Bob Lutz

October 13, 2011

Bob Lutz: How to keep golf civilized

Now that it appears five of Wichita's city-owned golf courses will remain open, perhaps those of us who are public golfers can do a little introspection.

Now that it appears five of Wichita's city-owned golf courses will remain open, perhaps those of us who are public golfers can do a little introspection.

In order for our courses to thrive, we must play them. The more rounds we play, the more money they make and the longer they stay viable.

With that in mind, I'm going to refresh your memories on some golf etiquette. Trust me, there are times when I get a little sloppy with mine, so this isn't meant as an indictment. Simply view it as my assistance to you. Thank me later.

I have noticed fewer and fewer course marshals on the public links in Wichita; I'm sure that has to do with financial cutbacks. It's a marshal's job to make sure play moves along and that nobody is out there doing things that potentially could irritate other golfers.

Public golf is about sharing. And patience. And tolerance.

With that in mind, here are a few basic rules of etiquette to follow the next time you're on one of the city's courses.

1. No jeans. I know, jeans are comfortable. And on certain people they don't look bad. But don't wear them on a golf course. Purchase a pair of golf shorts or golf pants for these special occasions. Heck, even wear your workout shorts and pants, something I've been known to do for the sake of comfort. Jeans don't cut it, folks. You're not putting up a fence, you're playing golf. Penalty for wearing jeans on the course: 10 strokes.

2. Wear a shirt. I'm spending a lot of time on fashion, I realize. But there are people who play golf while not wearing a shirt. Most of these people, in case you're wondering, are men. To them, I say: Please work on your tan somewhere else. I don't care how ripped you are, going shirtless on a golf course is rude and unpleasant to look at. Public courses don't demand much; your shirt doesn't even have to have a collar. But you should at least wear a shirt. Please.

3. If you snap at someone for talking in your backswing, it's you who has the problem. Not the talker. Now listen, you don't want a bunch of chirping going on while you're trying to concentrate on a golf swing. And I suppose if it happens more than a couple of times, it's OK to politely remind the guilty party that he's playing golf, not auditioning to replace Regis Philbin. But c'mon, if you were really all that, you wouldn't be playing with guys who don't know that it's not OK to talk during your backswing. Right?

4. Limit the mulligans. My group of golfers allows two balls off of the first tee. Not three. Not four. Two. And that's it. Occasionally I'll beg for a mulligan after a really errant shot, but I always feel ashamed. It's important to move things along. Nothing irritates a golfer like having to wait. So if you're 275 yards from an occupied green, go ahead and hit. Don't wait for the green to clear as you tell your friends: "Think I can hit now?" Of course you can hit. You've never hit a 3- wood farther than 185 yards. And when on the green, don't take forever to putt. You get one angle from which to look at your putt and then you must putt.

5. Don't give lessons when the course is packed. First, you're likely not good enough to teach anyone how to play. Secondly, it slows things down. Remember, it's imperative to move as quickly as possible. The biggest responsibility of a course marshal is to monitor slow play. Now that most courses don't have regular marshals, it's up to us.

6. Don't throw clubs. This is a problem area for me. Several of my clubs have ended up in lakes over the years because controlling emotions has been an issue. But in recent years, I have stopped throwing clubs. Some would say it's because my shoulders now are in such pain that throwing a club is excruciating. I prefer to think of it as maturity.

7. Limit profanity. When you scream a curse word, people on the next fairway hear you. And if you're wearing jeans while screaming a swear word, stereotyping ensues. I know golf can be an aggravating sport. And an occasional naughty word has slipped through my lips. Oh, who am I kidding? The guys in my group could melt the bronze off a Ben Hogan sculpture with our language. But, honestly, we're trying to do better.

8. If you cheat, admit you cheat. Don't be coy, because it doesn't work. When you cheat, everybody in your group knows you're cheating. When you think nobody sees you when you kick a ball out from behind a tree, know that everybody sees you. Not just in your group, but in every group on the course. All of those eyes are peeled on you, so unless you're willing to cheat in the open, don't bother.

9. Those golf carts you drive aren't your personal Indy cars. Slow down. There are places you're not to drive carts, including close to the green. If you're too lazy to walk the distance from the cart path to the green, then you should just play Tiger Woods golf on your Wii.

10. I'm all for a beverage now and then, but if you're putting away a case during your round, you're not really on the golf course to play golf. Don't tell me you play better drunk, either, because you don't. And you're really not at all pleasant to be around.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you'll have more fun on the golf course. Better yet, so will we.

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