The Etiquetteist: 9 putting-green rules you absolutely must follow

May 3, 2019

The unwritten rules of golf are pretty much endless. We’ve got ’em on the course. We’ve got ’em in the clubhouse. And we’ve got ’em when you’re warming up to play. On that note, here are nine commandments for the putting green.

1. Mind the Signs
OK, so this is a written rule. If it says no ‘chipping’, that means no chipping. No exceptions. No excuses. What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?

Don't be this guy and not read the "No Chipping" sign next to the putting green.

2. Don’t Be a Ball Hog
This is not the driving range. There’s no need to bring a bucket. One ball should be plenty, but we’ll give you some leeway: three balls, max.

Those better not be all your golf balls on the putting green.
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3. Easy on the Putting Aids
Strings, alignment sticks and other putting contraptions can be helpful. They also can be annoying. Only set them up when the green is close to empty. Otherwise, it sends the message that you’ve unjustly claimed a hole to yourself.

4. Keep it Moving
You know those fancy short-game setups that guys like Phil and Tiger have in their backyards? When you’ve got one of your own, you can spend all day putting to any hole you’d like. Until then, you’re sharing — the practice is communal space. Take a few putts to a hole, then move on to another, so you don’t wind up hogging a single spot.

Phil Mickelson and Jon Rahm, unlike you, have more leeway on the putting green to do what they want.
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5. Let Putting Games Play Through
Putting contests are good, clean fun. If one arrives at the hole you’re using, let the players through. It will only take a minute. You can get back to missing three-footers after that.

6. Mini-Flagsticks to the Fringe
You know, you’re not required to remove those little flagsticks. But if you do, set them to the fringe. Don’t lay them on the green. There’s a good chance they’ll be in someone else’s line.

Don't bother touching those little flags on the practice green.
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7. Take Aim at a Tee
On a crowded putting green, don’t hone in on a hole that someone else is using. Find a spot along the edge, plant a tee in the turf and take aim at it. Not only is it less obtrusive, it’s even better practice than putting to a hole.

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8. Sharing is Caring
Pretty much everything you need to know about practice green etiquette you learned in kindergarten. Be considerate of others. Don’t walk in their lines or putt through them. If someone’s putting to a hole you’d like to have a shot at, wait your turn. If there are more golfers on the green than there are holes punched in it, it’s simple mathematics: somebody is going to have to share. It might as well be you.

You're not likely to be the only one on the putting green.
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9. Wedge Issues
On some practice greens, chipping is permitted. But that means chipping. Not mid-distance wedges or Mickelson-ian flops. Stick to short range touch-shots and bump-and-runs. Take care to your repair your ball marks. And remember: on a crowded green, putting takes priority. Don’t try to wedge your way into the action. Set aside your lofted club. It’s time to roll the rock.