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Playing Through: A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf

Playing Through: A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf

by Peter Post

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There's a social aspect to golf that's unique to the sport. It's the only sport where you're building relationships at the same time that you're trying to play your best and win—and maybe close a business deal. While the rules of golf are clearly defined, the etiquette of golf is less codified. Making the wrong move can cause annoyance, errors in play, or


There's a social aspect to golf that's unique to the sport. It's the only sport where you're building relationships at the same time that you're trying to play your best and win—and maybe close a business deal. While the rules of golf are clearly defined, the etiquette of golf is less codified. Making the wrong move can cause annoyance, errors in play, or even injury—all things your fellow golfers won't forget.

Now bestselling etiquette authority and passionate golfer Peter Post explains what seasoned golfers and newcomers need to know to handle every situation with total confidence. Based on Emily Post Institute surveys on golfers' most annoying incidents on the course, Peter addresses:

  • How to deal with the biggest frustration in golf—slow play.
  • What to do if you break the cardinal rule of never being late.
  • When is a "gimme" acceptable?
  • The difference between friendly play and tournament play.
  • Dealing with sandbaggers and other cheats.
  • Do's and don'ts when playing for "a little something."

Peter Post's useful tips on the subtleties of the game—such as how and when to offer advice, strategies for speeding up play, and "piniquette"—will help longtime golfers be better companions on the course. New golfers unsure of the unwritten social rules of golf will find all the information they need to avoid embarrassment. Packed with true stories from golfers about best moments and worst behavioral blunders on the course—ranging from the sandbagger who cheated himself out of an eagle to a wardrobe malfunction that gave new meaning to the term "You're out"—this book is for anyone who appreciates the spirit of the game.

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Playing Through
A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf

By Peter Post
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008

Peter Post
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061228056

Chapter One

We're All In This Together

I could just as easily have titled this chapter "sportsmanship." Played the way it's meant to be played, golf represents the essence of sportsmanship in athletics. No other sport expects the participants to police themselves the way golf does. What's amazing to me is how, among golfers, this self-policing almost invariably leads to a reverence for following the rules.

No golfer is more legendary for his skill or his adherence to the rules of the game than the great Bobby Jones. During the play-off for the 1925 U.S. Open title at Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts, Jones set a standard for all golfers to emulate. He was addressing his ball, which had come to rest in the rough, when he suddenly stepped away. His ball had moved. No one else had seen the movement, but he had. True to the spirit of the game, he called a two-stroke penalty on himself, then continued to play. He would finish the tournament one stroke off the lead. The two-stroke penalty he had called on himself was the margin of victory.

It didn't matter that no one else had seen that tiny movement. Jones had—and in golf, that's enough. Actions like his epitomize what has become known as "the spirit of golf." Respondents to our Post Golf Survey waxed eloquentabout this spirit in all its manifestations, including:

  • The sportsmanship exemplified by the self-governing nature of the game.
  • The courtesy that golfers show each other whether they're competing for a club championship, engaging in a friendly game for "a little something," or simply playing with a regular weekly group.
  • The willingness to offer a heartfelt compliment to a competitor even as you're trying to beat him or her.
  • The camaraderie that exists between golfers.
  • The beauty of the venues where golfers play.
  • The awareness golfers have of others around them, including those within their group and those playing elsewhere on the course.
  • The willingness (and capability, thanks to the way the game is designed) of golfers of different abilities to play together and even enjoy some friendly competition on an equal footing.
  • The respect golfers who are strangers have for each other, including when they're paired for a round.

One survey respondent summed up the essence of the spirit of the game this way.

Remember the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) in all you do, and teach this to your children and grandchildren.

Awareness of Others

The golfer whom others remember fondly is the golfer who is considerate of how his actions affect others' enjoyment of the game and knows how to demonstrate this awareness. Here's a great example.

I was playing once in New Jersey, and a golfer in front of my group was trying to get in a round with his very young son. They had teed off far in front of our foursome, but we eventually caught up to them toward the end of the round, at which point our play slowed considerably. Still, we never managed to overtake them at a tee where we could play through. We didn't mind being held up—we thought it was cool that the young boy was out there—but his dad knew we might be getting frustrated at watching the little guy take his cuts. Just as they were coming off the eighteenth green, the beverage cart drove by them. The next thing we knew, as we were waiting to play our approach to the green, the beverage cart rolled down to us and dropped off four ice-cold beers—the father's way of thanking us for our patience.

This book contains lots of examples of things that can go wrong on the golf course. But for every story of how golfers have been frustrated by the actions of others, there are numerous stories of the courteous things golfers do for each other, day in and day out. One survey respondent told us how his son had made it a habit to pick up and return people's lost belongings. "I was extremely proud of my fourteen-year-old when we played golf last month. He seems to have a knack for finding people's reading glasses and other items that have fallen out of their golf carts. As we played, he kept picking up item after item as he found them, then turned them all in to the clubhouse when we'd finished the game."

Unfortunately, some golfers cringe at the sight of youngsters on a course. I can't think of a more shortsighted attitude: Golf is one of the best ways I know to instill consideration, respect, and honesty in our children. One survey respondent summed up my own feelings on this subject perfectly.

I love the game of golf, and feel that it's the one sport that encourages people to be respectful of others. That's why I get excited to see young kids becoming interested in the game. I feel it teaches them so much more than just athletic skills. The game is about courtesy and manners . . . everything that this society is losing. Too often we don't teach our young people how to be respectful. Put them on a golf course, however, and then watch how totally differently they act than they do when they are with their peers. It's amazing.


Excerpted from Playing Through by Peter Post
Copyright © 2008 by Peter Post. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Peter Post, great-grandson of Emily Post and a passionate golfer, is the author of the New York Times bestseller Essential Manners for Men, Essential Manners for Couples, The Etiquette Advantage in Business (with Anna Post, Lizzie Post, and Daniel Post Senning), and his weekly business etiquette column Etiquette at Work in the Boston Globe. The father of two grown daughters, he lives with his wife in Vermont.

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