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Golf Guru

Things every golfer should know

Illustration: Joel Holland

November 2008

Q: What's the proper protocol for removing one's hat when shaking hands at the end of a round? Why do some players remove their headwear and others don't?
Michael Fiedler / Farmington, Conn.

This seems to be a newish trend on the PGA Tour. Perhaps tour recruits these days are indoctrinated on the importance of signing thousands of autographs a day, giving safe and colorless quotes to the media, and removing one's hat on the 18th green, grinning and then shaking hands with everyone in sight. And as with all tour habitspointlessly pacing on the greens, spitting, the six-hour roundthe weekend golfer obediently follows suit.

Hats used to be more common in the old days. There was a time when it would have been considered unforgivably rude or even insane to be seen outdoors without a hat. (Look at the crowd in any photo of a pre-war golf tournament—everyone is dressed like Humphrey Bogart saying goodbye to Ingrid Bergman at the airport.) There were many complicated hat niceties—what kind to wear and when, and how to doff and remove the thing. The strict observance of these Victorian rules was of paramount importance.

The world is different now—does anyone, for instance, still ask a father for his daughter's hand in marriage? But some hat etiquette still exists. Would you keep your hat on at a loved one's funeral? During your high-profile, nationally televised court case? While receiving your Olympic gold medal as the national anthem is played? In the Butler Cabin? I'd hope not. Many an American golfer has been tut-tutted in stuffy British clubhouses for wear-ing a hat indoors (not to mention for complaining about the weather, daring to ask for ice, or saying loudly: "You'd all be speaking German if we hadn't come and saved your sorry asses"). As for the 18th-green scenario, The Golf Guru always takes his hat off before shaking hands, unless I've been playing with an odious wretch. It's a sign of respect. If you've had a particularly good day, hurling your hat into the air in a burst of exuberance, in the manner of Lee Trevino upon winning the 1971 British Open, is also acceptable.

Q: Instead of chipping or pitching from off the green, I use the putter. My playing partners look at me like I'm crazy. Is it bad form?
Andy Dreger / Winnipeg

There's nothing wrong with the "Texas wedge." Especially because a bad shot with a putter from off the green almost always ends up better than a bad shot with a wedge (e.g., skull, chunk, flub, duff, shank). And in all of our lives, often it's how good our bad shots are—not how good are good shots are—that really counts.

Send your questions to the Golf Guru.

Joel Holland
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