Who is Responsible for Teaching Golf Etiquette

Growing up, and wanting to absorb everything golf; I read a book called “The Golfers Code.” Jack Whitaker, writing the forward for the book said “Golf is a game, but it is a game that goes beyond the boundaries of simple recreation and carries us to the dark places of our own character. Into those dark places it shines a bright light so that we can see if we are honest, quick-tempered, mean spirited, generous, courteous, and other qualities that tell us who we are.” Whitaker saw a reason why. It is because golf, “as played by most of us, has no umpire, no referee, no linesman. We are the officials, and we call the penalties on ourselves.” He cited this trait for lifting golf above other games, wherein “duplicity is often a valuable stratagem.”

The articles and opinions found in this column are written for all golfers and anyone who is interested in the game of golf. Being a PGA Professional, I often write them from a golf instructor’s perspective. These days I am beginning to see the coach or teacher in a pivotal position in regards to the culture and values of the game. Teaching is teaching – people come to me to learn one thing, and I do my best to teach them that plus more. The way I see it, as a golf instructor, we need to take on the responsibility of modeling exemplary behavior and stress its value. Whitaker, introducing “The Golfers Code” said that “self-policing and etiquette made golf a world of its own” in the sports world. He went on to say many new golfers “have taken up golf without being taught the rules or etiquette of the sport.”

I wonder what Jack would think today? While I’m not a big fan of formality, I found myself sitting on my couch watching Jordan Spieth collapse at the Masters, after pulling away to a tremendous win last season. Spieth, who calls his biggest inspiration his sister who suffers from autism, was classy in both victory and in heartbreaking defeat.

In contrast, the following day, I witnessed two men yell and curse in front of a young high school golfer all because of their bad tee shots. It was an unpleasant sight, and made me wonder: Has our game lost its inherent civility and decorum? Is the new generation of golfers simply not interested in common courtesies? It often seems they were never taught “The Golfers Code.”

I learned the game at The Gogebic Country Club in Ironwood where I remember clearly being taught etiquette lessons virtually every time I attended junior golf school. I recall members at the club pointing out things we juniors should be doing if they saw us forgetting our manners in any way. The same was said to any “new” golfer whether young or old. So my query is this: Who is responsible for teaching the “golfers code?” I don’t feel it rests on any one source as it takes many foursomes to raise a new golfer. As a Golf Professional I feel like I can do more to instill civility back into the game. I challenge myself and other Pro’s alike to make a conscious effort to include lessons of etiquette, pace of play, and common courtesy into programs for new golfers and juniors. I also challenge all golfers to teach and mentor new golfers about etiquette. It is okay to say something because that is how we learn.

I realize we won’t turn everyone into Bobby Jones when it comes to class or decorum, but don’t you think our collective efforts could do a better job of showing new golfers why golf – when played in the proper spirit – is one of the greatest life lessons ever created? Bravo Jordan! For the first time in awhile we may be able to move the needle on golfing etiquette. You’ve made Bobby Jones and generations of golfers proud.

-Matthew Lindberg, PGA