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lost ball

What is it about playing in summer that makes us forget the rules of etiquette?

The sun's out, which seemingly makes people forget how to behave on a golf course. And it boils the Angry Club Golfer's blood
 

There were all sorts of horrors in my golf bag. Two-year-old bananas – I think they were bananas – something that used to resemble a glove, and one of those rubber tee peg contraptions tied together with string.

I call it Old Man Par, because I’ve never seen anyone else under 70 ever use one.

At the bottom of it, crumpled, bent, and looking like it had been subjected to a thousand showers, was an old rule book and it was creased open to the section on etiquette.

It was timely I’d made this discovery because, at the particular moment I found it, I was stuck on the tee watching the group in front mindlessly circling around the rough like they were in a zombie movie.

Normal people love summer golf – the hot sun, the cold beer, the sensation of playing in shirt sleeves.

I’ve come to dread it. Because peak time golf is also very slow golf. The wild stuff gets tall and the game speeds down.

I have a symbiotic relationship with some of the farthest reaches of a golf course. If I’ve decided to frequent its jungle-like depths, I’ll always play a provisional and I won’t spend too long tramping around to find the veritable needle in the haystack.

This is not true of others. They’ve shelled out their tenner or nearabout for a dozen distance balls and woe betide they’re going to lose one.

Are they that valuable? I suppose the thing they’ve got in common with a diamond is that they’re both the hardest substances on earth but, come on, just let it go.

They don’t, though. And even three-minutes can’t dissuade them. Particular zealots will still be hunting even as their despairing playing partners are reaching the next tee.

Anyroad, what’s this got to do with an old rule book? Well, without any page turning or prompting whatsoever (ahem), the focus fell on a few lines about behaviour on the course and, specifically, a lost golf ball.

Let me quote: “Players searching for a ball should signal the players in the group behind them to play through as soon as it becomes apparent that the ball will not easily be found.”

As soon as it becomes apparent. Not after we’ve sat through the director’s cut of Saving Private Ryan.

Etiquette seems to be largely written out of the new book but when did common courtesy stop being a thing? When did ‘they’ve got nowhere to go’ translate into a 10-minute free-for-all in the rough?

I could talk all day about standards – you’ve never seen so many football shorts on the course as at the moment – but this one brings out the oddly-shaped vein on the top of my forehead.

Add, rinse and repeat four or five times in a round and I’m ready to pop.

What makes it worse is when it’s also followed by these two phenomena – the tunnel vision they give you as you catch them up on the tee – if only they could harness such focus when they were actually playing a shot – or the post-match apology.

‘Sorry we held you up out there.’ You’re not, are you? If you were genuinely remorseful you would have LET US THROUGH.   

I don’t want to be all rose-tinted glasses, back in my day things were better, because idiocy is a constant through the generations.

But as I stand once more on the tee, watching another set of headless chickens causing a traffic jam behind, I do wonder if the game really is going to the dogs.

Has the Angry Club Golfer hit the nail on the head when it comes to a lost golf ball search, or is he way off base? Let him know in the comments, or tweet him.

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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