The laws of the game may be lenient, but playing partners and greenkeepers might not be so forgiving. Steve Carroll has a warning for you hot heads

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? When Rory McIlroy slammed his driver into the tee box after a bad shot in the final round of the 2023 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?

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.

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. We’re out here 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.

What if it’s a one off? You can 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.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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