“If you wish to hide your character, do not play golf.” – Percey Boomer
By Ian Hardie
In the article Why bother learning golf etiquette – part two? I suggested that rather than being a bunch of quaint traditions that don’t really make a lot of sense these days, when you take a close look as to exactly what they are actually all about.
The etiquette required for the game of golf will begin to make sense to you.
As all that you have to consider, are things that could happen or that you might do during a round of golf that would affect the playing or the result of any golf shot for anyone playing in your group.
Regardless of whether it could be caused physically or mentally, which can also be extended to include all of the other golfers on the course that day.
In other words, any sound or action that another golfer could produce that might interrupt your concentration while playing a golf shot that as a result could end up influencing your ball to go in a direction other than the one you wanted it to go in.
Something that no golfer enjoys right?
Today though, I’d like to talk about a really important part of etiquette that needs to be understood when it comes to putting.
Like a lot of the other ones, it may seem a bit pointless but I can guarantee you it isn’t!
It relates to how you walk around the green both before and after you have putted and more importantly – how you walk around near the direction that the other golfers who are in your group will be putting their golf ball in.
This is otherwise known as ‘the line’ of the golfers putt
Now, right at this moment, if you are a newer golfer – you are probably thinking “who cares whether I stand anywhere near where the other golfers are going to putt their golf ball?”
If you are an experienced golfer though – you are probably thinking “I don’t know how many putts I have missed over the years because they were deflected off line by a slight indentation that some other golfer’s foot has left in the green”
By the way, unless you happen to always play golf on extremely hard greens, there is always a slight indentation left by each of your feet in the green after you walk on every golf green that you play.
This is why it’s extremely important to be aware that standing directly on or extremely close to the line that another golfer is about to putt on.
Is something that needs to be avoided at all costs!
Before I take a look at just how this part of the etiquette of the game plays out in a real situation on the golf course, I need to set the scene a little better by covering another part of the game that most golfers would assume is etiquette but in actual fact, is part of the rules of the game – Rule 10 if you were wondering.
I’m going to use the (top quality) image at the top of this article to explain this part of the game which a lot of experienced golfers pretty much ignore every game that they play.
Basically, as a group of golfers play a golf hole, the order in which the golfers are to play is decided by whichever golf ball is furthest away from the flag stick and while the golf balls of all the golfers in the group are still some distance away from the green – it’s usually fairly easy to figure out who is playing next but as your group gets closer to the green.
Things can get a bit tricky.
This is because a lot of golfers seem to think that there are actually two parts to the rule – the first part covering getting to the green and then once the entire group’s golf balls are on the green – reverting back to the idea of furthest away playing first.
The rules of the game don’t allow for such a thing – so as a golfer you need to be prepared to follow the simple idea that at any point during the play of a golf hole.
The golfer whose golf ball is furthest away from the hole is next to play.
It makes no difference as to whether the golf ball is in the rough, a sand trap or even on another fairway and if it’s unclear as to which golf ball that is then in general you would check with the other golfer whose ball is possibly furthest away and decide as to who will go first.
Now, as with a lot of things in golf, what’s correct is not always what will happen during a game as the majority of golfers simply use the idea of every golfer playing onto the green before reverting to the furthest away idea.
While that has some merit in terms of speeding up play for most games due to the fact that a shot played from the rough or a sand trap will generally require a putt or two to finish the hole – leaving a golfer who may have had to do a long putt first standing around for a long time waiting to finish putting on the hole.
It isn’t technically correct!
Taking a look at the image at the top of this article, you will see that golf ball 1 is on the green but a long way from the hole, golf ball 2 is in a sand trap, golf ball 3 is just over the back edge of the green and golf ball 4 is just on the fringe of the green but closer than golf ball 1.
Most often the golfers would play the golf balls in the following sequence: 4, 2, 3, and 1.
The rules of the game though would tell you that they should be played: 1, 4, 2, 3 – assuming that golf balls 1, 4, and 2 all end up finishing closer to the hole than golf ball 3 is sitting after their respective shots have been played.
Which brings me to the idea of keeping away from another golfers ‘line of their putt’.
Have you ever seen PGA Tour pros on television walking way around the back of the hole after a putt in what looks to be a strange and random direction before they mark their ball or finish their putting?
They do this because they are trying to avoid standing on the other golfer’s lines.
Take a look at this second (top quality) image and you can see how this works in practice:
Golf ball 1 is the furthest from the hole – which means that golfer has to putt first.
As part of that golfer’s preparations, they usually go around the other side of the hole to get a good look at their putt (if you don’t currently do that then you might want to read a few of my articles about putting to understand why you need to start doing that)
To do this without standing on the other golfers ‘lines’ – they will need to take a path to the back of the hole either to the right of golf ball 4 or to the left going around golf balls 2 and 3.
This will enable them to take a look at their putt without standing on the other golfers lines – something that of course, they will have to do in reverse to get back to where their ball is.
At no time would it ever be acceptable to walk directly over the lines of the other golfer’s putts!
Lets’ assume that golf ball 1 is then putted and ends up short of the hole and to the left of its intended line in the position marked with the number 5.
What should the golfer do next?
The correct answer is that they will probably need to mark their golf ball as putting it out will require them to stand on the line of golf ball 2.
Got the idea?
I’m going to take a closer look at this in ‘Why bother learning golf etiquette – part four?’