Proper Putting Green Etiquette

I do not play as much golf as I would like but when I do I take the game pretty serious.  It does not matter if I have five rounds that year or thirty rounds I have a set routine on how I prepare for that round.

I show up to the golf course usually an hour or so before my tee time.  I head straight to the practice green to get a feel for the greens as most of my lost shots come with the putter.  I take about a half an hour to warm up and get a feel for the greens by both putting and hitting chip and pitch shots with a variety of my wedges.  Once I am comfortable with the greens I head over to the driving range to warm up my muscles and hit some full shots.

I start with my sand wedge and work my way up hitting a few balls with every club in my bag.  Tiger Woods once said in an interview that he hits his first three balls without looking at the result.  He claims that by doing do you get your mind focused on the important parts of the golf swing and the nearly impossible task of keeping your head down through impact.  I follow this every time I tee it up on the practice range.

Once I get to the driver I take the time to work out my typical ball flight for that day.  I then try to hit some draws and some fades on call to see if my swing will allow those during the round.  My normal ball flight is a fade, which is awesome for my irons.  A fade is a ball flight that loses distance but gains spin and control.  So if you have a five iron into the green and you hit a fade your chances of it one, being the right distance, but also stopping where you want it is a lot higher than as a draw.  You do get distance with a draw, but you lose all a lot of your control.  Guys on tour will hit draws off the tee on par fives and long par fours in hopes of having a shorter club into the green.

After I finish hitting balls I head into the clubhouse, grab a scorecards, and head to the first tee.  By this time I am stretched and comfortable as I can be with the speed of the greens.  I am used to the feeling of the golf cleats on my feet (I miss the days of metal spikes) and I am ready to tackle whatever course lies ahead of me.

Recently I read an article regarding proper etiquette on the practice greens.  I play a lot of municipal and city courses so I always have to deal with hacks and guys that do not know what they are doing.  So this article raised an eyebrow when I came across it.  These practice greens can get busy, especially on the weekends, and can cause headache for guys like me that have a routine.  These greens are usually small, as well, so the more guys that you have getting ready for his or her round the harder it will be to find a place to practice.

Every practice green is like this.  I just played a course last Sunday on the south side of Indianapolis and I was the only guy on the putting green for a good twenty minutes.  A lot of these practice greens are small so I had to take advantage of this golden opportunity while I could.  Eventually a man showed up with a practice bag full of balls and began throwing his collection all over the green, but I was able to prepare myself enough that it did not bother me.  But I have gathered a list of what I consider the four rules of the round, so to speak, the next time you find yourself on one of these practice greens.

1. Practice with only two balls.

When you go to a practice green like this there is no reason for you to have more than two or three golf balls.  Most courses will have a separate green for you to hit sand shots and longer wedge shots so leave the putting green for what it was designed for.  (I did say earlier that I will try to get a feel for the greens by hitting a few wedge shots.  I hit chip and pitch shots, not twenty yard divot-causing shots that put everyone on the green at in danger.)  By bringing only few balls with you to the practice green also gives you a better chance to focus on the putts at hand and let you get a feel for actual shots that you might see on the course.  In addition to not upsetting the others on the green, you can also better control your putts and not have balls scattered all over the green.

2. Start with a vacant hole first.

When you first get to the green start on a hole that is not being used first.  It might be tough to do since a lot of these greens will not have very many options or very many holes for you to choose from, but if you can find an empty one go there first.  Also, once you have selected a hole, begin putting at about forty foot or so.  By starting with your longer putts first you will be able to get a better feel for the putts you will likely see on the course (unless you are throwing darts with your irons) and you will slowly be making your way closer to the hole allowing for more players to practice.  If you decide to chip on these greens (again make sure that you can as some courses have dedicated greens for this purpose) start at the hole furthest from the center and work your way around.  There it nothing that upsets me more or is more embarrassing than hitting a bladed chip shot across the green into someone else’s bubble.

3. Move closer to hole you have chosen.

Like I said above, you will want to start further away from the hole.  But do not just hit bomb after bomb in hopes of impressing your friends by making one.  Once you hit three or five long putts move a five or ten foot closer to the hole.  Then continue to make five to ten putts from that distance.  By the time you have made your way to tap in range there might be another hole open with new and unforeseen breaks or you might be ready to go tee it up.  Also, the shorter putts, for most of you out there, will be the putts that you are going to have for par or bogey all day.  These are the ones that you need to practice the most if you want to post a respectable score.

4. Finish smart and short.

The closer you get to the hole the more time you should spend concentrating and trying to make those putts.  You should finish with a handful of putts around the three-foot range, as you will one, make them, but two ill boost your confidence and be able to head to the first tee with a refreshed and confident attitude.  Sure, even tour pros miss three-foot putts (Tiger has missed two just this month) but the chances of ramming in some of these are much greater than ten or twenty foot putts.

So the next time that you head to the golf course take these into consideration when you are on the practice green.  There are other players out there besides you and some of these players take the game a little more serious than others.  So be respectful to all of the guys and gals out there and remember that golf is a gentlemen’s game.  Treat the game the way you want to be treated.  If you respect the other players on the practice green you might just make a few more birdies out there.