It’s almost that time of year again when golfers begin dusting their golf clubs in preparation for a game of golf. The “diehard” golfers will of course brave all weather conditions just to play. But they too will admit that it is much more pleasurable to golf under a cloudless sky in the fine spring weather than when it’s freezing cold or extremely hot.
Golf the world over used to be something of an “elite” sport. Many people around the globe would not hesitate to fork out an incredible amount of money in membership fees to walk around a beautiful lush lawn. While swinging their iron as well as wooden clubs through the air, they are fully aware that golf is made unique because of or rather in spite of the endless rules and etiquette that govern the game.
However, golf has ceased to be an “elite” sport in this part of the world. In 1997, there were only about five championship golf courses in and around Shanghai. In order to be able to play, golfers had to pay a steep sum in membership fees. During the past two years, several golf courses have sprung up like mushrooms in the rainy season. Due to a fierce competition, the management of the clubs has been forced to admit “short-term” members. By comparison to the founder members, they pay almost next to nothing in membership fees but still enjoy the same right and privileges.
Because of financial reasons, the existing clubs have been compelled to operate like “public golf courses” rather than the “private and exclusive” ones. Consequently, anyone, who can afford to pay the green fees, can just walk in and play, sometimes even without being accompanied by club members. As a result there have been several new faces upon the scene.
Countries such as Singapore, Germany, Austria and particularly Switzerland require a recognized handicap before letting anyone play on their 18-hole course. Failing to produce a handicap, one will be asked to take a theory as well as a practical test to demonstrate one’s ability to play, and to show that one knows the basic rules and etiquette. Just one or two lessons on a driving range and then onto a golf course is definitely a no-no.
One may deride at the rules and regulations imposed by these countries. But clubs in most other countries have like rules. One has to remember that golf is made unique and attractive because of its rules and etiquette. Anyone not prepared to abide by them should never attempt to take the sport in the first place. Needless to say a reckless golfer poses a real danger to all other golfers.
If you feel you are ready to meet the challenge of an 18-hole golf course, may I present you with a list of some basic rules and etiquette as stipulated by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew’s Golf Rules. If you already know them, that’s excellent and congratulations. But if you are still not sure how to go about the sport, it would do no harm to commit it to memory. Please remember that courtesy on the course is an absolute “must” for every golfer.
Prior to playing a stroke or making a practice swing, the player should ensure that no one is standing close by or in a position to be hit by the club, the ball or any stones, pebbles, twigs or the like which may be moved by the stroke or swing.
The player who has the honor should be allowed to play before his opponent.
No one should move, talk or stand close to or directly behind the ball or the hole when a player is addressing the ball or making a stroke.
In the interest of all, players should play without delay.
No player should play until the players in the front are out of range.
When the play of a hole has been completed, players should immediately leave the putting green.
In the absence of special rules, two-ball matches should have precedence over and be entitled to pass any three-or four-ball match, which should invite them through.
A single player has no standing and should give way to a match of any kind.
Any match playing a whole round is entitled to pass a match playing a shorter round.
If a match fails to keep its place on the course and loses more than one clear hole on the players in front, it should invite the match following to pass.
Maintaining a golf course is a very expensive affair and all golfers should look after it as though it were their own. Here are a few tips.
Before leaving a bunker, a player should carefully fill up and smooth over all holes and footprints made by him.
Through the green, (meaning the whole area of the course except the teeing ground and putting green and all hazards on the course) the player should ensure that any turf cut or displaced by him is replaced at once and pressed down and that any damage to the putting green made by a ball is carefully repaired. Damage to the putting green caused by golf shoe spikes should be repaired on completion of the hole.
Players should ensure that, when putting down bags or the flagstick, no damage is done to the putting green and that neither they nor their caddies damage the hole by standing close to it, in handling the flagstick or in removing the ball from the hole. The flagstick should be properly replaced in the hole before the players leave the putting green. Players should not damage the putting green by leaning on their putters, particularly when removing the ball from the hole.
In taking practice swings, players should avoid causing damage to the course, particularly the tees, by removing divots.
Who’s to argue with these rules? After all golf originated from Scotland as the ritual hunting of a small, white furry animal called, surprisingly, the Golf.
Certain clubs in Europe require that you include in your golf bag a book on rules and etiquette.
The dress code must also be observed. No shorts, no jeans, no shirts without collars. The loose end of your shirts have to be tugged in. When in doubt inquire at the club you’re going to play. But in Shanghai people don’t bother so much about the dress code.
Enjoy the game, have fun and good luck.