No, when we say you need to do your share of course maintenance, we don’t mean you should jump on a mower!
And you don’t have to sit in on a meeting with the superintendent to decide which trees need pruning and which ones should go altogether (tempting as it may be!).
But golf course maintenance is a joint effort between the green keepers and the players who are using the course. After all, respect for the course is an important part of golf etiquette.
There are several things you can do to keep the course in great shape and leave it for the next golfer looking even better than you found it.
Heavy cart traffic can leave the course in less than ideal playing condition: ruts, compaction en general wear-and-tear all affect your lie. Following the course's cart policy will help prevent damage.
- Obey the cart-path-only policy where stated.
- When carts are allowed on the fairway, follow the 90o rule: stay on the cart path until you’re even with your ball. Make a 90o turn towards it. Follow the same way back to the cart path after playing your ball.
- Don’t drive on the greens, tee boxes or edges of bunkers.
- Don’t drive through obviously wet area’s or environmentally sensitive (wild life) area’s.
- Don't drive over reseeded or resodded area's, area's under construction or area's where active course maintenance is underway.
- Keep your tires from skidding when taking off or stopping.
- Avoid driving over sprinkler heads and yardage markers.
- Keep your litter from flying out of the cart.
- Always park on the cart path.
I used to feel terribly guilty for messing up a beautiful fairway when my swing took a chunk out of it. There’s no need for guilt though, it’s part of the game. And if you repair your divots correctly, the surface will heal itself quickly. Players behind you won’t be faced with finding their ball in someone else’s divot. And the course maintenance crews won't have to reseed or resod the chopped up area's.
- Find the patch of grass that came out of your divot and replace it –grass side up – so it fits the shape of the divot it came out of. Gently tap down on it with your foot.
- If the patch came apart in several pieces, gather up as many of the pieces as you can find. Put them back together like pieces of a puzzle to fit the divot. Tap down on it.
- Some courses provide a sand and seed mixture to fill in your divots. From the bottle on your cart, pour enough of the mixture in your divot to make it level with the surrounding area. Again, tap down on it.
Pitch marks are the “dents” your balls makes when it lands on the green. Left unrepaired, pitch marks not only make a green look bad, they also interfere with putts. A properly repaired ball mark takes only a few days to heal. An unrepaired or improperly repaired mark can take weeks! So make it part of your putting routine and start surveying your putt by fixing the mark first. Don’t worry, it’s easy to do:
- Use a divot repair tool or a tee.
- Insert it at the edge (starting at the highest side) of the indentation, not the depression and bring the crunched part towards the center by gently pushing the tool in that direction. Don’t use the tool like a fork to lift the lower bits. This will tear the roots. Work your way around the divot by continuing to push it towards the middle.
- Tap down on it with your putter or your foot.
Graphics: Courtesy of Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
If everybody fixes their own ball mark plus one other, the greens will look splendid and course maintenance crews will save valuable time to perform other duties on the course.
Finding yourself in a bunker is enough of a challenge without the added difficulties of a bad lie in an old footstep. Follow these tips for bunker-grooming:
- Always use a rake, not your foot or club, to smooth the surface.
- Enter a bunker on the low side and avoid climbing on steep faces.
- When raking towards the edge, don’t pull out large amounts of sand which can damage maintenance equipment.
- Exit the bunker along the same path as you entered to reduce the amount of raking.
- After raking, the USGA recommends to place the rake outside the bunker, parallel to the line of play. Some courses prefer the rakes placed inside the bunkers, to speed up maintenance in the surrounding areas.
Taking care of bunkers is an expensive part of course maintenance. Golfers can free up workers for other tasks by practicing good bunker etiquette.
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