There is certain etiquette all golfers are taught when first learning to play the game, such as not to step in another person’s line on the green, and not to talk while another person is hitting. Those are the basics, but not what I’m talking about here. There are underlying rules of etiquette; ones that you may never even know existed.
You see, the mind of a golfer is very fragile, and often irrational. It’s understandable, since there’s a constant battle going on inside of it — juggling swing thoughts, demons, highs and lows. At any point a golfer’s patience can snap, and the last thing he or she needs is a push from a playing partner.
When you’re in a group with another golfer, your job is to be respectful, helpful, enjoyable, and sometimes just stay out of the way. You don’t want to unknowingly aggravate a player in your group (unless you’re playing match play, maybe), but that’s another discussion entirely.
Here’s a list of 10 unwritten, unspoken rules of golf etiquette.
Don’t talk to someone else’s golf ball
I know, you’re only being polite. But when golfers spray a shot and it’s heading for the water, you can bet they know it’s heading for the water. They don’t need you yelling at it or begging for it to stay dry. If they want to instruct their golf ball to behave a certain way, leave it up to them.
The last thing you want is for them to say GO as their ball flies toward a fairway bunker, while you’re telling it to SIT… only to see it land in the sand. Awkward.
Your pleads to another’s golf ball can also come across as insincere, or even disrespectful. For example, if the ball is clearly hooking left into the trees, and you yell “spit it!” you’re basically saying that the golfer just hit a shot that needs to get extremely lucky. Surely the player doesn’t need to hear your confirmation that he or she just hit a terrible shot.
It’s their golf ball; they paid for it, they hit it and they know best where it’s going. When in doubt, silence is always the best approach.
If you say “nice shot,” make sure it was a nice shot
“Nice shot” is undoubtedly the most overused compliment in golf, so make sure to at least use it correctly.
Imagine you’re a scratch golfer and your ball is in the fairway about a 100 yards out, your favorite number. The pin is tucked back-right, but you’re eyeing it up and looking to attack in hopes of making birdie. You end up tugging it, and didn’t catch it cleanly either, so you let your hand off the club in disappointment. The ball lands on the front left portion of the green for an outside chance at birdie, and you’re heated. You slam the club back in your bag, upset at the missed opportunity, and another player in the group gives you a half-hearted nice shot.
Now, not only did the compliment go unappreciated, but the scratch golfer may now be thinking, “Are their standards so low of my golf game that they think that’s a nice shot?”
And this goes for any level of golfer. No one wants to hear nice shot when it was below their standards. The point is, compliment a player on hitting a good one, but make sure the player actually agrees with you.
Show some love
On the flip side, if your playing partner is faced with a difficult shot — maybe they need to hit a towering shot over a tree to a green guarded by water — and they pull it off, make sure to say something more than “nice shot.” Especially if you’re the one who said “nice shot” when that same player hit a semi-chunk from 100 yards on the hole before.
Since the mind of a golfer is fragile, it doesn’t hurt to stroke their ego a bit when they hit an amazing shot. The golf clap was invented for this reason.
Don’t ask someone what they had on the hole as soon as they hole out
While it may not seem like a big deal, keeping score can be a lot of pressure. It’s easy to miscount, forget to mark down the scores from a previous hole, or simply mark down the wrong score. Such mistakes can easily lead to a dispute if handled improperly.
Nothing is more irritating to most golfers than having to announce to the group they made a double bogey as soon as their golf ball touches the bottom of the cup, though. If you just saw them three-putt, or you know they hit a ball out of bounds on the hole, don’t ask “What’d you have there?” as soon as they hole out.
Since they’re probably either angry or upset, give them a few minutes to collect themselves before having to confirm they had a terrible hole. And think before you say “nice par,” forgetting about the ball they dunked in the water, because then they have to correct you and say “actually it was a bogey.” It just reaffirms the heartbreak.
No talking during a no-hitter
If you’re a baseball fan, you know that you should never talk to a pitcher who’s throwing a perfect game or no-hitter, as to not disrupt him while he’s “in the zone.”
The same goes for golfers, but it’s even worse. For golfers, zones are particularly fragile, and any mention of performance, swing thoughts or score can be destructive.
So if a golfer just hit the first six fairways of the day, don’t ask something like, “How are you hitting all of these fairways today?” Chances are, they’ll snipe the next tee shot way left. And if they’re clearly playing better than their handicap suggests, they’re either sandbagging, or know exactly how well they’re playing that day. Don’t disturb them by saying, “Hey, you’re playing pretty well today, eh? Is this the best you’ve ever shot?” If it turns out they screw up their potential best round ever, you can bet they’ll be blaming you and your question when the round is over.
Also, don’t ever say this: “Hey, do you know you only need a bogey to break 80. Have you ever broken 80 before?” No they haven’t broken 80 before, and they won’t today because now it’s in their head.
Don’t hit, or even look at someone else’s golf ball
Want to see a golfer completely lose the plot? Walk over to their golf ball, bend over to look at it, then address it with a golf club.
Anyone who has had someone accidentally hit their golf ball knows there’s nothing that makes a golfer angrier. If your golf ball happens to be in the vicinity of someone else’s ball — or if there’s even a chance of it — be extra, extra careful that you’re hitting the correct one. I’ve seen disputes over golf balls turn into fisticuffs.
And, whatever you do, DO NOT hit someone’s golf ball, realize it’s theirs, and then drop the ball back in a worse lie than where you found it. Not even your worst enemy deserves that.
Tell someone if they’re teed up in front of the tee markers
Don’t wait until after they’ve hit the shot to tell them their ball was in front of the tee markers. If you noticed it, that means you noticed before they hit the ball, or else you wouldn’t have been able to tell. Don’t put another golfer in that awkward position, because there’s only two ways of dealing with it:
- They take the stroke and re-tee, in which case they’re fuming because you could have saved them the stroke.
- You agree to let it go, but then the player feels bad and can’t concentrate the rest of the round knowing it wasn’t completely by the rules.
Golf is a game of sportsmanship, and you should never want another player to incur a penalty. Even if you’re playing against them, calling penalties that you could have saved from happening is a sure way to make enemies in the game.
Wait until the clubhouse to pay
I know it hurts when you’ve lost a money match, and you want to get the payment over as soon as possible, but on the 18th green in front of an audience is NOT the right time to do so.
You need to be sensitive to the fact that some people are uncomfortable advertising that they gamble on the golf course, and others are even more uncomfortable with people knowing they won. Wait until you’re in a more private setting to settle your bets. If they want to then brag to their friends or fellow members, that’s their right.
Take your ball out of the hole before someone else putts
There’s something poetic about the sound of the golf ball rolling around in the bottom of the cup. It’s confirmation that you’ve successfully completed your goal of making the putt, and your award for finishing the hole.
There are only 18 opportunities to hear that sound during a round, so don’t rob your playing partner of any of them.
Plus, you don’t want your playing partner thinking about your golf ball that’s sitting in the bottom of the cup, rather than concentrating on what he or she needs to do on the green. Maybe you’re just trying to speed up play or not get in the way of the other player, but it’s never wrong to just hurry up and grab your ball out of the hole.
Seek instruction, but make sure it’s timed correctly
There’s not a golfer on the planet who will refuse to give advice to a player seeking assistance with their game. Even on the PGA Tour, where golfers compete against each other for seven-figure paychecks, players give each other pointers when asked.
That being said, right after someone hits a shot that spins violently off the front of the green is NOT the correct time to ask, “How do you get the ball to spin back like that?” If the ball spins off the green, I can guarantee they weren’t trying to do that. And if they duck hook a ball into someone’s backyard, that simply isn’t the right time to ask, “How do you make the ball draw like that?”
There’s a time and place for instruction; just make sure it’s not when your playing partner is ready to snap their club in half.
Inspired by Assistant PGA Professional Steven Westphal
Paige Spiranac explains her decision to pose for the 2018 SI Swimsuit
During the PXG 0311 Gen2 iron launch event, I caught up with Paige Spiranac to talk about a variety of topics including her advice to young girls in the golf world, how her life has changed since becoming a golfing celebrity, her relationship with PXG, her decision to stop playing professional golf, and she explains why she wanted to pose for the SI Swimsuit issue.
Enjoy my interview above!
Bag Chatter: An Interview With 36 Golf Co.
Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. This interview is with Jay Vogler of 36 Golf Co (Pictured above caddying for business partner Chevy Mayne).
Talk to me about 36 Golf Co. What are you guys all about?
We’re all about getting people out to the course, having fun and not taking golf too seriously. We’re trying to create a brand for people who love the game, but aren’t necessarily trying to turn pro. The whole idea started when I was walking through a hockey shop and saw all these hockey lifestyle brands and I was like, “Why doesn’t this exist in golf?” We’re mainly targeting the 18-35 crowd; folks that kind of have a laid-back approach. We think it doesn’t matter if you wear cargo shorts and a T-shirt as long as you’re respecting the game and taking care of the course. It’s more important to replace your divots, repair your ball marks and keep up with the pace of play than it is to wear a collared shirt.
There are a lot of people launching brands in the soft goods world these days (clothing, towels, head covers, etc.). As a result, that world can be a little crowded. What makes 36 Golf Co. different from everyone else out there?
Our corner of the market, if you will, is trying to create a community of people who see the game the same way we do. We want to see the game grow, especially among the millennial age group. We think participation is lacking in that demographic, and we want to play a part in making the game a little more accessible for them. We want people to connect over our attitude toward golf. If you see a guy walking down the street wearing a 36 hat, we want you to think he’s approachable and he’s down to hang out and talk about golf and life without being pretentious. We’re out there to lower some of the barriers to entering the game.
Since I know you’re all about growing the game, what do you think it needs? What do you think is the biggest “problem” with golf that’s keeping people away from playing it or trying it?
I think perception is probably the biggest thing honestly. I picked up the game five years ago when I was 22 and I came from skateboarding and snowboarding. When I got into the game, a lot of people make a weird face and were like, “You play golf?!” It’s totally a perception thing, but once you get past that, it’s just such a fun game. From the first time I flushed a 7-iron at a driving range, I was hooked, but a lot of people don’t even get that far. We’re just trying to lower the barriers to the game and put a community out there.
If you could change one thing about the game of golf, what would you change? It doesn’t have to be something in the USGA rule book necessarily.
Obviously, I would get rid of dress codes. That’s my big bugaboo with the game. If I was just going about my daily life, I wouldn’t be wearing pants and a collared shirt and I think a lot of people would be in that same boat. If we let people come as they are, I bet participation would go way up. Appearance, respectfully, only matters so much. You can wear a collared shirt and still be a jerk and not repair your ball marks.
When you got the idea to start this company, how did you actually go about making that happen? Did you just google shirt suppliers or something? What was that process like?
Yeah, I pretty much spent the first month on Google looking for suppliers. I have a design background, so we did the design and the website ourselves, so that was good. Finding the right suppliers who were willing to work with us and had quality stuff was difficult.
What’s the biggest road block you’ve experienced with 36 Golf Co.? Launching it, marketing it, logistics, billing, whatever…
Starting a business in general was just…so much to take in. It’s overwhelming. Accounting, problems with suppliers… but if you don’t just start it then you’ll never know. I know it’s a cliché, but you gotta start somewhere. It’s not that any one thing was so difficult. It was just the amount of things that come your way.
What are you most optimistic about with 36 Golf Co? What’s got you excited these days?
We just went to a show this past weekend in Toronto, and we just met a lot of people who really seemed to get what we were about and were excited to be a part of it themselves. That’s what gets you excited; when people really understand your vibe and want to be a part of that community and rep your brand for no other reason than it resonates with them. That’s what it’s all about.
Let’s play a game. Imagine golf was like baseball and you got to pick a “walk-up song” when you got to the first tee. What song are you going with?
Haha. I’ve been listening to a lot of Jurassic 5 lately, so we’ll go with “What’s Golden.” I feel like that’d be a pretty good hype song.
If you could only play one course for the rest of your life, which one would it be? It has to be a course you have played before or have access to, though. Don’t just say Augusta.
There’s a little course called Bathurst Glen just north of Toronto. I used to work there, but it kicks my butt every time I go. It’s a friendly spot, which I enjoy. I struggle playing really nice golf courses. They kind of stress me out.
It’s kind of old news, but I’ll ask the following since it’s right up your alley. What was your take on the LPGA dress code announcement last year?
Oh man. I was like, “What the hell are you thinking?” You know, when they said that I was showing it to my girlfriend who’s a non-golfer and she was like, “I don’t understand what the problem is.” It’s not like they’re wearing thongs or something. Obviously, I think that golf needs to be tailored to welcome people into the game, and I think that sent the wrong message.
Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Let us know what’s coming from 36 Golf Co.
We have limited resourced with just two people, but we have tons of plans. Our main products right now are our hats, which are mainly modern styles. You know, snapbacks and flat brims. We also have T-shirts and quarter zips available. All of that is on our website at www.36golfco.com. We will be getting some golf shirts in soon, which we are calling our “collared T-shirt” this spring, so that’s going to be the most exciting launch for us in the near future. Follow us on Instagram @thirty6ix_golf_co and on twitter @Thirty6ix_golf to keep up with our brand and join our community.
How valuable is hitting the fairway, really?
Hitting more than 50 percent of fairways has long been considered a good goal for amateur golfers. The winners on the PGA Tour tend to hit 70 percent. I have long maintained, however, that it is not the number of fairways HIT that matters. Instead, it is the relative severity of fairways MISSED.
Think about it. By the one-dimensional Fairways Hit stat, every miss is the same. A perfect lie in the first cut is exactly the same as a drive in a hazard… or even OB. There is nothing in the 650+ PGA Tour stats about this. In all, there are 60 stats in seven categories that relate to driving performance, but none about penalties! Like PGA Tour players don’t make any?
Let’s see exactly how important the old tried-and-true Driving Accuracy (Percentage of Fairways Hit) really is. To test it, I used two data clusters: the 2017 PGA Tour season (14,845 ShotLink rounds) and my ShotByShot.com database for the average male golfer (15 to 19 handicappers – 4,027 rounds).
For the graph below, I started with the No. 1-ranked player in the Driving Accuracy category: Ryan Armour. He certainly was accurate by this measure, but why did he only rank 100th in 2017 Strokes Gained Off the Tee with a barely positive 0.020?
Next I looked at the actual top-5 PGA Tour money winners (J. Thomas, J Spieth, D. Johnson, H. Matsuyama and J. Rohm), the 2017 PGA Tour average, and all PGA Tour players that missed the cut in 2017. We all know the significant scoring differences between these three categories of players, but it’s difficult to see a meaningful difference in the fairways hit. They’re not even separated by half a fairway. How important could this stat be?
For those that have not tried ShotByShot.com, our analysis includes Strokes Gained and Relative Handicap comparisons. That enables users to easily differentiate between FIVE MISS categories below based upon severity. The final three categories are what we consider to be Driving Errors:
- Good lie/Opportunity: One can easily accomplish their next goal of a GIR or advancement on a par-5.
- Poor Lie/Opportunity: One could accomplish the next goal, but it will require a very good shot.
- No Shot: Requires an advancement to return to normal play.
- Penalty-1: Penalty with a drop.
- OB/Lost: Stroke and distance penalty, or shot replayed with a stroke penalty.
As we are fortunate enough to work with several PGA Tour players at Shot by Shot, we have access to ShotLink data and can provide those clients with the same valuable insight.
Let’s see how the frequency and severity of driving errors relates to the above groups of players (removing Mr. Armour, as he simply helped us prove the irrelevance of Driving Accuracy). The graphs below display the number of Driving Errors per round and the Average Cost Per Error. Note the strong and consistent correlation between the number and the cost of errors at each of the four levels of performance.
Finally, the average cost of the errors is heavily driven by the three degrees of severity outlined above (No Shot, Penalty, OB/Lost). The graph below compares the relative number and cost of the three types of errors for the average golfer and PGA Tour players. The major difference is that PGA Tour players do not seem to have a proper share of OB/Lost penalties. I found only TWO in the 14,000+ ShotLink rounds. While I accept that the most severe faux pas are significantly less frequent on the PGA Tour, I also believe there must have been more than two.
Why so few? First and foremost, PGA Tour players REALLY ARE good. Next, the galleries stop a lot of the wayward shots. And finally, I believe that many of the ShotLink volunteer data collectors may not actually know or care about the difference between a Penalty and OB/Lost.
Author’s Note: If you want to know your Strokes Gained Off the Tee (Driving) and exactly how important your fairways and the misses are, log onto ShotByShot.com for a 1-Round FREE Trial.
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