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Posted: March 7, 2013 8:50 p.m.

Stay on the course

The game of golf takes more than just keeping the ball on the fairway and limiting your putts. It also requires a certain amount of etiquette synonymous with the gentleman’s game.

Etiquette is a hot-button issue this week thanks to the exploits of Rory McIlroy.


Over the past several days, I have been asked countless times to give my opinion on Rory McIlroy’s early departure from The Honda Classic.

The common question is, “Did he break any rules by walking off the course?”

The simple answer is no, he didn’t break any rules by quitting the round before it was complete, especially if he was injured.


The deeper issue is if he was not hurt, I believe he did something much worse than a simple rules violation.
I believe he didn’t follow the “Spirit of the Game” as defined in section 1 of the Rules of Golf covering a player’s etiquette.

The “Spirit of the Game” section instructs that “All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be.”
In quitting, McIlroy not only made himself look juvenile, but he could have possibly affected his playing partners in the process.

For those of you who play golf, we all know how slow play can affect your game.


After McIlroy’s departure, his playing partners were now at a disadvantage of playing in a twosome following behind a host of threesomes. This not only affects your rhythm, but the long waits can stiffen up your body in the process.

No one will ever know how his departure changed the course of the day for his playing partners, but I feel his decision did affect the eventual outcome of Ernie Els' and Mark Wilson’s rounds.

As my dad always told me, you should never quit no matter how bad you’re playing.

Maybe I should give McIlroy my dad’s phone number.

USGA 2012-15 rule book
Section 1-etiquette; behavior on the course

On The Putting Green
On the putting green, players should not stand on another player’s line of putt or, when he is making a stroke, cast a shadow over his line of putt.

Players should remain on or close to the putting green until all other players in the group have holed out.

Scoring
In stroke play, a player who is acting as a marker should, if necessary, on the way to the next tee, check the score with the player concerned and record it.

Pace Of Play
Play At Good Pace And Keep Up
Players should play at a good pace. The Committee may establish pace of play guidelines that all players should follow.

It is a group’s responsibility to keep up with the group in front. If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind, it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group. Where a group has not lost a clear hole, but it is apparent that the group behind can play faster, it should invite the faster moving group to play through.


Be Ready To Play
Players should be ready to play as soon as it is their turn to play. When playing on or near the putting green, they should leave their bags or carts in such a position as will enable quick movement off the green and towards the next tee. When the play of a hole has been completed, players should immediately leave the putting green.
Lost Ball


If a player believes his ball may be lost outside a water hazard or is out of bounds, to save time, he should play a provisional ball.


Players searching for a ball should signal the players in the group behind them to play through as soon as it becomes apparent that the ball will not easily be found. They should not search for five minutes before doing so. Having allowed the group behind to play through, they should not continue play until that group has passed and is out of range.


Priority On The Course
Unless otherwise determined by the Committee, priority on the course is determined by a group’s pace of play. Any group playing a whole round is entitled to pass a group playing a shorter round. The term “group” includes a single player.

Care Of The Course
Bunkers
Before leaving a bunker, players should carefully fill up and smooth over all holes and footprints made by them and any nearby made by others. If a rake is within reasonable proximity of the bunker, the rake should be used for this purpose.


Repair Of Divots, Ball Marks and Damage By Shoes
Players should carefully repair any divot holes made by them and any damage to the putting green made by the impact of a ball (whether or not made by the player himself).


On completion of the hole by all players in the group, damage to the putting green caused by golf shoes should be repaired.


Preventing Unnecessary Damage
Players should avoid causing damage to the course by removing divots when taking practice swings or by hitting the head of a club into the ground, whether in anger or for any other reason.


Players should ensure that no damage is done to the putting green when putting down bags or the flagstick.
In order to avoid damaging the hole, players and caddies should not stand too close to the hole and should take care during the handling of the flagstick and the removal of a ball from the hole. The head of a club should not be used to remove a ball from the hole.


Players should not lean on their clubs when on the putting green, particularly when removing the ball from the hole.


The flagstick should be properly replaced in the hole before the players leave the putting green.
Local notices regulating the movement of golf carts should be strictly observed.

Conclusion; Penalties For Breach
If players follow the guidelines in this section, it will make the game more enjoyable for everyone.


If a player consistently disregards these guidelines during a round or over a period of time to the detriment of others, it is recommended that the Committee considers taking appropriate disciplinary action against the offending player. Such action may, for example, include prohibiting play for a limited time on the course or in a certain number of competitions. This is considered to be justifiable in terms of protecting the interests of the majority of golfers who wish to play in accordance with these guidelines.


In the case of a serious breach of etiquette, the Committee may disqualify a player under Rule 33-7.


Rules taken from usga.org/rules.

Upcoming Ashton Hills events
Two Man Modified Alternate Shot, March 23 at Ashton Hills.
Snapping Shoals tournament, March 15 at The Oaks.

Bryan Raines is the golf professional at Ashton Hills Golf Course, and can be reached at braines@pga.com.

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