When golf courses puncture greens, do they have to notify you in advance?

Perforated greens are a necessary evil but still not fun to encounter.

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We come to you this week with a story of crushing disappointment, suffered by a friend of the Etiquetteist who booked a tee time on a coveted course only to learn, when checking in at the pro shop, that the greens had been punched and sanded.

Talk about a buzzkill.

In addition to being discouraged, the Etiquettiest buddy was irritated. The course, he said, hadn’t warned him in advance. It also did not offer discounted rates for greens.

And so there he stood on the long-awaited day, being asked to pay full freight for a diminished experience. It was like buying a ticket to Disney World and finding out that half the rides were closed. It was too late to cancel or postpone. He had nothing else to do but fume.

punched green

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Josh Sens

The course was just doing what all courses need to do to keep their greens healthy. Was my friend right to feel so wronged?


Just as golfers are expected to respect the course, the ethical contract works in reverse. Nothing less than full disclosure is acceptable. The Etiquetteist verified this sentiment with several course operators, and all agreed.

“We always let our golfers know when we’re airing,” one operator said. “But we also know that not all courts do that.”

Not all courses provide the information in the same way either. Some post their airing schedules on their websites in hard-to-find places no more likely to be read than the fine print on an auto insurance policy. That’s insufficient, no different than a golfer half-filling a divot. The course may try to hide in denial, saying it made the information public. But, really, a good faith effort was not there.

The popularity of third-party booking services further complicates matters. In these cases, the courses must inform these brokers, and these brokers must pass the information on to golfers.

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Josh Sens

Whether an airing course should be required to offer discounts is another question.

Golfer expectations vary from property to property; what players will tolerate on a scruffy muni may not be the same as what they are willing to put up with on a big-money resort course. Plus, not all sanding and punching jobs are equally disruptive. A little airing with light top dressing can go virtually unnoticed, but not punctures in pothole-sized greens covered in an avalanche of sand.

It is the responsibility of the course to ensure that these and other details (temporary greens, for example) are as clear as possible to the golfing public, so that players can make an informed decision.

Golf isn’t always fair. On the course, you never know when the next bad break will come. The check-in counter is another story. There’s no reason for us not to know.

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A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes to all GOLF platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Have Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.

Michael C. Ford