U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

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Golf's 5 Sacred Rules

By Jerry Tarde Photos by Getty Images
September 28, 2009

There are some basic rules that apply to all private golf clubs in America, except for possibly California, where the laws tend to be a bit more lenient. We're not talking about stroke-and-distance, but behavior around the club:

1. The most important: Never throw a club in anger.

2. Do not change your shoes in the parking lot. (Perfectly OK at a public course, but the locker room at private clubs is preserved as the last bastion of golfing ablutions.)

3. No blue jeans, even the expensive kind.

4. Take off your hat when you go indoors or when sitting down to eat.

5. No cell phones on the course or in the clubhouse. (One club I know is very tough on this: Mobile phones are only permissible sitting in your car in the parking lot with the windows rolled shut. A friend of mine adheres to this rule with his convertible top down.)

Missing, of course, is the no-swearing statute. I've got mixed feelings here. One high-ranking golf official tells me that profanity is the genius of English elocution, so multifarious is a certain word that it brings unrestrained joy to the act of playing golf. This came up in a discussion over whether certain tour players should be fined. We agreed they just need to smile more.

Despite changing mores and a deeply down-turning economy, I'm onboard with the 5 Sacred Rules except for telecommunications. Golf needs to keep up with the times and if we don't, we may not have private clubs to kick around anymore.

Mobile phones and PDAs are part of modern life. I used to think golf was an escape from the clattery world personified by an ear with a cell phone attached. But I now realize it's unavoidable and maybe even good for the game. I won't argue that an emergency far from the clubhouse can be averted by a cell call, or even that checking your PDA at the turn allows you the peace of mind to be away from the office on a Friday afternoon. My main point is that young people think of a mobile phone as a natural appendage, and we're cutting off a generation or two of golfers if we don't welcome them into the game right now.

Of course, this isn't a license for boorish manners or slow play -- the practice should be to minimize use; keep voices low; do it in the locker room, not the dining room; don't hold up play.

Golf clubs have an opportunity to set the standards for good behavior with these devices. Putting our heads in the sand and hoping they go away is just not a realistic answer.