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A Quick Guide to Golf Etiquette at the U.S. Open

The U.S. Open definitely feels like a major sporting event. The crush of people craning for a view of golf’s biggest stars. The towering grandstands that transform greens into mini-arenas. The eruptions and roars that volley across the miles of coastline.

But unlike every other sporting event you’ve attended, there isn’t a home team. There aren’t fight songs, organs or decibel meters to encourage cheering. You aren’t handed noisemakers or balloons to wave while someone lines up a 5-foot putt. There aren’t signs cleverly spelling out FOX to get you on TV.

You might be the world’s biggest fill-in-the-blank fan, but there are 156 players in the field. If your favorite player is 10 shots out of the lead, then what are you rooting for?

Golf is unique in that it is played in silence. Golf is unique in that it is played in silence.

As strange as this might sound, golf fans are cheering for everyone. Sure, a Tiger Woods cheer is noticeably louder and longer than one for anyone else, but there is respect for all competitors.

As strange as this might sound, golf fans are cheering for everyone. They are rooting for great shots, celebrating birdies and congratulating well-earned pars. Sure, a Tiger Woods cheer is noticeably louder and longer than one for anyone else. But his playing partner is also cheered and respected.

Golf is unique in that it is played in silence. And while a murmur might travel through the gallery if a shot hooks offline, tumbles short, or rolls wide of the hole, a century of golf etiquette and decorum dissuade booing or cheering poor results.

Attending your first U.S. Open? Here are a few quick pointers about golf etiquette:

Silence Your Cell Phone

This photo is a bit of a time capsule. It’s Woods in the third round of the 2010 U.S. Open on the 17th hole. The only camera you see is the TV camera. Everyone else is fully present, watching the shot with their own two eyes, not through the screens of their phones.

You can bring your phone to the championship, as long as the screen is smaller than 7 inches diagonally. It must be silenced at all times. Calls are permitted from designated fan zones only, away from play. You can take photos and video, but only for personal use. Just remember to look up from your phone once in a while. Pebble Beach is one of the most beautiful settings in professional sports, and you have the chance to see the best golfers play it in the toughest conditions. Enjoy the moment.

Wait to Cheer Until the Ball Has Been Hit

There has been a recent temptation to time the cheering of a shot with the moment a ball is hit – perhaps to hear yourself on TV. Yes, football, basketball and baseball games are played with constant crowd noise, but the cheering almost acts as white noise. Golf is played in silence, so a startling sound in your backswing can easily induce a flinch. These players are competing on the toughest setup in golf. There’s no need to unfairly make it more difficult for them. It’s also an offense as serious as running onto the playing field. If you intentionally yell while a player is hitting, your day in the gallery will be over.

Yes, football, basketball and baseball games are played with constant crowd noise, but the cheering almost acts as white noise. Golf is played in silence, so a startling sound in your backswing can easily induce a flinch.

Keep the Cheering Positive

For better or worse, sports stars are the target of taunting and heckling from opposing fans. Whatever your stance is about how appropriate that behavior is in other sports, it is not tolerated in golf. For centuries, golf has been grounded in mutual respect, and this expectation has carried over to its fans. Cheer great shots, encourage players after mistakes – just don’t make it personal.

We hope that you have a blast at the U.S. Open – and that everyone around you does, too!

Photography by TGO Photo and Pebble Beach Company.


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