Golf is centuries-old and — let’s face it — it still often has a musty air about it. The governing bodies know this, which is why they’ve been busy in recent years updating the written rules to keep them apace with modern times.
The rules of etiquette could use a similar refresh, but etiquette has no oversight committee. So, we’ve taken on the task ourselves.
This past summer, The Etiquetteist proposed 5 stodgy customs that should be scrapped, including the requirement that you remove your hat when shaking hands after a round. It was a good start, but the resounding response the column received suggested we had left some meat on the bone.
To further clear away the whiff of mothballs, here are 7 more golf mores that need to be tossed, and quick!
Hitting in turn
There are written rules for order of play (best score on the previous hole hits first on the tee; farthest from the hole hits first everywhere else) but they’re for competitions and people who have too much time on their hands. The rest of us have lives to lead. In casual rounds, it shouldn’t matter who has honors or who’s away. The only relevant question is “who’s ready?” If your partner made a birdie on the previous hole but is now rifling through their bag instead of teeing up the ball, step in front of them and hit.
Augusta National enforces this rule, but we’ll cut the club some slack because 1) it shuts down in the sweltering peak of summer and 2) no one should have to see Bill Gates in shorts. Otherwise, though, courses that require slacks regardless of the weather are like that town in Footloose that forbade dancing: cracking down gratuitously on the common good.
No golf shoes in the clubhouse
This one made sense in days of wingtips and metal spikes. But times have changed. Golf shoes have, too. A lot of kicks today look no different than casual footwear, and with soft spikes on the soles, you could practically tap-dance on a wedding cake without leaving a mark.
No unnecessary ball-marking
Among the many ways to prevent slow play: ridding the game of unnecessary customs. Among those unnecessary customs: marking your ball when it’s not in a partner’s line. If your ball is muddy or wet — sure, mark it, pick it up and wipe it clean. But otherwise, leave it be, get your line-reading done when your partners are putting and, when it’s your turn, be ready to roll.
No backward caps
When it comes down to it, pretty much all dress codes are arbitrary, rooted not in reason but in some tweedy notion of what’s “stylish” or “respectful.” They don’t stand up to serious scrutiny. Go ahead. Give us a rationale for this rule that doesn’t make you sound like a cartoon version of Judge Smails.
No talking to partner’s ball
Anatomical fact: Golf balls don’t have ears. Why anyone would talk to them is a question better suited to a behavioral psychiatrist. Why anyone would get mad at such harmlessly delusional conduct is another matter, probably best tackled by an anger-management specialist. Bottom line. When someone talks to your ball, pretend that you don’t have ears either.
No hats indoors
According to the etiquette experts at Emily Post, hats can be left on when you’re on public transportation, in an elevator or in a public building but must be removed when you’re in a move theater or a coffee shop. The very randomness of these regulations underscores their ridiculousness. The same people at Emily Post say that the hat-removing custom is rooted partly in the practices of Medieval knights, who were expected to pull their helmets off as a sign trust and respect. Notice they said Medieval. You’re playing golf, not going into battle!