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Archive for Sunday, August 6, 2006

Mind your manners

Alvamar’s Stuntz offers etiquette tips

August 6, 2006

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Asked to describe the golfing style of Lawrence's most famous sports celebrity, Dick Stuntz, the general manager of Alvamar, chuckled.

"Bill (Self) is a very pleasant playing partner. He's a lot of fun to play golf with, very jovial," said Stuntz, a golf-course superintendent for nearly 30 years. "And yet he doesn't take the game that seriously."

Whether you take a Selfian approach or act as if the fate of the free world depends on your golf score, all golfers should execute proper etiquette to ensure the course remains in good condition, Stuntz said.

He offered these pointers:

Divot and ball-mark repair

If an awkward swing creates a divot, do not patch the hole back together. Doing so will leave a brown spot and impede the growth of the grass.

"You don't replace the divot," Stuntz said. "You repair the divot hole."

To repair the divot hole, use one of two methods. Many courses - including Alvamar - provide tubs of sand in their golf carts. Pour the sand to fill the divot. If no sand is available, minimize the hole by bringing the sides of the divot together with your foot or golf club.

Dick Stuntz, general manager of Alvamar golf course, demonstrates the proper etiquette for raking a sand bunker.

Dick Stuntz, general manager of Alvamar golf course, demonstrates the proper etiquette for raking a sand bunker.

Ball marks, often confused with divots, easily can be addressed as well. (A golf club creates the hole-like divot, while a golf ball causes the indentation of a ball mark.)

Common mistakes for ball-mark repair include putting loose pieces of turf back in the indentation or bringing the center of the mark to the surface, leaving a long-lasting scar on the course. Use either a pronged golf-mark tool or a golf tee to bring the healthier turf from the sides of the ball mark together. Stuntz has seen greens with clusters of 10 to 15 improperly replaced ball marks in a three-to-five-foot area.

"We'll give them an A for effort," he said, "and we'll give them a downgraded mark for their technique."

Dealing with sand bunkers

The drives of even A-plus golfers can land in a sand bunker. To avoid creating a mess, always enter and exit the bunker from the lowest part of the lip.

After hitting the shot out of the sand, employ one of the provided rakes to make the bunker appear as it did before you entered. If your playing partner hits a shot into your footprint, it could cost him or her a stroke.

"They virtually have no chance to get it out of the bunker," Stuntz said. "And in the rules of golf, that's a bad break."

Golfers are encouraged to use sand to replace divot marks on the greens. Alvamar keeps a bottle of sand for this purpose at their par-3 holes.

Golfers are encouraged to use sand to replace divot marks on the greens. Alvamar keeps a bottle of sand for this purpose at their par-3 holes.

After you have finished raking, you can place the rake in the bunker or outside the bunker; golf courses differ on this rule. Although Alvamar places the rake outside, some courses want the rakes inside the bunker to prevent a possible lawn-mowing hazard. Wherever you set it, make sure the teeth of the rake face down for safety.

Driving on (and off) the cart path

Although Stuntz lauds the efforts of most golfers in maintaining the course after errant swings, he expresses frustration with their golf-cart driving.

"I feel strongly that golfers take a high level of responsibility with their ball-mark and divot repair and raking of the bunker," he said. "I don't have that same feeling with their deportment in their driving carts."

 Good golf etiquette includes proper use of a cart, including keeping to paved paths or fairways and playing at a pace that does not slow golfers behind you.

Good golf etiquette includes proper use of a cart, including keeping to paved paths or fairways and playing at a pace that does not slow golfers behind you.

Driving gaffes include ignoring cart direction signs, veering off the cart path and on to the green and driving on the fairway during "cart path only" days. During the average day, golfers can drive on the cart path or fairway, but wet or thawing conditions may restrict golfers from driving on the fairway for both the safety of the grass and of the golfers. Some, however, choose to ride off the cart path - and off road.

"We've had dozens of carts in which we've had to pull them out the mud or out of a ditch," Stuntz said. "They get too close to a ditch during wet conditions or simply don't pay attention."

By making a conscious effort, you can avoid those towing costs, repair the greens and bunkers and ensure the course lasts for your next outing. And that applies whether you're a duffer, a seasoned pro - or the head basketball coach at Kansas University.

Tip of the week

"If you're having trouble putting, there are a couple of things you want to do. Make sure your stance is shoulder-width, and your golf ball goes toward your front foot. One of the more important things to do is to get your eyes directly over the ball. If your eyes are too far inside the golf ball, most putts you're going to miss out to the right. If your eyes are too far over the golf ball, on the outside of the golf ball, most of your putts are going to miss to your left. Having your eyes directly over the golf ball helps you see the line better as you stand over it."

- Alex Eichman is golf pro at Alvamar

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