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Renslow: A few etiquette and protocol tips

A major concern for many golfers is social anxiety. This is not necessarily a fear of meeting new people. It is a timorous walk to the first tee anticipating someone just short of Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods awaiting our arrival. 

Fear not. The goal of this column is the continuing education of golfers, regardless of their experience, in order to enjoy the game more and play better. This learning is not limited to hitting the ball straighter or longer, although we will spend time on those topics, as well.

Feeling comfortable on the course, confident in your surroundings, and the having a correct perspective may be just as important, whether you are trying to make a good impression or just play a good round.



Today, let’s talk about a couple of things; one is the view from the better players’ perspective and another is proper etiquette. Not only is it important for you to know the expectations of a better player, beginners and veterans alike can disturb other players if they are not aware of protocol.

Within reason (one should be able to consistently advance the ball), the better player does not care if you are a great player or not. Whether your score is low or high, there is a premium on courtesy and pace of play. Frankly, it is preferable to play with a cordial, poor player who can move quickly around the course versus a skilled golfer who plays a deliberate game.




There is no need for trepidation from the average player and no call for pretense from the better player. No one has conquered the game. In fact the game will often remind us of our mortality. We are all teeing it up for recreation, so lighten up and have some fun. Head to the first tee boldly, knowing that we all have small victories and momentary defeats.

Life has many written and unwritten codes for civilized folk; don’t burp in public, take off your hat indoors, open the door for a lady, etc. The culture of golf has standards as well.

Today, let’s tackle a personal etiquette pet peeve. Do like someone looking over your shoulder when you work? It’s not that you would do anything different; it’s just a little creepy. Similarly, when one plays a golf shot, they would rather not see a fellow player in their line of sight.

If you lower your head to hit the ball, it is your peripheral vision that will pick this up. For example, a player who is about to putt can see someone standing (worse yet, moving) out of the corner of his or her eye. This is not good.

Stand either directly in front or directly behind a player before and during their shot. You see, when they put their head down, their vision is to the left and right. They cannot see behind them or in front of them. This is where you should be.

It is interesting that with thousands of fans lined around the greens and tees of every Tour event, the competitors still do not stand down the line of sight of each other. They stand in front or behind. It’s the right thing to do.

So, don’t be bashful, approach with boldness; not cocky, just confident. In fact, from my experience; the more realistic your approach, you will have a correlating opportunity for growth.

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at jrenslow@pga.com.


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