Last month, a caddie lost his life in the line of duty. This is not a common occurrence in golf simply because there is no frontline-like battle scenario in this sport. There is no man-to-man contact. Golf involves a fair bit of walking and non-violence. It is almost Gandhian in nature. For argument’s sake, if there is any brutality involved, it is directed towards a hard-nosed dimpled ball with no feelings.
The incident I refer to took place at the Qutab Golf Course (GC) in Delhi, a busy venue as it is one of the few places in this country where you can walk in unchecked and unhindered and play a round of golf without having to spend a small fortune. It is a public course.
The fact that golf is gaining popularity in India has been spoken about for some time now. The equipment is readily available here (at prices that don’t vary drastically from anywhere else in the world) and facilities like the Qutab GC mean that you don’t have to wait an endless number of years for club membership or shell out ridiculous sums of money for access to a course. So, from a time when golf was mostly the preserve of top-level management or successful entrepreneurs and the like, we now have a healthy situation where many more people from many different walks of life and in various stages of their respective careers are taking to the sport. This is great for golf.
There is a downside to this increased appeal, something that needs to be addressed on a priority basis. In their hurry to learn how to hit a golf ball and get on to the course, many tend to overlook an integral part of the game—how to behave on a golf course or, simply put, golf etiquette. I have personally witnessed someone turning up on the first tee and then making repeated and unsuccessful attempts to put golf club to golf ball. Now a guy like that should be wearing an “Injurious to health” placard with a big skull mark on it. If those in his vicinity are fortunate, all he’ll do is hold up play, but he also has the potential to knock somebody out.
Key: Golfers must show consideration to those on the course
Reports suggest the “golfer” responsible for dealing the killer blow at the Qutab did not adhere to warnings from his own bagman to wait before he hit, with disastrous results. His golf ball struck a fellow golfer’s caddie in the head, resulting in a blood clot and internal bleeding. Despite doctors’ efforts to save him, the caddie, in his late 40s, died in hospital about a week later. The police have registered a case of causing death due to negligence against the businessman.
Golf can turn from a genteel sport into a dangerous activity if documented etiquette is not followed. After all, a golf ball can be propelled at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. The thought of being struck in a vulnerable spot by a hard projectile at that speed is scary. The scope for damage is huge.
Traditionally, conduct on the playing ground is taken seriously; so much so that the Rules of Golf, as laid down by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Scotland, has a dedicated etiquette section divided into three parts: namely, care of the course, keeping pace (pace of play) and consideration for other players. A relevant extract: “Etiquette is an integral and inextricable part of the game, which has come to define golf’s values worldwide… In terms of golf’s environment, etiquette is about showing respect for the course on which you are playing and the work that has been put in to create it. It’s about making sure that the game is played safely and that others on the course are able to enjoy the round as much as you. In short: it’s about showing consideration to all on the course at all times.”
So before you hit a shot, you need to ensure that those playing with you are out of the way and those in front of you are well out of range. Common sense, you would think. Now in the event that your golf ball happens to head in the direction of some fellow golfers, there is a laid down procedure for that eventuality too. You are expected to yell out “fore” as loudly as you possibly can. Sure there are times when you want to give in to temptation and smash one on to the green where the group before yours is preoccupied counting the blades of grass, but remember, golf is about patience.
To be fair to new converts, Rules of Golf should be mandatory reading for all followers of the game. Golf clubs and those who teach golf need to come in here. As in golfing nations around the world, clubs need to have marshals keeping an eye on proceedings without being in your face, especially on courses like Qutab, and teaching pros must make it a habit to throw in bits and pieces about golf etiquette whenever they are handing out lessons on how to swing a golf club.
Prabhdev Singh is the founding editor of Golf Digest India and a part-time golfer.
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