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rules of watching golf

The rules you must obey when you’re watching golf

Popping along to Hillside for the British Masters this weekend? Steve Carroll reveals the ground rules all spectators must follow for an enjoyable day
 

There’s nothing like a bit of live golf. Whether it’s getting up close and personal to your heroes, or ducking out of the way of one of their errant drives, the thrill of being in the crowd is tough to beat.

But if you’re on your way to the British Masters at Hillside know that there’s more to being a seasoned spectator than simply following a trio whacking a ball around a field.

There are laws you must follow if you’re not going to stand out from the crowd, so here’s our six of the best guide to making the most out of your day at the golf.

Rules of watching golf: Always put the players on a pedestal

These are not just golfers, they are sporting gods and we are scum not fit enough to clean their wedges.

So you must applaud all shots at all times, even when Joost Luiten’s chunked chip – a shot so heavy the divot threatens to fly further – only just makes the front portion of the green on the 11th.

Or when he unleashes what sounds uncomfortably like an F-bomb after spending much of the time the ball is in flight barking at it to get up on the 14th.

Remember, always clap – politely, we’re not in the circus – at every opportunity.

Rules of watching golf: Form a tight perimeter

rules of watching golf

Whenever a ball bounds into a spectator area you get a scene resembling the Massacre at Hardhome in Game of Thrones.

There’s bodies everywhere and people chucking themselves off mounds to try and get as close as possible to that sacred speck of white.

But once everyone is in position, magic happens. We go from something out of World War Z to a formation that would please any military commander.

I can only describe it as a kind of Viking wall, with a line of mobile phones acting as the shields.

It’s a movement that flows back, forwards or sideways in perfect motion when instructed by a marshal or, as is more likely, an increasingly irritated caddie.

Cherish such moments when they arrive. To be part of such a fortification is special indeed.

Rules of watching golf: Make sure you find the highest ground

rules of watching golf

When the crowds start filling the course know that there’s a golfing tsunami heading your way and you’d better be prepared.

It’s imperative to find the highest point possible and plant your flag like you’re some kind of polar explorer.

If the incline doesn’t come with a base camp established half way up, and oxygen masks aren’t in ready supply, then it’s not steep enough. Think Sir Ranulph Fiennes and you’re getting the drift.

It doesn’t matter either if there is absolutely no one on the fairway below. Even if you could get close enough to smell what the players had for lunch you must remain in place.

Rules of watching golf: Act like you’re an expert

I used to cover snooker in a former life and you’d see this phenomenon all the time. Alan ‘Angles’ McManus would fashion some extraordinary five cushion escape and a guy wearing an ‘I love Ronnie’ T-shirt would pipe up arguing he knew exactly the pace and cushion reaction to pull off the shot. Yeah, right pal.

Golf is no different if the conversation Matt Wallace had with his caddie just off the 11th fairway is any guide.

The Englishman had a scruffy lie in some semi-rough, the ideal sort of conditions for a flier, and was debating where to land his wedge on the green to get the best result.

He had 87 yards in and worried that if he hit it pin high it would fall off the back to oblivion with a hard bounce.

When he elected to knock it a bit shorter, and pulled it off, a wise owl next to me exclaimed he’d been ‘absolutely right’ to take on that shot.

As if he wouldn’t have knifed it right through the green and into the trees…

Rules of watching golf: Watch the pros – you might learn something

Forgive me, I’m not talking about the participants here. Watching Lee Westwood perform a perfectly executed iron shot into a green, or skip a putt over two tiers to within a foot, isn’t going to help your 20-handicap game in the slightest.

Instead limit your observations to something that might actually be of use next time you are out on the course.

Such as how to correctly rake a bunker, for example (it’s away from the face), or how you can use a tee peg to repair a pitch mark without taking half the green with you.

We’ll all get far more out of this than trying to emulate a flop shop from a tight lie only to fan it into a playing partner’s midriff.

Rules of watching golf: You can’t peel off what you haven’t brought with you

We had a hot summer last year and now everyone thinks England is the Costa del Sol and not the damp, cloudy, muggy mess it is for the 39 years we don’t have a once in a generation drought.

One of the funniest things at any golf tournament – and it’s caught out your correspondent this time too – is watching the line of shivering wrecks waiting to run into the merchandise tent to stock up on *hats, umbrellas, tops, coats, beanies (* add to as appropriate) after turning up only to realise it’s about three degrees and a thunderstorm is on the way.

Be warned, wrap up if you don’t want to unwrap your wallet.

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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