Dear Molly

Do I have to share yardages if I don’t want to?

Dear Molly: How do I decline to share the distance measurements I get with my rangefinder when a fellow golfer asks? I feel like it’s a tool I’ve chosen to purchase and, especially in a tournament, a tool and knowledge I don’t want to share. I did share distance once on a mountain course only to watch the other player overshoot the green and then blame me!

There’s an easy answer to your question: Just be nice and share yardages. Players aren’t breaking any rules by asking, “What did you get?” after you shoot your target, and you’re not breaking any rules by answering truthfully. As you seem to understand by your use of the term “fellow golfer,” the golf course is your shared opponent. When I shoot a par-3 from the tee, I routinely announce my number “to the flag.” I think that shows good sportsmanship and helps move play along. In the fairway, I also will announce a number if I shoot the flag and someone is nearby, or if I happen to reach their ball first and can save them time. Would you really rather not share and instead wait for fellow golfers to look for sprinkler heads and double-check pin positions for a number that you can easily offer?

As with every question, though, there are nuances:

  • One player I know had a cart mate who expected to be given yardages for every shot – even when the situation would have called for one or the other player to be dropped off. The player with the measuring device finally said, “Look, this is becoming a distraction to me and taking me from my game. I’ll share yardages from the tee on par 3s, but from there I’ll have to just leave you to it.” She suggests that if you prefer not to share, you be up front and apologetic. “Say, ‘Hey, I am very easily distracted, so I’m going to request that you not ask me for yardages during the round. Please, don’t take it personally.’ ”
  • And, I can see where you might prefer not to worry about your fellow golfers if you’re playing in the final grouping in a high-stakes or prestigious tournament, or on a professional tour. CGA Mid-Amateur champion and Les Fowler Player of the Year Colin Prater, known for his integrity in rules and etiquette situations, says, “I always give the info, but I definitely have encountered or played with multiple guys who won’t. I don’t see what the big deal is, though.” At his level, most players should expect to take their own measurements. With that expectation, if they don’t want to share, it tends not to become a sticky issue.

For the final say, I emailed Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Christie Austin, a respected standout both in officiating and playing the game fresh off a stint as head rules official for the Division I Women’s Regional at Cole Elum, Wash. “Rule 1 of the Rules of Golf introduces several principles of the game, including ‘playing in the spirit of the game,’ ” she writes, and then goes on to quote Rule 1:

“All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by:

  • Acting with integrity – for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play.
    • Showing consideration to others – for example, by playing at a prompt pace, looking out for the safety of others, and not distracting the play of another player.”

Christie concludes, “While there is nothing in the Rules requiring a player to share public knowledge, such as distances measured using their personal device, I would argue that refusing to share this public information is not acting in the spirit of the game. If a player really does not want to give another player this information, they might offer their device to the other player so they can measure the distance on their own.

“The Rules make it clear that distance on the golf course is public information. By sharing their device, they are not only being courteous but they are helping with pace of play!”

Do you have a question about golf etiquette, golf relationships or the culture of golf in Colorado? Email it to Molly McMulligan, the CGA’s on-the-course advisor on how to have more fun on the golf course. Her creator, researcher and writer is golf journalist and CGA member Susan Fornoff.


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