Football Penalties As They Relate To Golf Course Maintenance

By Larry Gilhuly and Derf Soller, agronomists, Northwest Region
December 13, 2011

It’s that time of year when attention diverts away from playing golf outdoors (except in warmer climates) and spending more quality time watching large human beings hit each other with force and purpose on the football field. During this time of year it is also a good time to reflect on the game of golf and look at the profession of golf course maintenance from various angles. 

In football, there are numerous penalties called when rules are broken.  Some can completely change the direction of a game or season.  The same applies for golf course maintenance.  Let’s look at the names of these penalties and how they relate to golf and golf course maintenance:

Personal foul – Talking to a golf course maintenance employee in a derogatory manner.  Major penalty that can easily be avoided.  Forget your last bad shot and treat all staff members as you would like to be treated.

Illegal motion – Changing how a course is maintained due to individual preferences.  Maintenance standards are the simple answer to halting illegal motion.  If this penalty is allowed, it can destroy an entire season.

Chop block – Refusal to consider the negatives associated with trees.  Turfgrass and trees together on a golf course always result in the larger plant winning.  Tree shade removes needed sunlight, and turf and roots compete for water or nutrients.  Often, trees require removal.

Clipping – Mowing the greens too low to satisfy desired green speed by low handicap players.  The same can apply to fairways and roughs with either too low or too high mowing heights based on individual playing preference.

Delay of game – Not addressing aging equipment and irrigation.  This penalty is then aggravated when complaints start about “wet and dry” spots while the maintenance staff is trying to maintain the course with equipment that breaks down more often.

Offensive holding – Not allowing the superintendent to implement needed programs, such as aeration and topdressing, while not giving them time one day a week (usually maintenance Mondays) to conduct programs without golfer interference.

Defensive holding – The superintendent not considering programs that make sense and that are within the budget because it is “their course”.  The golf course is seldom owned by the person responsible for its maintenance.

Too many players on the field – Excessive green committee size.  All player groups (male, female, senior) should be included, but no more than five to seven are truly needed.

Unnecessary roughness – Mowing roughs too tall to make the course more difficult.  A rough at 2” or slightly under is generally enough for the majority of skill levels.

Encroachment – Not addressing reduced green size resulting from mowing many years with a triplex mower.  This also occurs commonly in warm season areas where more aggressive bermudagrass often changes original green shapes.

Illegal procedure – Hitting golf balls when the maintenance staff is not aware of your presence.

Offensive pass interference – Always parking with at least two tires on the bare soil you have created next to a cart path.

Defensive pass interference – Purposely parking your golf cart in the middle of the path to minimize wear on the edges.  This is good for eliminating turf wear on cart path edges and should not be considered a penalty!

Push in the back – Playing too fast in the early morning hours or when the golf maintenance staff needs to stay ahead of play to be more efficient.  Can often be combined with running into the kicker.

Intentional grounding – Making a deep gouge in the ground after a mishit shot and then not fixing it.

Kicking out of bounds – Not keeping the perimeter of the golf course properly marked at all times.

Unsportsmanlike conduct – Not fixing ball marks, not repairing divots, driving carts in wet/dry areas, not keeping four tires on the path near greens and tees and not leaving a bunker the way you found it.

Illegal celebration – Deep footprints on a green after making a putt.

Running into the kicker – Playing golf too early in the morning, causing the maintenance staff to either stop regular maintenance or result in a possible personal foul. 

May you all have a great holiday season and we look forward to seeing you in 2012 as part of the USGA Green Section Turf Advisory Service.  We can address all of these penalties and more as part of a half or full day visit at any time of the year.

Source:  Larry Gilhuly, or 253-858-2266 and Derf Soller, or 970-314-7670 


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