Thursday, March 7, 2013

Manners Matter

Manners matter in life.  

Manners also matter in golf where it’s known as etiquette and the underlying Spirit of the Game.  Search “etiquette & spirit of the game” on the websites of golf’s two governing bodies, the United States Golf Association and The Royal & Ancient and you will find the following:

"Golf is played, for the most part, without the supervision of a referee or umpire. The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players, care for the course and to abide by the Rules. All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be."

A few weeks ago I took two of my students on the nine hole course where I teach.  With few exceptions, I found very little of the game’s spirit there.  What I found prevalent was a lack of manners.

It was a warm Sunday afternoon, an unexpected opportunity for golfers to play a winter round.  I was conducting a Training Session, a playing and practice session for some of my more skilled students.  I had two teens in the session that day and they were anxious to get on the course like everyone else.  I approached two young men on the first tee that were waiting their turn to tee off and asked if the boys & I could join them for a few holes.  (My students would play a scramble format and I would be their forecaddie/coach.)  I was appreciative when they agree to let us play with them. 

The foundation of my coaching philosophy includes quote from University of Miami Women’s Basketball Coach Katie Meir (a former UNCC hoops coach), “It’s not what you teach, it’s what you emphasize.” All of the children I teach & coach learn the etiquette of golf & proper pace of play, and are equipped to demonstrate it when they play.

Here is a sampling of the poor behavior I noticed that day on the course:  On the very first green I noticed two golf cars passing us, heading toward the second hole.  Once we holed out, I rode up to these folks to see if they were meeting other players or what.  They told me there were six people waiting to tee off on the first hole, so they decided to just jump head to an open spot on the course. Then as our group was waiting for that group to clear the green on the second hole, an older couple approached me in a golf car asking if I picked up their golf ball.  Obviously they hit into us and thought nothing of it. I wasn’t even aware of the incoming missile and had simply thought I found a another ball we had in play. I handed over the ball and they drove off, passing us too, with no further comment. Yes, we then had to wait on them as well.

Where in the world was the Spirit of the Game that day?  By my observation there was lack of basic manners, etiquette, courtesy, consideration, safety, respect, and honor.  It did not go unnoticed by boys; they knew too.

Despite the loathsome behavior, we enjoy our time on the course and meeting new golfers.  I was grateful for the opportunity to help the boys become more comfortable playing with individuals they did not know.  (I think the men, beginners to the game, enjoyed getting a few golf tips too.)

I was pretty disappointed in what I observed on the course that day.  When I shared the story with a few others, they made comments such as “That’s just the way it is.”, or “That’s what you get with public golf.” 

I don’t accept those attitudes. As a teenager I learned to play golf on public golf courses, because my family didn’t belong to a country club.  I learned proper etiquette and was mentored by the golfers with whom I played and from my first teacher. I remember being taught that MANNERS MATTER.

What’s next?

When I voice a critique or vent a frustration, I also attempt to offer a solution . . . so here goes:

As a golf professional (within my industry) I now have at my disposal more programs than ever before designed to increase golf participation.  It is important to teach the golf swing, but it is also equally important to teach proper comportment on the course. That’s my responsibility; being mindful is crucial.

I also call on all golfers to take the time to mentor others who take up the game.  I know many who already do so and I ask others to consider the same when a new golfer joins your club association.

Beginning April I will begin offering a monthly putting and etiquette clinic
at Tega Cay Golf Club to new golfers at no charge.  People “don’t know what they don’t know”, so hopefully I can pass on Golf’s Spirit in addition to swing education. And, I will also use social media avenues to educate as well.

Let’s pay it forward . . . for the good of the game.