The Etiquetteist: Is it frowned upon to blow past your sluggish playing partners?

February 13, 2020
Stuck in a sluggish group? Here's how to proceed.

Time flies. Unless you’re playing with a sluggish group of golfers, in which case it slows to an agonizing crawl. Question is, does etiquette require you to suffer in the company of your snail-like partners? Or does it allow you to leave your group behind?

Ask around, and you’ll get different views.

Ben Peters is a San Francisco-area caddie who sees a lot of golf played by a lot of people. He also plays the game at a high level, having won the 2018 Northern California Golf Association Public Links Championship.

In Peters’ opinion, proper conduct calls for you to stay where you are.

“If you’re going to play ahead of a group, the time to do that is on the first tee,” Peters says. “Once the round starts, it’s bad form just to head off on your own.”

The Etiquetteist admires Peter’s patience and politeness. But the Etiquetteist also disagrees.

Slow play is, itself, a breach of etiquette (not to mention a violation of the Rules of Golf and a slap in the face of most club policies). Its perpetrators are either selfish or clueless, and very often a combo of the two.

That doesn’t mean you should be rude to them.

But you’re also not obliged to stick with them.

If it’s early in the round, you might try to encourage a faster pace, whether by playing ready golf yourself or by issuing gentle verbal prompts (“Hey guys, we’re falling pretty far behind here. Maybe we should pick it up a bit.”)

The problem with slow golfers, as noted above, is that they’re usually unconcerned or unaware, so your well-intentioned efforts aren’t apt to do much good.

So, what should your plan of action be?

We’re assuming here that the people you are playing with are strangers (if they are your friends, The Etiquetteist suggests that you make new ones).

We’re also assuming that at least two holes are open ahead of you and that you won’t be facing any traffic jams (abandoning your group only to have them catch you on a backlogged tee a few holes later would be awkward, to say the least).

As a general practice, The Etiquetteist advocates honesty. In this instance, though, there’s nothing wrong with a white lie.

Make up an excuse that explains why you need to get a move on. You’ve got a doctor’s appointment. You left something on the stove. You want to catch the end of “The Masked Singer” and you left the house without pressing record.

The slugs whom you got saddled with might know that you are fibbing. But they might not. And either way, it doesn’t matter.

Off you go with a clean conscience.

Out there, in the wider world, time is whipping by.

It’s not your fault that you’ve got a life to lead.

To receive GOLF’s all-new newsletters, subscribe for free here.