Is setting your golf bag on a tee box an etiquette no-no? | Ask the Etiquetteist

a golf bag on a tee

Placing golf bags on tee boxes is a common practice. But is it poor form?

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Jim from Portland, Ore., writes:

I’ve always made a habit of placing my stand bag on the tee box while my partners and I tee off. But at my local course the other day I was paired with a guy who said that placing a bag on a tee box is bad form. Is he right? Have I been doing it wrong all these years?

Dear Jim:

Some rules of etiquette are easier to defend than others. Take dress codes, for starters. At most courses, it is frowned upon to show up in blue jeans and a T-shirt. But why? No particular reason, other than the fact that some codgers from another era put the ban in place and people have been following it ever since. Are denim pants and T-shirts objectively “uglier” or “worse” than wool slacks and collared shirts? They are not. There is, in other words, a subjective randomness to rules around attire. Once you start asking why they exist, you realize that the explanations mostly boil down to a parental-sounding, “because we said so!” That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respect those rules. It just means that there’s no clear explanation for them, aside from an unquestioning adherence to the way things have always been.

Other rules of etiquette make more rational sense. Like, say, the expectation that you yell “fore” when your ball is rocketing toward another group. That one’s easy to explain. It’s a simple matter of safety.

Let’s look at your question in a similar light. The Etiquetteist would be interested to know why the guy in your group objected to what you did. Did he not like the “look”? Did he find it “rude” or “disrespectful”? If so, he is in the tiny minority. There is no established custom in the game that prohibits placing a bag on a tee box. Tour caddies do it. Many everyday golfers do it. You were not violating industry conventions. In the subjective sense, that is, you were in the clear.

As for the objective side of things, when it comes to where you place your bag, only three questions matter: Is it in someone’s way? Is it slowing down play? Is it damaging the turf

Unless your bag was somehow in the line of fire or impeding someone’s backswing, you were in the clear as well. You weren’t slowing things down, and you certainly weren’t damaging the turf. Take it from veteran superintendent Mark Patterson. “In most cases,” Patterson says, “tee tops are managed in the same way as fairways. So, you can do pretty much anything other than drive a cart across it.”

There are some rare exceptions, Patterson says. At a small handful of ultra-exclusive clubs, where the tees are maintained almost like greens, you might be asked to keep your bag off the tee. But that wasn’t the case here. You, Jim, were at your local course, and you happened to be paired with a ninny. Unlike your bag, he had no leg to stand on.

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