By: Charles W. Boatright
Importance of Situational Awareness in Golf
The 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship indicates the importance of The Mental Rules of golf for situational awareness and sportsmanship. The Mental Rules of Golf teach the player about the game of golf and, more importantly, fundamental life skills. There is one important lesson that everyone needs to be cognizant of, and that is, the situational awareness of the sport of golf. With every opportunity to make par or better comes responsibility and awareness of the consequences of our decisions. Even the minor decisions that we make on the golf course can have unintentional consequences. Such was the case with the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship on the 19th hole.
In the quarterfinals of the USGA 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship that was held at the Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Missouri, the match was between Erica Shepherd and Elizabeth Moon. On the 19th hole, Shepherd missed her putt that was conceded to her by Moon. Moon attempted a three-and-a-half-foot putt that she missed by five inches to the right of the hole. Moon, not waiting for Shepherd to concede the putt to her, took her putter and retrieved her putt to practice the same putt from approximately the same distance and location.
The Controversy at the U.S. Girls’ Championship
Shepherd’s golf coach asked Erica, “Did you concede the putt to her?” Erica replied to her coach, “That she didn’t.” Juli Inkster right in mid-sentence stated, “Just a little quick and Erica Shepherd lives …” Moon was assuming her putt was conceded, as she moved her golf ball to practice the putt again, and this is when the controversy started.
Situational Awareness is one of the golfer’s most important mental rules of golf to be developed. This includes knowledge of the rules of golf, while adhering to procedures governing both stroke or match play. Under the rules of golf, a putt can’t be implied, but has to be verbally given. Once a concession is given, it is irrevocable.
It was clear from the video that Moon retrieved her putt that she had missed before it was conceded. It appeared that Shepherd didn’t have time to inform Moon of her decision on the concession of the putt.
From the video replay, Moon retrieved her ball as soon as the ball came to rest, to within about five inches of the cup. Shepherd, who stated that she was going to concede the putt, didn’t have time to inform Moon of the concession before Moon retrieved her ball. The delay of Shepherd notifying Moon of her decision to concede was Moon prematurely moving her ball before the concession.
Importance of The Golfer’s Mental Rules of Golf
A great procedure to develop in one’s mental rules of golf is:
- If you are going to make an assumption, assume that you are going to have to make the putt under match or stroke play. Also, make a mental rule not to even look to your opponent for their decision. Make your opponent call you off the putt with a concession.
- If you have completed the hole and your opponent is in the process of making their putt, don’t walk off the hole until you have either conceded the hole or allowed your opponent to complete the putt.
- If your opponent has conceded the putt, use echo-protocol and confirm their concession (i.e., “Can I pick-up the ball?”). This will confirm the putt has been conceded.
2015 Solheim Cup Controversy
In the 2015 Solheim Cup, the European player walked off the green as soon as the American player missed her putt. Thinking that the putt was conceded, the American player picked up her ball. The other European playing partner stated that the putt hadn’t been conceded. True, it hadn’t been, but one of the European players had walked off the green.
As a part of golf etiquette, in either stroke or match play, don’t walk off or away from the green until your opponent has either putted out or you have conceded the putt to them. Erica Shepherd was within her right to either concede or not to concede the putt to Elizabeth Moon, even for five inches putt. But in this case, Moon retrieved her ball before a decision could be rendered from Erica Shepherd on conceding the putt.
The Eighth Mental Rule of Golf
There is a Proverb that states- Be sure that everything is done properly and in order. This is one of my eight Mental Rules of Golf in Section 5.8 of my book, The ESPY Golf Swing Coach.
Two of the biggest allies the golfer has on the golf course, besides displaying sportsmanship, are patience and situational awareness. Both of these allow the golfer to utilize their Mental Rules of Golf and Game Management to make the best decision and give them a mental edge. Take your time to verify all situations and ask questions, don’t assume anything on the course or in life.
To learn how to develop your Mental Rules of Golf and situational awareness, purchase your copy of The ESPY Golf Swing Coach from the links below, or visit your local bookstore:
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A Recommendation for your Golf Game:
I would like to recommend a wonderful radio program that I regularly listen to on my I-Heart Radio app on KARN 102.9 FM station, out of Little Rock, AR. They air a golf show called “Arkansas Fairways and Greens,” at 7:00 AM CT each Saturday morning, hosted by Bob Steel, Jay Fox, and Charlie Crowson.