Unwritten Rules

How have you’ve made it here, to this place where the greens are well, green? A friend, family member, maybe a well meaning coworker has introduced you to the game. Now, I’m not here to cast a wide net lumping your well meaning brethren under one umbrella. Simply isn’t the case. But I have a slight inclination to believe many of you have been left in the wilderness to roam…alone nigh compass nor guide. Lost? The what ifs and please do nots are all a mysterious soup blending blissful ignorance with often unsettling angst as the new player explores this beautiful game.

The New

It’s a lot to take in, I get it. So many unwritten rules, codes, a moral ethos if you while, balled twine tight destroying the peace and harmony that should be afforded all mankind. That sounded so good in my head, not so sure the synapse translation rendered as anticipated. Let’s try that again, keeping it a tad more mundane. How to go about learning golf is about as clear as mud to the new player. It’s especially difficult if you don’t have what I would call a “golf mentor” to help you along the way. New players picking up the game actually make me exceedingly happy. Well, mostly. Growing the game is very important as golf has so much to offer to so many. That said, it doesn’t exactly warm the cockles when you are out on an early Saturday and the group in front of you is destroying the natural rhythm of the game. But I got to thinking, is it really and truly their fault? Maybe they don’t know, didn’t care to ask, or maybe just maybe a casual player introduced them to the game and left them to dither. It’s entirely possible, heck it’s highly likely that is the case. How else is the new player to learn, much less learn quickly some of the essential skills making the game enjoyable for everyone?

So what had happened was….

The last two times out, I’ve rolled out as a solo. Just trying to get 9 holes in beating darkness in the process. Clocks falling back is like getting hit repeatedly by a blunt object…oh how I loathe shorter days. The starter told me I’d have a pretty good shot getting them in as I teed off on a Friday about 5 pm. Things were going great. Nobody in front of me, and not a soul behind me. A little bit of golden golf bliss. Optimistically, I’m thinking this should be no problem. Rounding the corner going to the third tee, I have to pump my brakes, we have traffic people. There was some abnormal behavior to boot, well abnormal in the strictest sense of golf etiquette. One guy in the cart and his playing partner was on the green. The guy in the cart still had work to do, yet he was just kind of watching, no real sense of urgency to get on with things. His playing partner had maybe 15 feet for what I assume was a birdie. Odd, he left the flag in while putting? No…I silenced my inner golf snob…think happy thoughts it’s okay. Finally, the other guy gets out of the cart and grabs a wedge to get out of the sand trap, “come on man…he’s a one club Joe”. What is a one club Joe you ask? It’s when a guy (or gal), leaves the cart with only one club to play their next shot. This may sound crazy, maybe even a little revolutionary, but a good rule of thumb is to carry three clubs when playing a shot. “What does that mean? You can’t play the shot with 3 clubs”…the imaginary voice in my head is pretty verbal at times so I decided to quote him. “Shhhh now, let me focus…go back to your home”, sorry about that. Carry the club you think you need, plus one more and one less, it’s like one of those axioms that just is. You will avoid having to take additional time going back and forth from the cart trying to get the right club. That 100 yard shot might be a pitching wedge normally, but if the hole is uphill a 9 iron may be more suitable, maybe even an 8 iron into a prevailing wind or out of thick rough. The game will speed up and you won’t have to do quite as much walking. Say you are 40 yards out. Go ahead, bring those 3 wedges and your putter. Your playing partner can take the cart on up to the green where his ball is lying, you can walk it in with your chest bowed out after hitting it close. If something bad happens with your approach, having the 3 wedges at the ready should mean you are ready for whatever may come next. Provided you didn’t put one in the lake, wedges don’t work too well out of there.


Taking in the gory scene I exhaled to steady my patience. Standing in the fairway doing my best to portray polite civil discord, they realize they got a bogey behind them. They hurry about making their way back to the cart and then it happened. In honor of Halloween, I’ll give you a monster reference detailing the scene.

Clearly, across the moor, the beast stood on it’s hindquarters in full revelry in a brilliant illuminating moonlight. His death maw sneering evil, whetted teeth stained red adorned with bloody shrapnel. Remnants of it’s latest victims lay prone, still, absent of all life, killed dead by the monstrosity. The wolf howled, I peed just a little before crumbling into a huddled mass, my destiny assured.

Yes, as it were, the tee box was occupied by a foursome waiting to tee off, of all the absurd impossibilities. Not quite as dramatic as a Taylor Swift song, but just as scary if you turn the lights off…wait, that might be taken out of context. I hit my approach to 3 feet, not even excited at the prospect of a tap in birdie. Like a punch in the gut…figures you play well in waning light, course backed up DMV style. Got to love the mental self abusive talk that can go on in an inner monologue. Wonder if there is a hotline for that?

I did the only thing a sane guy could do, I tried to skip to the next hole. Now there is a way to go about skipping a hole. Blindly driving by in a huff, isn’t exactly endearing to the people you are trying to get around. Honestly, it’s pretty poor form to go about in such a manner. I politely asked if it would be okay to move on through, I’m just a single after all. Both groups were pretty accommodating, actually a bunch of young guys and they were really cool with it. Unfortunately, I get to the next hole and it’s like Atlanta traffic out here…gridlock. Group waiting on the tee here, not above skipping 2 holes, I ask if there is anyone in front of them. “Yep, the slowest foursome on God’s green earth”, he replies. Wow, this sucks. I turn around, my only option is to ask kindly if I could join the twosome, behind the foursome and enjoy it till dark.

Reason for Optimism

A lot of fluff to get to the point. So many issues to address…many self inflicted but I’ll see someone about that at the appointed hour. Fault can be shoveled to and fro in this scenario. The golf course? Maybe the marshall? These kids teeing off from the middle tees when the front tees seem more appropriate? It’s literally everyone’s fault but mine! Okay, that can’t be right, that was my 2 year old tantrum voice screaming to the rafters for another scoop of ice cream. What was really at hand, an opportunity to educate through action. Model perhaps? Maybe think outside the box and share some wisdom with these two young guys who look like they just got of college and are enamored with the great lady called golf. I love it. Beyond cool talking and teaching for the next 6 holes, miracles cease to amaze, we actually got them in. Granted, the 9th hole was an exercise in Rorschach. Lest we not get it twisted, I wasn’t actually teaching anyone anything in the way of technique. That’s how people get sued. They were asking questions and I was sharing my knowledge of the game freely. It felt pretty good. Probably helped my credibility that I was actually able to keep the ball in the fairway. Talk about your miracles.

The rub. If you have some expertise playing golf, it’s an obligation to share when given the opportunity. There needs to more in the way of resources for players just getting started to gain access to what it is we are trying to accomplish on a Saturday morning. “Having fun, taking money from pigeons!” Oh, again, all apologies…the little guy just won’t shut up. Having fun, getting a little fresh air, and some exercise. Breaking 80 isn’t a prerequisite. It’s a wonder anyone learns the unwritten codes. On an aside,my feelings are similar when I get on the highway…no way half these people were raised by wolves, yet it seems probable many a day. New players, don’t be afraid to ask a guy who looks like he knows what he’s doing questions when you are paired with him or her. Might make playing a bit more enjoyable going forward. You “players”…yes even you single digit handicappers…stop hating! Go on a lark, play with random players every once and while. Enjoy a laid back round, share a little wisdom in the process. Cheers, and here’s to the back 9 on Sunday.


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Brad - November 1, 2015

Glad I got to learn the finer rules and etiquette from you Stephen and it shows in how good Hunter is with it. Sometimes you do have to go with the flow, but I can see how running into to one club Joe in twilight is frustrating!


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