This is the first in a series of articles by Tom Gladd – a teacher and varsity coach at Clayton A. Bouton High School in Voorheesville, NY. Coach Gladd began writing for Capital Area Golf last summer – covering the NENY Junior Tour.
For this year Gladd will be expanding his duties to include pieces on his coaching thoughts and advise, along with articles that highlight “family friendly” golf within a reasonable drive of the Capital District, in addition to his articles for local junior golf. As always – your thoughts and ideas are appreciated. Enjoy!!
The Lure of Golf
I admit it – I’m a golf junkie – and have been for nearly 40 years, since I took up playing the game as a nine year old. Golf has tugged at me since I can remember, and throughout my life, I have always strived to know everything I could about this wonderful game so rich in history and traditions.
In fact, it is this rich history and tradition that I want to address in this first article. Golf is a game that daily teaches anyone who plays and pays attention to their experience, life’s lessons. Many are minor – but all can be powerful – and if learned well – can make those who truly love this game better people. I firmly believe this is true, and above all else, this is what I try to instill in my players each and every year as I begin a new season.
At the heart of golf is etiquette – those rules of convention that dictate behavior and demeanor before, during, and after a round of golf. All too often when I go to a golf course I see people who have no idea what etiquette is or why it is important. Their dress, language, where they walk and what they do and don’t do while at the golf course, is clear indication that this simple observation is true.
Sadly, for those of us who do understand, appreciate, and adhere to etiquette – people such as those just described can ruin a round of golf for all who have the misfortune of their presence. We are forced to listen to tirades, often foul, about the condition of the course, fix ball marks and divots left behind by the inconsiderate, do what we can to rake traps left full of footprints and repair greens loaded with spike marks by players who scuffed their feet. Often, to top off a miserable experience, the so-called golfers subjecting us this misery are clad in t-shirts left untucked from their cut-off jeans shorts.
In a word, these guys, (and girls) are clueless. They may have the latest clubs and fancy bags, and wear hats with sunglasses on backwards, but they aren’t golfers. Equally sad is the fact they influence the behavior of newer or younger golfers, who witness such behavior and seeing no repercussions, think it is ok.
My players are given a very different message day one of each new season, the basic premise of which is that anything less than strict adherence to etiquette is simply not allowed. I begin by reviewing what is and is not acceptable to wear to a golf course. To make this point, anyone not properly attired, or able to change, is not permitted to practice until they meet acceptable standards. Suffice to say, dress on and off of the golf course is quite different for most kids. They look nice at the course. I always make sure all shirts are tucked in – and stay that way throughout the entire day. Hats are worn forward, and nothing outrageous can be worn, no questions asked. Once basic appearance is covered, we talk about language.
Simply put, swearing is forbidden, as is any yelling or taunting of other players. My players are well aware that if I catch them breaking this rule the consequences will be immediate and severe, regardless of who they are on the team.
Basic appearance and behavior covered, we move to how they should act on the course itself during a round of golf. I remind all that talking while another player is making a shot should not happen. Next, we talk about line-of-sight and not being a distraction for other members of a group. This becomes particularly important on the putting green. Here too, I also cover the importance of avoiding stepping on another players putting line. This is both a courtesy and matter of fair play; it is possible for a footprint to alter another player’s putt, causing them to miss.
Finally, I tell them that golf is a gentleman’s game. As such, when another member of the group has run into difficulty and can’t locate their ball after an errant shot, all other members of the group are obligated to help that player, no questions asked. This is a pet peeve of mine, since I witness so many young players not engaging in this simple courtesy and instead, continue to walk to their shot. This is not how players who understand etiquette should conduct themselves during a round.
Finally, at the end of the round I remind my players to thank, and if necessary, congratulate, their playing partners, and if they are wearing a hat, to remove it while shaking hands with the other players. The hat thing always confuses them, until I tell them it is a show of respect.
Of course, there are other important aspects to etiquette that players should know and adhere too, but these are, in my view, the most basic. By knowing them, and applying them to any and all rounds of golf, the game overall will be better and more enjoyable for everyone involved. And the player who conducts him or herself by these conventions accordingly will be a better person, because out of habit they will be respectful and courteous, two traits that work well in any environment or circumstance. This is what has always lured me to golf; they were the lessons of my childhood and I’ve never forgotten them.