Continuing our discussion of golf’s unwritten and sometimes-baffling etiquette rules, another batch of do’s and don’ts governing on-course behavior.
Do: Mark your ball on the green—It’s customary to use a coin or similar item to mark the spot of your ball on the putting green. Most veteran golfers mark their ball each time regardless of whether it’s in another player’s line. To learn how to properly mark your ball, read this tip.
Do: Help other players search for lost balls—Any time a member of a group hits a shot into the woods or other trouble spot, it’s common courtesy for others to help him search for it. However, if your own ball is also in the woods, search for it first. Also, if your ball is safe but far from the search area, it’s OK to go to yours and prepare to play.
Do: Compliment your partners’ good shots—Another courteous gesture, though some beginners aren’t sure about the protocol. A simple “Good shot,” or “Nice putt” will suffice, just be certain the result is actually a good one before speaking.
Do: Remove and replace the flagstick whenever possible—If everyone is on the green and the flag remains in the hole, pull it (without stepping on anyone’s line) and lay it down well out of the way. Make sure everyone can see the hole from their ball before pulling the pin. Also, any time you’ve putted out before others, pick up the flag and replace it once the group is done.
Do: Ask another player to move if you fear hitting him—Any time you feel even slightly uncomfortable about another player’s position while you’re hitting, politely ask her to move a little to one side or another.
Don’t: Leave your cell phone’s ringer on during play—The only thing worse than talking during someone’s swing is having your phone go off at an inopportune moment. In fact, ringing cell phones on the course are extremely annoying at any time. If you must leave it on, at least set it to silent or vibrate mode.
Don’t: Talk on your cell phone when it’s your turn to hit—For whatever reason, you may have to take a call on the course. Never hold up your group for a phone conversation. Ever. Either hang up and call back after you’ve hit, or set the phone down and play your shot while the caller waits.
Don’t: Stand directly behind a player who’s putting in order to read the line—There will be times when another golfer’s putt is on or near the same line as yours. Watching his putt roll directly down the target line will tell you the break of your own putt, but don’t stand straight behind them to watch. Stand several feet to the side of the line so you’re not in his peripheral vision.
Don’t: Hit multiple balls (“mulligans”) from the same spot—Practice on the range, not on the course. The occasional mulligan is OK, especially when your first attempt might be lost. But don’t make a habit of it, and never hit more than one extra ball.
Don’t: Flirt with the beverage cart girl—It’s just not cool.