It comes as no surprise that golf course superintendents are extremely interested in golf course etiquette – or, more often than not, the lack thereof.
I’m referring to the golfer etiquette that has to deal with the golf course itself, not that which has to do with pace of play or interacting with other golfers.
It’s an interesting dynamic. It’s the golf professional who introduces and teaches new golfers etiquette, but it is the superintendent who is the recipient (or end user, if you will) of that golfer etiquette, or lack thereof.
Being a superintendent myself, I can safely say supers love to complain about golfers and the lack of etiquette on the golf course. We do tend to focus more on the negative. Perhaps this is just human nature.
The truth is, more golfers than not are quite good at respecting the golf course and those little etiquette things we ask of them. But what’s the percentage of golfers actually doing their part? It’s over 50, but how much over? 60? 70? Even at 70 (which seems a little high) three out of every 10 golfers are not doing their part. The effects of this can add up in regard to the condition of the golf course throughout each day.
When I say etiquette, I’m talking about a half-dozen main things we ask of golfers. Of those five or six things, I know what bugs me the most and the least. I have no trouble ranking the importance of those golfer etiquette responsibilities.
But it got me wondering if my list would be the same as other supers. Is everyone else bugged by golfers interactions with bunker rakes as much as me? Does a golf cart driving right down the middle of the entire length of a fairway irritate others as much as me?
I decided to do a little survey of about a dozen superintendents. I asked them to rank the five items of golfer etiquette that I think affect nearly every golf course. I got nine responses, so by adding my own list it ended up being a survey of 10. A pretty small sampling, so take this with a grain of salt. But interesting, nonetheless.
1. Ball marks. Of the six items on the list, unfixed ball marks came in No. 1. It was fourth on my own list. Personally, I’ve come to expect a certain level of ignored ball marks on greens, and it is part of both my cup cutters’ and my greens mowers’ jobs to fix these each morning.
2. Fairway divots. Last on my list but second in the survey, golfers not replacing divots apparently drives many supers batty. Now, what we’re asking of golfers varies depending on the course. Some want the golfer to grab that green wedge of sod and replace it, others would like you to dump a little mixture of sand and seed (or straight sand) into the divot. But, either way, this is something often missed by the golfer.
3. Bunker rakes. Top on my list, but only third in the survey, is golfers not using rakes, which continues to astound me. Golfers stepping over rakes on their way into and out of bunkers is a trend that seems to be growing. My question to these people (and you know who you are), what do you think the rakes are there for? Decoration?
4. Cart traffic. This mainly means traffic in relation to signs, and what the operators of these carts are being asked to do. This includes directional signs as well as a 90-degree rule, if one is in place. Although fourth in the survey, this comes in second on my list. Rough golf car drivers drive me nuts!
5. Respecting workers. I often am perplexed as to why golfers respect other golfers when waiting to hit a shot, but not workers. Golfers want respect from crew members, but they must remember to respect those workers in return. Let a fairway mower finish his or her pass and wait for the wave to hit. Seems logical, right?
Golfer etiquette will never be where superintendents want it to be. But is it too much to ask that it improve ever so slightly?