Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Looking at proper golf-cart ettiquette (or your golf cart and you)

I’m astounded by the treatment that golf carts get in the area.  None are worse than those at Sonoma Ranch.  I suppose the more people pay, the more they feel they can abuse.  Whatever, it’s not just the carts at Sonoma, (where I hear they are getting new ones), but all around the area.  I have to admit that I’ve taken a swat at a golf cart tire with my club in anger.  The last time was at the 2010 SCAGA Women’s Championship.  Unfortunately, I missed the tire and hit the cart body – perhaps I should have realized that because my game was off I couldn’t hit anything I was aiming for.  Actually, it’s no laughing matter, but I guess I didn’t hit it very hard, because it wasn’t damaged.  The most important thing about it was that I felt horrible.  To top it off, SCAGA Executive Director, Matt Williams was standing nearby.  He gave me a glare that would melt titanium and simply said “we frown on that sort of thing here.”

I haven’t done anything even close to that since then.  Perhaps for some of us, it takes getting called out for the message to take effect.  I’m not going to say “do as I say, not as I do”, but I am going to offer up some golf cart etiquette suggestions. 

I have a few golden rules for cart use, which I try to adhere to.  I hope you find them helpful.

  1. 1.       A cart is a rented vehicle, treat it like you would a rental car. 
  2. 2.       Choose your route at least as carefully as you would when walking the course.  Avoid potholes, puddles, sticks, stones, you get the idea.
  3. 3.       A cart should speed up play.  Having to go back to the cart for a different club is a huge waste of time.  If the other player in your cart is within 50 yards of your ball, park between them and frame your shot by taking at least two clubs to your ball.  This will not only speed your play, but also reduce the wear on the course.  Shots around the green are the most troublesome – at least for me – when selecting the club to bring.  Again, frame the shot.  You may not know from the cart if you want to hit the shot high, low or putt it.  Take the clubs that give you all the possibilities.  Another reason I don’t like cart golf is the greater potential for leaving a club behind.  However, I’ve found that carrying two or more clubs up to the green somehow reduces the chance that you’ll leave them behind.  One club seems to be easily forgotten, whereas two or more are not.  Carry an extra ball in your pocket as well so you don’t have to walk back to the cart for a mulligan or lost ball situation.
  4. 4.       A cart causes significantly more damage than two people walking.  If you can join someone else rather than take out a second cart, do so.  I wish the local courses would insist on this.  Concerning course damage and carts:
    1. a.       Don’t make sharp turns, especially if you are standing still.  I’ve seen this cause more damage than two divots.  Don’t make jack rabbit starts or quick stops on the course and avoid them on paths as well. 
    2. b.      Don’t drink and drive, don’t even putt – seriously, you’re not as acquainted with how a cart handles as you are your car.
    3. c.       If the course only has intermittent cart paths – say at tees and greens, this means you MUST use them in those locations.  And if the course has a full cart path system, you STILL must use the paths near the tees and greens.  Otherwise stay at least 40 yards from greens and tees.
    4. d.      If you must drive ahead to determine how you should play your next shot, don’t wait until it’s your turn to play.
    5. e.      Check with the proshop or starter regarding the cart rules of the day and get an explanation if you need it.  A 90 degree rule has nothing to do with the ambient temperature.

By the way, the maintenance staff knows who is abusing the course regularly.  They see it all.  I remember when I worked on the golf course crew in high school, it felt like someone was punching me in the nose when I saw them swing recklessly and take a divot out of the green or break a rake or swing at a branch on a tree.  Back then, we were EXPECTED to call out people that were abusing the course – not in an aggressive or demeaning way, but to simply say something like “we frown on that sort of thing here.”  Personally, I think the golf business isn’t well suited to the “customer is always right” idiom.  It seems to me that in the long run 180 happy players on a weekend day is far better business than 200 that barely tolerated their round.

We as a society may have lost our ability to receive public criticism.  It seems that some people feel a public directive is an invitation for confrontation.  It’s a shame, because understanding can’t happen without open communication, whether you’re on the golf course or in the Congress.  

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010.  She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects.  Mary is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association.  You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog:


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