Golf courses these days are at its peak with golf booming after the pandemic. Everything associated with golf is doing well including booking every tee time. This means that the course staff has to be more aware of their pace of play throughout the entire day. Slow play can mean frustration for most golfers and it can affect how they play as well.
The way people drive these days, many people are always in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B. This means that people are just…impatient. Along with “cart path rage”, golfers can get in arguments and physical altercations with fellow golfers in other groups usually ahead or behind. The main causes are usually someone hitting their golf ball into the group ahead of them.
Whether or not the ball hits anybody in your group is besides the point, since it could have easily hit anybody with enough bad luck. Clearly the person hitting the ball either didn’t see you or at least should have yelled Fore! to forewarn you that an incoming shot is headed your way.
It’s a clear rule that you should NEVER hit into a group, but it happens nonetheless. Let’s discuss how best to display proper golf etiquette and diffuse any potential issues. Here are some rules of engagement on both ends of a party if you are in this situation.
Recognize the Situation
When getting hit into, your first reaction is to look back and see if they can see you and your fellow players in your group. Most players just raise their hands up in the air to let the person hitting that their ball reached the players in your group and also to not have another player(s) continue to hit into your group. If you look back and can’t see the group hitting or even from another fairway, they can’t see you either so it’s just a case of not knowing that you are in that area.
If you are the ones that are hitting into a group ahead by accident and you see hands in the air with them looking back at you, you are to raise your hands as well to acknowledge that your ball reached the vicinity of that group by accident. The next golfer needs to wait until you know they are completely out of your range.
The person hitting into a group 100% has to take action and approach that group to apologize to them. This will diffuse the situation and let them know it was a complete accident or the best golf shot you have ever hit in your lifetime. Golf is a gentleman’s game after all. Even if it didn’t reach them and they just looked back, they will let you know it was not a problem, so no worries, no harm done.
Slow Play is Not a Reason to Hit Into a Group
When there is slow play on a golf course, the group ahead is always to blame. Being a Head Professional, my job was to monitor the pace and keep watch on slow groups. The biggest misconception with groups that are slow is that it’s not always the group right ahead of you. Unless you can see the live-feed, digital course map, or know exactly where each group is ahead of you on the course, you can’t blame them just yet. You need to contact the pro shop and let them know that there is a group that is playing slow somewhere ahead and let them take care of it.
If it doesn’t get better with the pace or you don’t see any staff out there, you have the right to go into the pro shop and talk to the golf professional on staff. Hitting into a group to warn them to start playing faster is a good way to ruin your group’s round and many others. So try to avoid direct contact with a group that you think is slow.
Go Make Contact
If you do hit into another group, it should be by accident. Sometimes you may not know where your ball lands or you notice someone leaving that spot that you didn’t see when you hit the ball. This is another reason to pay attention to the group ahead of your at all times.
We had a ball go through the green when we were putting out one day on a short par 4. I wasn’t too mad because I figured that person just hit a really far drive not knowing the distance. After we teed off the next hole, they came to our group and apologized which is the proper show of etiquette. They acknowledged that the ball went through our group since the ball ended up on the back side of the green. (Crazy thing is that we found out later that the girlfriend in the cart made her boyfriend apologize to us. He initially wasn’t going to).
Don’t Even Think About Doing It Again
The first time happens and is always considered an accident or just not knowing the course or your own strength. Forgivable! The second time however, you will be accused of doing it on purpose and you will have no excuse that they will want to hear. If it does by chance happen again, you absolutely have to apologize once again and make sure they understand the situation. If it looks bad for your group and you have no excuse, consider buying that group a round of drinks with the beverage cart or after the round at the bar.
Each Person in Your Group is Now Responsible
If you do hit into a group once or even twice with the in-person apologies, there absolutely can not be a third time. Every golfer in your group now has to be patient and give the group ahead lots of room so don’t push the group by trying to play fast.
If No One Apologizes
When it gets annoying and dangerous if a group continually hits into you, you have to let the group behind to let them know that their ball is coming close to them and creating a dangerous situation. If you are a slow group, it’s still no excuse but you will need to play faster. If they do not care about the situation, I would either call the pro shop or start taking their golf balls and throwing them in random places (like behind a tree or a really bad lie).
Hitting a ball back in them is the last thing you want to do. If you hit someone, you will be liable and look like the bad guy and most likely get in some fist-a-cuffs or even charged for assault.
Is it a penalty if you ball hits someone?
If your ball hits a player or their equipment unintentionally, there is generally no penalty. This is known as a “rub of the green.” However, if a player deliberately stops or deflects a ball in play, they may incur a penalty.
Results of Bad Etiquette
Try not to take matters into your own hands physically. Lots of embarrassing golf fight videos are circulating and trust me – none of them look good in it! Please don’t end up on Golf Digest for this.
Waving a Group Through
This should have no bearing on someone hitting into you, but if you find your group playing slowly and unable to speed up your pace of play and the group behind you in right on your tail, consider waving them through.