How many times has this happened to you? Your ball bounces into rough thick enough to smother a buffalo after your opponent’s mobile phone starts cranking out the latest Lady Gaga tune while at the top of your backswing.

   Bummer – huh? I hate when that happens. Some hackers (a/k/a unskilled golfers) lack golf etiquette and will employ all sorts of tricks to win a match. Loud burps or coughs are too obvious, but hackers like Mr. Geary have sometimes been known to resort to whispering to your partner or tapping a tee in irregular patterns as a successful distraction. Then, sure enough, when the hacker is one or two down, there he is again doing the slapping-the-mosquito routine. Funny, but true!

   The Royal & Ancient game of golf is one helluva hard game. Dedicated and diligent duffers must not only deal with the demanding elements of the game, including a gazillion rules, but it must also pay attention to the rules of golf etiquette. Those new to the game should remember that golf is supposed to be enjoyable and you don’t have to be good to have a good time.

   According to The Official Duffer’s Rules of Golf as approved by The Great American Duffer’s Association and The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of West Divot, Florida here are a few suggestions on proper course etiquette, including an unremarkable section on mobile phone usage.  (1) Never put tees in your nose. (2) Never sneeze into your glove. (3) Never concede a chip shot. (4) Never hold a ball for another player to hit. (5) Never practice drives against a backboard. (6) Never wear golf shoes to a dance. (7) Cell phones are permitted on handicap holes 1-9 only if your handicap is 9 or less (8) Cell phones are permitted on handicap holes 10-18 if your handicap is 10 – 18. (9) If your handicap is above 18 then you are not permitted to use a cell phone because you should pay attention to your game. (10) Cell phones are permitted only in designated areas of the locker room with white markings. (11) Texting is an absolute no-no. (12) Tweeting is subject to possible expulsion. (13) Never play golf unplugged. (14) Use of another member’s cell phone is subject to paying for an open bar bill from 5-6 pm on a Friday night.

   The use of mobile phones on the golf course is strictly forbidden in practically all clubs, but I don’t see clubs enforcing the policy. Cell phones are everywhere and nobody’s getting disciplined – whether it’s driving a car, which is much more dangerous, or on the fifth green at a private club. Youth today are the generation of “ing” – texting, tweeting, instant messaging and social networking. Technology is second nature to us all and cell phones give us instant communication with business colleagues and friends. Also, the cell phone is an important part of making a decent living wage for many golfers, regardless whether the exchange is on the course or at the office. And, golf is not cheap!

  On a serious note, all players should practice golf etiquette and know the proper way to conduct oneself on the course. In the early days, etiquette was a series of unwritten rules as it involved nothing more than common sense and good manners. However, as golf underwent extensive growth, it was discovered that the etiquette was not being passed along adequately. Today, the extreme importance of etiquette can be seen in the fact that it is placed first in the official edition of the USGA rules of golf under “Section I – Etiquette; behaviour on the course.” Breaches of golf etiquette are not penalized with penalty strokes, but rather by disciplinary measures, such as warnings or suspensions.

   A golf buddy like Mr. Geary is one who can remember every shot you missed but doesn’t bother to remind you. A golf buddy will show class and courtesy and put his cell phone on vibrate while playing 18 holes!

  Who would’ve thought that Lady Gaga’s No. 1 single called “Telephone” has a message for golfers when she croons: “Stop callin’, Stop callin’, I don’t wanna talk anymore…Can call all you want but there’s no one home, And you’re not gonna reach my telephone.”     


(Tom Gorman, a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, International Network of Golf and Golf Travel Writers of America, is a Boston-based freelance golf writer.)