Golf Rules on Spitting on a Green

By M.L. Rose

The sight of athletes spitting, particularly on baseball diamonds, is hardly unusual. Spitting on the golf course, however, is a different matter. Golf is still viewed as a game played by “ladies and gentlemen,” featuring a dress code and a fairly strict code of conduct. For those who consider a golf course green hallowed ground, anyone violating its dignity can expect to hear about it.

Rules

The United States Golf Association’s Rules of Golf do not mention spitting on the green, or any similar action. The etiquette section states in part, “All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times.” Likewise, the PGA Tour has no specific rule regarding spitting. However, the player handbook does state that players should “show respect for the game of golf” while avoiding “conduct unbecoming a professional golfer” in any PGA Tour activity. A PGA Tour player found guilty of conduct unbecoming a professional may be fined, suspended and/or permanently barred from tournament play.

Woods Spits on Dubai Green

Tiger Woods was criticized for spitting on the 12th green at the 2011 Dubai Desert Classic. Woods missed a par putt, marked his ball, turned his head and spit on the green. He was later reprimanded by the European Tour, which issued a statement saying the tournament director “has reviewed the incident and feels there has been a breach of the tour code of conduct and consequently Tiger Woods will be fined.” Golf.com estimated the fine at between $400 and $16,000. Woods later sent an apologetic Twitter post, saying, “The Euro Tour is right -- it was inconsiderate to spit like that and I know better. Just wasn’t thinking and want to say I’m sorry.” Woods was also seen spitting on the tee in a previous round and drew some criticism, but wasn’t officially reprimanded.

Garcia’s Hole in One

Sergio Garcia, like Woods, spit after missing a par putt on the 13th hole of the 2007 CA Championship. Unlike Woods, Garcia spit directly into the cup. In an NBC interview after the round, Garcia first admitted he spit in the hole, then stated, “I missed the putt and I wasn’t too happy. I didn’t spit, I just let it go down.” Garcia was not fined.

Bradley’s Bad Habit

After viewing television coverage of his final round at the 2012 Northern Trust Open, Keegan Bradley apologized for his habit of spitting before various shots on the course. Bradley said he wasn’t aware spitting had become such a noticeable part of his lengthy pre-shot routine. “I really had no idea I was doing it," Bradley said. "And I feel bad. It’s something that I’m going to work on.” Bradley was not officially reprimanded.

About the Author

M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

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