The putting green is the area of the course that can make or break anyone’s score. That is why it is important to follow the basic rules and procedures to keep the peace in your foursome.

Here are five must-dos to remember whenever you encounter the putting green.

Let’s get started.

Repair Pitch Marks

shutterstock_414962902

If the green is soft and your ball hit the ground from a decent height and speed, you will most likely see a small dent in the grass where your ball landed. This is called a pitch mark or ball mark, and it should be repaired as soon as possible to protect the putting green from lasting damage.

It’s helpful to have a divot repair tool in your golf bag, but if you don’t have one, you can use a tee in a pinch. If aren’t sure how to repair the pitch mark, ask one of your playing companions to show you how or look up a quick video tutorial when you can.

If you see more than one pitch mark from another player who forgot to do their own housekeeping, repair that one as well as quickly as possible as long as doing so will not cause a delay or affect the pace of play.

Mark Your Ball

shutterstock_118171498

Once you reach the putting green, you’re allowed to lift your ball so that you can clean it or remove it from another player’s path. But before you pick it up, you must first put a ball-marker down. Place your ball-marker on the green just behind your ball and then lift the ball from the green.

When it is your turn to putt, place your ball back down on the green, just in front of your ball marker in the exact spot it was on when you lifted it. If you make your putt with the marker still down on the green, you’ll earn a penalty, so be sure to pick it up and put it back on your hat or in your pocket!

You are not required to mark and lift your ball, but it’s a great habit to be in because it can cause the person putting to incur a penalty if their ball in motion hits yours.

Good etiquette that promotes great pace of play would be to walk right up to your ball, mark it and lift it, without saying a word.

Clear the Way

shutterstock_1511250761

Good golf etiquette is important everywhere on the course, but especially so on the putting green. We all want to be able to focus and minimize our putts, so it is best not to speak or move distractingly while others are putting. Notice where the other players’ golf balls are on the green, and even pay attention to your shadow, which can fall over a player’s line,, the path between their ball and the hole, especially when it is quite long in the later afternoon hours!

The traditional order of play on the green is for the player whose ball is farthest from the hole to putt first, but if they aren’t ready and you’re not playing in a competition, it’s a good idea to play ready golf while avoiding walking on anyone’s line.

While waiting for others to putt, this is a great time to look at the green for changes in color of the grass, which can help you identify the terrain of the green. Watch what the other player’s balls do on the green when they putt and take in as much information as you can, such as how hard you think they swung at the ball, and the line they took.

Sometimes this info can help you get a plan for you own putt, but let’s be honest with ourselves here—we probably aren’t able to sink 40 footers no matter how long we study the green, so do all this as quickly as you can.

Obstacles on the Green

shutterstock_630396563

As you take a look at your intended line of putt, you may see some things on that line that could affect the way the ball rolls. If another player’s ball-marker is on your line you can ask them to “span their marker”, which means moving the marker a putter club-head to the right or left. Be sure to span it back to the original spot before replacing your ball and making your own putt.

The rules of golf provide a player with three options for the flagstick once you reach the green. Attend it, remove it, or leave it in. We’ve been leaving it in during the pandemic (and we’ve gotten pretty good at it) but once the safety guidelines relax a bit, we will have the option to also remove or attend it.

If most of the players would like the flagstick removed, the player whose ball is closest to the hole might be the one to remove the flagstick. You’ll do this carefully so as not to damage the grass around the hole, and you’ll place it down on the green in a location that is not in anyone’s line. If someone’s ball-in-motion does happen to be headed towards the flagstick on the ground, or anyone’s equipment, it is okay to quickly move those objects out of the way of the ball. If you don’t quite get there in time, and the ball accidentally hits those items on the green, no worries, there’s no penalty, and you’ll play the ball as it lies.

A good rule-of-thumb is for the first person who finishes the hole is to stand near the flagstick that is lying on the ground and be prepared to be the one to replace it in the hole when everyone has putted out.

Attending the flagstick may have gone out of style, but in case it comes back en vogue and you’ve been asked to attend it, keep your hand on it and be prepared to lift it out quickly when the ball is close to the hole.

If you accidentally cause your ball to move on the green, whether it’s from your hat falling off your head or just kicking it accidentally, there’s no penalty and you’ll replace your ball on its original spot.

Following those simple etiquette guidelines and rules can help you and your friends care for your course, play efficiently, and sink those putts!