should be held accountable for any breaches of the golf club's etiquette, rules and regulations.

In addition to this, golf clubs should introduce a slow play charter to encourage golfers to play quicker golf and avoid undue delay on the golf course. 

The charter could include some of the following:
• Encouraging players to walk quickly to their ball. Too much time can be wasted if all players walk to each other’s ball and have a chat before they play, especially in competitions.
• Be ready to play your shot when it's your turn to play.   
• Avoid undue delay at all times, feel and play quickly. 

Club mangers can also promote the simple messages to their clubs members and guests.They should also lead by example on every occasion and play golf faster than the specified pace of play time required for their golf course. The goal here is to avoid undue delay on the golf course and to set an example for their club golfers to follow.

Pay-as-you-play golf courses can use a range of tag lines on their score cards, golf cards, first tee, beer mats, napkins, or as a part of the rules of the day presented by the started or the Pro. The goal is promote faster play with a life style benefit “walking faster is good exercise for you and our golf courses”.

Why not lead by example? You can also improve pace of play by helping players to feel better on the golf course; you should congratulating them on good shots and avoid making comments that can be misinterpreted. Golfers that feel better on the golf course can play faster golf. You can also help players to be more aware of the time being used on the golf course looking for a lost ball. You should help players to look for golf balls and check the time as you have 5 minutes. I suggest when you are close to 4 minutes & 30 seconds, make a point to the player that it might be time to consider other options.

We should all be aware that it's not just the new golfers and junior golfers that need to be educated in the traditions of the game of golf, it is the whole golf club that needs to be reminded continuously. Club etiquette information needs to be promoted within the club to benefit the club’s golfing community. I strongly suggest that golf clubs need to grab this by the scruff of the neck and start their own club etiquette debate amongst its members. Golf Clubs should find the most appropriate method to reintroduce the message to members and highlight the benefits of golf etiquette.

A new goal golf clubs should set; is to make their club a happier and a pleasant place to play golf. Would you like to play golf at a happy golf club where the real issues are dealt with along with all the current problems?

What do you think?


Popular Posts