The New Rules of Golf EtiquetteDecember 13, 2016

Equipment: Oversized ball markers, non-conforming clubs, and when it's OK to borrow

They might just be clubs to you, but many golfers view their sticks in a more meaningful light, which makes sense. You’d have an emotional investment in a driver too if you just spent half your paycheck on it.

Because of this sentimental feeling towards golf equipment, dealing with club-related matters can be risky. Here’s what you need to know regarding equipment etiquette.

Is there a limit to how big my ball marker can be?
No matter the ball marker, a good putter will ask his partner or opponent to move the coin/button/tee if it’s in his line. If that’s the case, why not use a poker chip? Coins can dig into your pockets, be a hassle to put in-and-out, and -- depending on the color of the green -- occasionally be a nuisance to relocate. Poker chips can be gaudy, but you’ll never lose it, be it in your pants or on the dance floor.

Am I allowed to try one of my playing partner’s clubs?
Touching someone’s clubs used to be on par with making a pass at a man’s wife. Forget doing it; you shouldn’t even THINK about it. Now the club protocol has slightly changed (for equipment, not adultery). While you should never grab one’s bats without permission -- and it’s against the rules to borrow equipment during competition -- don’t feel shy about asking your partner to see or hold their golf clubs. Preface it with, “I’m thinking about buying this as well. Mind if I take a look?” If you really want to butter them up, tell them how great they’re playing with said club, as they’ll be more likely to let you see firsthand. As for swings, choke up and take a light hack, making sure you don’t make contact with the ground or grass. Pass on actually hitting a shot, unless it’s a putter. The last thing you want to do to your friend’s $500 is accidentally break it.

What about all the other stuff people carry. What exactly should I have, too?
Club cleaner: Yes. Nothing wrong with keeping your grooves dirt-free.

Ball retriever: No. The ability to recover a ball from the drink will save you a few bucks, but it comes at the expense of your dignity.

Putter cover: Yes. You’re going to use this weapon for at least half your shots. Do whatever it takes to keep the putter in mint condition.

Iron covers: No. They’re fine for air travel, but golf takes long enough as is. Constantly uncovering and rewrapping each iron after every shot will merely prolong the round.

Stroke counter: No. Dammit, man, put that thing away. We’re in public. Besides, we created one of those things years ago. It’s called a scorecard.

Is it OK to use non-conforming equipment?
Depends. Do you play most of your golf alone, or is your usual foursome a mellow group? Then go for it. Many voices in golf are championing ways to instill excitement into the game. Non-conforming clubs are one of those avenues. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t even think about playing anyone for money with an illegal stick in your bag. While we are open to making the sport fun, golf, at its core, is a game of integrity. And that means upholding the regulations set for by the USGA.

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