Den Caddie: New Golfer's FAQ - Part 2


So you are a “new” golfer -- looking for a guide to playing the game? Or have you been playing golf forever but still feel like a “new” golfer at times? The Den Caddie has some tips to help! Question:   I feel rushed all the time.  How can I play faster? Answer:  Learn to move quickly between your shots will help you play a hole in less time.

The key to playing quickly is to prepare for your next shot while your playing partners are playing. When it is your turn, you have done all your prep work, just hit the ball, without feeling rushed.

Some suggestions to help you prepare:

  • Move as fast as you can between shots and preparing for your next shot. Once you are at your ball, take the time you need to hit your shot. If you rush your shot, chances are you will be hitting next.

  • Estimate what club you will need while you are waiting for others to play.

  • If you have to walk to your ball, bring an extra club or two, in case you get there and the shot is not what you expected. Walking back to the cart to swap out clubs is a big slow down for the whole group.

  • When it is your turn, stop the chatting and play.  Golf is about spending time with your playing partners.  There is time to play and time to chat. Be mindful of the time of each.

  • If you are sharing a cart, keep track of where your partner’s ball is, offer to jump out, walk to your ball, and meet them ahead.

  • Play Ready Golf! If it is your playing partner’s turn, but they are delayed getting to their ball, let them know you are ready to play and play your shot.

  • When you hit a shot, watch where it goes. Don’t look away in disgust. Watch the line the ball was on. Find a tree or a bush that it was heading toward. Watch to see it hit the ground to see if it bounced.

  • Focus on keeping up with the group in front of you. If you cannot see them on the current hole, you are behind. Work as a team to reduce the time between each shot you take. If you are not keeping score, pick up your ball and move ahead. This will help your group catch up, then you can drop a ball and start to play again.

Question:  Golf seems to have a lot of rules, how do I play by them? Answer: There are two types of rules in golf, those for keeping score and etiquette rules.

As a new golfer learning the rules of golf can be overwhelming … if you are not keeping score for a handicap or tournament … they are not as important as learning the rules of Etiquette.  Etiquette rules are not in the rule book.  They apply to all golfers on the course, and they are the first ones you should think about learning.  Most of them are just common courtesies.

  • Stop your conversation and moving around as soon as your playing partner approaches her ball to hit.

  • Pay attention to whose turn it is next. Typically the person who is furthest from the hole is the next to play, whether you are on the fairway or the green. For pace of play, if the furthest person from the hole is not ready to play (they might be looking for their ball), the next person who is ready should play. When it is your turn, walk quickly to where you are to play and play your shot without delay.

  • You will hear “Do not step on a person’s line” when you are on the green.  Between each ball (or ball marker) on the green and the hole there is a “line”.  When you step on the grass along or near this line, you will depress it slightly and it may affect the roll of the ball to the whole. Be aware of each player’s “line” and try to walk behind the marker so you don’t step on it. The only exception is if the person says it is “okay” to step on their line.

  • Once all players are on the green, the person’s whose ball is closest to the hole should remove the flag from the hole. Once you remove the flag, move it out to the side of the green where it is not in anybody’s putt either before or after the hole. The reason being is that if somebody hits the flag while it is lying on the green, it is a 2-stroke penalty for them.  

  • The first person who “holes out” first should put the flag back in the hole. If you hole out first, take your ball out of the cup and go stand next to where the flag is on the green. When the last player holes out, pick up the flag and put it into the hole.

  • Do not lean on the flag or hold it against the surface of green, it may damage the green’s surface. Flagstick damage cannot be repaired by the following groups before they complete the hole.

  • Park your cart or clubs off the green behind the hole or on the way to the next hole. Do not leave them in front of the hole. This will slow down play. If you leave your clubs off the green on the way to the next tee, you can pick them up on on your way to the next hole.

  • Stand to the side of the person hitting, far enough away so that you are not in their view. A preferred position is on the side where their head is facing when they hit, versus their back end. This is not a hard/fast rule. If you are not in this position when the person is about to hit, don’t move or try to run to this position, it is better to stay where you are and hold still.

  • Rake the bunkers after you play your shot. Grab a rake and place it on the the edge of the bunker before you enter. Hit your shot, grab the rake, and smooth the sand where your feet were (including footprints from walking) and your ball. If you are not sure how to do this, ask one of your playing partners to show you before you play your next round. There are often practice bunkers at golf courses.

  • If you are struggling on a hole and you are at double par shots (6 on a par 3, 8 on a par 4 or 10 on a par 5) and your ball is not on the green, pick up your ball and go to the green with your group. If your group has time, drop your ball on the green and putt out, otherwise tend the flag. If you are keeping score, mark your score plus your putts, or your score plus 2 (if you do not putt).  

After you have been playing for a while and you are ready to keep score.  The USGA is the official keeper of the rules of golf.  They have a nice web site with references to learn them.  Start slowly and learn few at a time.  Maybe based on situations you have been in.

Swing Away!

Kate Collins

The Den Caddie