"Don't be the douche bag on the course today."
We have all walked up to our lie and said to ourselves “I should throw a big anhyzer S curve around that tree,” then thought better of it, and taken the more direct route. I frequently want to take both shots and compare how they turned out and integrate the results into the canon of my experience. But, as with anything on the course, there are etiquette rules that we should follow when playing a practice round or taking extra shots.
Everyone wants to get out and play a round. Sometimes that just isn’t the best way to improve your game. I’ve found that my game improves best through practice, particularly putting practice. I know that I need to develop new parts of my game to keep moving up and compete at a higher level.
I have a hard time integrating new shots and discs into my game because I don’t like the hit my score takes when I experiment. A couple ways to develop new aspects of your game while you are on the course are practice rounds and extra shots.
I realized that practice rounds could be an etiquette problem one day when a buddy and I saw a California pro tee off in front of us at a local course. At first, we were very excited to have the chance to watch a pro play a round of golf. Soon we found out that the pro was playing a practice round, taking 4 or 5 drives from each tee, approaching from most of his lies, and putting until he was out of putters on each green.
It did not take long before we became quite annoyed at waiting for 5 minutes on every tee pad for a single. There were so many throws that we couldn’t even really learn anything.
On the 4th hole, the pro lost a disc in the water and motioned for us to play through. We each took our drives. As we approach our lie the pro finds his drive, quickly approaches to the pin, rushes to the basket, taps in, and hustles to the next pad. All while we stand there befuddled.
We spent the entire round watching him spray extra shots all over the course and stay just far enough in front of us not to let us play through yet make us wait at each tee pad. This was the moment I started thinking about rules for practice rounds and extra shots and turned a bad round into a learning experience.
The base rule is to not take an extra shot while there are players waiting. The second putt at a basket can be tempting. This second putt can also be one of the more dangerous exceptions you can make. If you aren’t taking your time and following your pre-putt routine, how much good is the second putt really doing? It can actually hurt your game because it could discourage focus. Sometimes, when there is no one following me on a course, I will play a round where I have to make two putts on a hole to score the birdie.
A personal rule I developed for practice rounds is that I decide before the round what kind of round I am going to play. In general, I score every round I play – except the occasional social round where I know I am chatting too much to take it seriously.
Deciding to not score a round mid-way because you are playing poorly is counter productive. Decide before the round that you are going to throw more backhands, overhead shots, or rollers and don’t score the round. You should then also make the conscious commitment to not interfere with anyone else’s round.
These rounds are best done on an empty course but with careful attention you can take some extra shots or have a practice round on a busy course. The occasional second throw on a busy course is okay but once you start holding up other groups it is time to start letting groups play through – see part 1 of the etiquette series.
The true value of the practice round is to be unencumbered by the pressure of having groups wait on you. Playing as a single is one of the best ways to alleviate this pressure. When you are taking extra shots in a group it increases the chances that you will mess up the flow on the course. When playing a practice round on a busy course, not scoring the round is the best way to avoid holding up other players.
Picking a single aspect of your game to work on can also help prevent unnecessary hold-ups. Practicing a new type of drive, developing a new approach, and refining your putting routine at the same time makes it impossible to keep from interfering with other golfers. Take multiple drives but pick up all the drives and move on.
The real danger is when we try to play a scored round and try to work in practice shots at the same time. It is worse when we play a scored round with friends who might be trying to play seriously; you might annoy your friends as much as other groups on the course.
Either play a scored round with friends or play a practice round where you go out of your way to let everyone play through. Take a single extra shot only when conditions allow but make sure that you follow all of your routines or there is no value in taking the extra shot in the first place.
We all need practice. We all have different things we need to practice. Sometimes throwing in a field just doesn’t cut it. We can all get the practice we need without interfering with the enjoyment of the rest of the golfers on the course.
Practice rounds and extra shots are necessary, just use discretion when you use them.