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What was the old school punishment for this etiquette crime?

It was an etiquette crime deemed unacceptable by a celebrated Victorian writer. So how did he suggest they dealt with hitting into another group and what should we do today?

 

Allow faster players to go through. “Otherwise they have no just ground for complaint if they find the tee-shots of those behind them whizzing past their ears”.

It must have been a brave group that held up Horace Hutchinson – the celebrated Victorian golfer, twice a winner of the Amateur Championship, and author of several landmark books on the game.

It is in one of these tomes, The Badminton Library (Golf), that our hero gets into golf etiquette and behaviour – in an inspiring style of writing truly evocative of the era.

Whether it was the failure to replace a divot, or whether to give a gimme (some golf debates truly are timeless), Hutchinson could be trusted to land a stern verbal punch.

He had plenty to say about those who were slow and though he had little sympathy for players who stopped a free flowing game, there was one aspect of dealing with tortoises that was abhorrent to him.

He advocated a hard line for dealing with the act of hitting into the group in front.

“In no case and under no circumstances save where a ball is lost, and permission obtained, is it excusable to drive into a party along the green, on the putting green, or before they have played their seconds”.

golf etiquette

‘Forfeited all claim to courteous dealing’: How should we deal with hitting into a group in front?

I wonder whether we should be as strict today, when some players hit their tee shots a bit too early on the grounds of “helping a group to hurry up”, and then meekly wave and utter an incoherent apology.

What should be the punishment for such a transgression as far as old Horace was concerned? He intriguingly left it open to interpretation.

But read the following language and you can just picture the nostrils flaring through every word.

“Where the parties have infringed this great commandment more than once during a round, any means combining an insistence upon your rights with adequate courtesy to the offenders is beyond our ingenuity to suggest; but it may perhaps be urged that players thus offending have forfeited all claim to courteous dealing,” he wrote.

Pretty strong stuff from the time of the stiff upper lip.

So what to do these days? Anyone can inadvertently do it once, even Horace understood that, but how should you deal with the group that keeps on threatening to perform a DIY-guillotining?

Remove their ball from play? Threaten to put their offending club where the sun doesn’t shine? Hit it right back at them?

As empty a gesture as a wave and an exhortation may seem in the heat of the moment, it’s the easiest way to signal displeasure without getting anyone arrested.

And then, whether it’s when your paths cross on a tee or green, or if it’s in the clubhouse afterwards, a calm request to think about the consequences of potentially braining someone on the bounce is preferable to a boxing match and a spell in front of the club’s disciplinary committee.

How have you dealt with a group hitting into you? Was it calmly resolved or did it all end in tears? Let me know your experiences of this golf etiquette dilemma by leaving a comment on X, formerly known as twitter.

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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