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bunker etiquette

Can’t rake a bunker? Time to find yourself another club

Steve Carroll is so sick of talking about etiquette. It’s time to take action against those who can’t show the course a bit of respect
 

Extinction Rebellion might be onto something. Park yourself on a few roads, get glued to the top of a train, and watch your message go viral all over the world.

So I’m going to blockade myself in front of a bunker and I’d urge you all to come and join me.

Enough is enough. We’ve reached a tipping point when it comes to etiquette. But it’s not too late to turn the tide.

Together we can still save this glorious game of ours.

Whether it’s someone digging the head of their putter into a green because they’ve missed a short one, or the players who leave bunkers like they’ve just spent an afternoon on the beach, it’s time to fight back.

I played in a four-man team competition on Saturday. We were the third out and the course was looking spectacular.

But nearly every bunker – the fairway trap on the 2nd, the greenside bunker on the 4th, the sand on the 6th, 8th, 10th (shall I go on?) – bore the distinctive hallmarks of the lazy and moronic.

What had started as an inconvenience, particularly when my ball found a big footprint early on, gave way to increasing fury as we spent more time being park wardens than playing and raked every size 9 we could find.

There’s stereotypes prevailing about lack of etiquette. “It must be the visitors,” they say. “That’s what you get when you relax the dress code,” is a particular favourite.

Rubbish. There are plenty of immaculately-dressed players who don’t know one side of a rake from the other and, though some might find this hard to hear, an awful lot of them are members.

What do we do when we’ve clearly identified an offender? Give them a rap on the wrist and tell them not to do it again, or should we consider taking more decisive action?

If you’ll allow me to be the candidate for the outraged, here are my three manifesto commitments for dealing with bunker etiquette flouters…

etiquette

Education, education, education

Anyone who’s ever been caught speeding – I wouldn’t know anything about that – often has a choice. Take the fine, and the points, or pay to go on one of those mind-numbing remedial classes.

I’m told they are awful – a journey not so much of self-awareness as a half-day of being poked at and told you’re a terrible person for risking the lives of everyone around you.

Instead of watching harrowing videos of road accidents, maybe we can show etiquette criminals images of once proud greens that have been reduced to desiccated landscapes after being peppered with too many pitchmarks.

Or players sent half crazy after finding their ball embedded in another footprint in an unraked bunker.

Stay at home this weekend (and next)

Except those classes never really stop people speeding, do they? So for those who’ve had a warning, and still can’t be chewed to pick up a rake, we’ve got to find a way of compelling them to do so.

The scorecards you own, and every sign you’ve ever seen at a golf club, urge you to respect the course – and that means raking your bunkers, repairing your pitch marks and fixing your divots.

If you’re still failing to tidy up after yourselves then a spell away from the cut and thrust of club competition will show that we’re quite serious.

And if that message hasn’t hit home? Well, don’t bother turning up at all for a couple of weeks. Perhaps a short suspension will help get your head in order.

No bunker etiquette? Time you found somewhere else to play

This is the pie-in-the-sky last resort for those who simply can’t be brought to heel no matter what you do.

But golf clubs are now so panicky about losing members that I can’t think of many that would be prepared to countenance this kind of drastic solution.

And that’s really part of the problem, to be honest.

One of the issues with golf club proliferation is that it really isn’t that difficult to get into somewhere anymore.

etiquette

At my current club, I filled in a form, handed over my debit card and was on the course five minutes later.

If I don’t like what I find I can be out of the door a few weeks later and checking in to a new facility.

So clubs bend over backwards to keep everyone happy and if that sometimes means turning a blind eye – or limiting any sanctions to the same email they’ve sent out 100 times before – then so be it.

This kind of inaction is counter-productive. What about the man-hour and maintenance costs spent in raking and repairing? How much more would the greenkeepers be able to do if they weren’t spending half their Mondays sorting dents in the green, or tidying up footprints?

And if people are prepared to show that lack of respect when it comes to these simplest of tasks then where does that end?

Isn’t it better, in those cases where you’ve laid down the law and it still hasn’t worked, to just ask them to leave?

There will be a short-term hit but the message will be clear: “We are not going to tolerate this any more.” Then we can all start pulling together to keep our courses looking fantastic.

Right, I’m off to make some placards.

Are there serial bunker etiquette offenders at your club? Let us know in the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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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