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Rory McIlroy

Is it poor golf etiquette to slam your club into the ground after a bad shot?

After Rory McIlroy made a dent in the pristine Riviera turf with his driver after a poor shot, we ask whether a club slam is bad form or an acceptable way of letting off steam

 

How is your golf etiquette?

Golf etiquette is super important, but who among us hasn’t let frustration occasionally get the better of us on the golf course? Who can cast the first stone and claim never to have had a temper tantrum after a bad shot?

I once had a mate who snapped so many clubs in anger, he set up a workstation in his house and became a pretty fine club fitter.

But where does shot rage draw the line and when is golf etiquette broken? When Rory McIlroy slammed his driver into the tee box after a bad shot in the final round of the Genesis Invitational, there were plenty who believed it to be nothing more than a momentary – and very human – lapse.

There were others, though, who pointed out the four-time major champion’s poor etiquette and upbraided him for putting a dent in the pristine ground.

So what’s the upshot from an etiquette point of view? Should it always be a no-no to perform a club slam, and can the Rules of Golf get involved?

What Golf Etiquette Should You Be Following?

Let’s take the latter first, because it’s expressly addressed in none other than Rule 1, which covers what’s expected of us all out on the course.

It says players are expected to take good care of the course, including by not causing unnecessary damage to it, and while there is no penalty for failing to behave in this way tournament committees can disqualify players for serious misconduct.

Would what Rory did at the Genesis count as serious misconduct? No. A clarification to Rule 1.2 gives examples of actions by a player that, “although involving misconduct”, are “unlikely” to be considered serious.

The very first one is: “slamming a club the ground, damaging the club and causing minor damage to the turf”.

That’s in very strong contrast to “deliberately causing serious damage to a putting green”, which saw Sergio Garcia ejected from the Saudi International after wielding his flatstick like an axe on an incredible five putting surfaces at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.

Committees can decide that battering the tee box with a driver needs to be addressed in a Code of Conduct – standards of player behaviour which the club expect players to comply with – and they can dish out penalties. These can range from a verbal warning for a first offence to penalty strokes and a DQ for those who fail to get the message.

And there are other examples in the Rules of Golf where you expressly won’t be penalised for such an action, Rule 12.2 says striking the sand in frustration or anger won’t bring a sanction unless it improves the “conditions affecting the stroke”.

But while you’re unlikely to fall foul of the Rules, is it morally right to be chopping up parts of the course in a fit of pique?

Not really. You won’t be the first or last to put on a show of bad temper but slamming a club still shows a lack of respect – not least to the greenkeeping team who have toiled away trying to make those surfaces as pristine as possible for you to strike a ball from.

It’s also bad form for your playing partners, who might start trying to avoid your name on the tee sheet if you get a reputation for being a hot head. It’s a game, after all, and we’re supposed to have fun. No one wants to spend four hours in the company of a yelling, club slamming, moron.

And before you accuse me of exaggerating, you all know one.

A One Off?

What if it’s a one off? You can probably just about get away with it. but start swishing that club like a lightsabre across multiple holes and, if you’re playing with me at least, you can expect a word in your ear.

Remember it’s only a game. Try to keep a lid on it and lower your expectations. It’s a hard sport and none of us are THAT good at it. You never know, when you can stop the club smashing, you might even enjoy it a bit more!

What do you think? Is it fine to let off steam once in a while, or is it disrespectful to your playing partners and the course maintenance staff to perform a club slam? Let me know with a tweet.

Golf Etiquette | FAQ

What’s considered the primary rule of golf etiquette?

The primary rule is to show respect for fellow players, the course, and the traditions of the game. This includes maintaining a steady pace, taking care of the course, and adhering to any local rules.

Is it acceptable to talk while someone is taking their shot?

No, it’s customary to remain quiet and avoid distractions when a player is preparing for and executing their shot.

How should I handle slow play?

Always be ready for your turn and maintain a good pace. If your group is moving slower than those behind you, it’s good etiquette to allow them to play through.

What should I do if I hit a ball into another fairway?

First, yell “Fore!” as a warning. When retrieving your ball, apologise to any affected players and ensure you’re not disturbing their play.

Are there specific rules about where to stand when another player is shooting?

Yes. Always stand out of a player’s line of sight and avoid casting shadows over their line of play, especially on the putting green. It’s a sign of respect and ensures you’re not unintentionally influencing their shot.

Further Reading

Tom Irwin

Tom Irwin

Tom is a lifetime golfer, now over 30 years playing the game. 2023 marks 10 years in golf publishing and he is still holding down a + handicap at Alwoodley in Leeds. He has played over 600 golf courses, and has been a member of at least four including his first love Louth, in Lincolnshire. Tom likes unbranded clothing, natural fibres, and pencil bags. Seacroft in Lincolnshire is where it starts and ends.

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