Most golfers likely have no idea what goes on behind the
scenes to get their course prepped and ready for play each day. Pull back the
curtain at the maintenance barn and golfers would be amazed to discover that it
takes a combination of science, artistry, and hard work to provide the quality
of playing surfaces that they expect.
And it’s OK if we don’t have an in-depth knowledge of maintenance
practices and procedures. It really isn’t necessary for us to know how to set a
mowing schedule or why it’s important to measure turfgrass clipping volume. But
what all golfers do need to understand is the critical role we can play
in daily upkeep by following one of the most important principals of golf
Leave the course
better than you found it.
What is it to leave the course better than you found it? It
means not only cleaning up after yourself, but also taking the time to repair
any damage that may have been done by less-thoughtful golfers.
By following the etiquette guidelines below, we can do our
part to help care for the courses we play on and help maintain good playing
conditions. Even a modest collective effort can have a major impact.
The best action to take is finding the piece or clump of
grass you just took out of the ground and put it back in the divot. Then pour some
sand over the top of the divot and press down with your shoe to secure it in
place. Then gently sweep that sand smooth with your shoe so that it’s even with
the ground and not the top of the grass. If you cannot locate the piece of
grass, just fill the divot with sand and again level it out with the playing
The rule of thumb should be to repair your ball mark and
three others that you find on the green. Repairing those little depressions
is very important. Equally important is doing it the right way. Because while
many golfers fail to repair ball marks, there are also many well-meaning
golfers who do “repair” the pitch marks, only they do it incorrectly. Below are
the steps recommended by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of
American on how to properly repair ball marks on a green.
Step #1: Take your ball mark repair tool and insert the prongs into the turf at
the edge of the depression. Note: Do NOT insert the prongs into the depression
itself, but at the rim of the depression.
Step #2: Push the edge of the ball mark toward the center, using your ball mark
repair tool in a “gentle twisting motion,” in the words of the GCSAA. Note: Do
NOT insert the tool at an angle, so the prongs are beneath the center of the
crater, and then to use the tool as a lever to push the bottom of the ball mark
back up even with the surface. Pushing the bottom of the depression upward only
tears the roots and kills the grass.
Step #3: Once you’ve worked around the rim of the ball mark with your
repair tool, pushing the grass toward the center, there’s only one thing left
to do: Gently tamp down the repaired ball mark with your putter to smooth the
If you find your ball in a bunker, follow these tips after
you've played your shot to make sure you leave a good surface for others:
Tip #1: Enter and exit from the low side of the bunker at the point closest to
your ball to keep the bunker edges firm and in good shape.
Tip #2: Bring a rake with you into the bunker to avoid walking back and forth
and disturbing the sand even more.
Tip #3: To smooth out the surface after the shot has been played, alternate
between pulling the sand toward you and pushing it away from you to make the
bunker surface even without sand displacement.
Tip #4: Upon exiting the bunker, place the rake along the outer edge of the
bunker and parallel to the line of play.
Check with the golf shop staff or starter to make sure you
know what the cart rules are for the day before heading out on the course. Cart
rules can frequently change due to course maintenance or inclement weather.
In general, players should stay on the cart path whenever
possible to protect the fairway turf. Many courses ask you to stay on the path
until you can make a 90-degree turn off the path and toward your ball. Always maintain
a safe distance from tees, greens, and penalty areas.
A golf course is a vast piece of exposed land, so the wind
can cause trash to blow out of your cart or even out of the waste basket. If
you see litter on the ground, be respectful of your surroundings and pick it up
and dispose of it properly.
If you can manage to do these things every time you tee it
up, you’ll definitely leave the golf course better than you found it. If enough
of us do that, we’ll all enjoy better playing conditions.