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Rules exist to help, not hinder game

By: Shawn Kelly, Journal Golf Columnist
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The “Rules of Golf” is probably the most overlooked rulebook of any game around. Very few golfers have even ever seen the book, much less studied it. Most beginners just get into the game and make rules up as they go, or comply with just the most basic of tenants that they may have heard about. This is great, but there are a few rules and etiquette points that you should know that will help you enjoy the game and not annoy your playing partners. Section 1 of the USGA Rules of Golf deals with etiquette as it applies to the courtesies and priorities of the game as well as care of the course. For beginners (and anyone who doesn’t know) this is a vitally important part of the game to be learned early because it will help you feel more comfortable on the golf course. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. It is a great idea to carry a rulebook in your bag if you are serious about playing. Safety is always our first concern. Never swing a club in close proximity to another person or at anything other than a golf ball. Rocks, twigs or other objects can possibly shatter and injure you or strike another person. No player should play a shot until the players ahead are out of range. If an errant shot is struck in the direction of other players or bystanders, sound the warning by yelling FORE! All players should play without delay and play “ready golf.” When play has been completed on a hole, move on immediately to the next tee. If you have hit a shot that may be lost or out of bounds it will save time to hit a provisional ball. If you have hit a ball into a water hazard and see that it can be retrieved, by all means go ahead and get your ball. However, this is not the time to go fishing for other lost balls in that same hazard. If you do happen to fall behind the group in front of you and the group behind has to wait for you, invite them to play through. If you are not involved in a serious match, your other option here might be to simply pick up and move on to the next hole. You will be welcome to play with any group if you’ll remember to stand quietly and out of the line of sight of players executing a shot on the tee or putting green. Quietly includes no chatter, jiggling pocket change, coughing, belching or causing any other distraction that may affect a player’s concentration. This brings me to the bane of modern day golf: cell phones! The golf course is just no place for a cell phone, unless you happen to be a heart surgeon on call for the day. Just have one of these annoying conveniences chime its merry little tune in the middle of your putting stroke for a $2 Nassau and you’ll fully appreciate this tip. Care for the course is the last section in etiquette. Remember to replace your divots in the fairway, or if you are riding in a cart that has a seed dispenser, sprinkle a little sand and seed in your divot. Repair your pitch marks on the greens. Rake the bunkers and clean up any messes. When riding in a golf cart, observe local rules for cart paths and 90-degree rules and avoid driving through soft wet areas. In short, simply use common sense and apply the Golden Rule on the golf course. “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” If you are becoming serious about the game or are about to play any type of tournament golf I suggest you get yourself a copy of the “Rules of Golf.” The rules must be applied when competing and knowing how to use the rulebook will save you strokes in the long run. Understand that the rules are there to help you, not to hurt you. Learn to use the rulebook and that knowledge will help you in competition. I always believed that if I followed the rules and repaired my divots and ball marks then the golf gods would keep my ball on greener pastures and allow my putts to roll free of obstructions. Best of all, if you’ll learn and follow the rules and the courtesies of golf, you’ll be welcomed for many enjoyable days with good friends.