Hayes from Boston writes:
The other day I was hitting balls at a crowded range with another golfer standing behind me, waiting for my spot. When I finished my bucket, I wanted to keep practicing so I got a refill — at which point the guy behind me gave me the stink eye and muttered something under his breath. He was obviously peeved that I didn’t give up my place. Was I supposed to?
What is it about “driving”? Whether it’s on the road or at the range, people are prone to fits of rage. Luckily, “range rage” is less dangerous. And easier to avoid.
For starters, let’s acknowledge that not all practice facilities are the same. Based on your description, the Etiquetteist presumes that you were at an ordinary pay-by-the-bucket commercial range, and that you weren’t there for a casual pre-round warm up. You were there to plunk down money for the right to practice.
In that scenario, it is first-come-first-served, and, unless the facility is like a seedy motel and rents its stalls out by the hour, you are free to beat balls in the same spot from dawn to dusk, seeking answers in the dirt — or Astroturf — if that’s the sort of masochistic thing you’re into, and no one can rightly fault your etiquette.
Ranges at a golf club are a different story. They are used primarily for pre-round warmups. That means that when they’re crowded, you should be mindful of people waiting and strive to work briskly through your bag until your muscles are adequately loosened and/or you have learned which miss you have brought to the course that day. Then let someone else step in.
This is not to say that you should feel compelled to rush, hitting shots so quickly that you have a new ball teed up before the previous one has landed. But you also shouldn’t go back for a refill. Be conscientious. Hitting ball after ball as another golfer looks on makes you like one of those passive-aggressive motorists who purposefully delay when they know that someone is waiting for their parking spot.
It is important to note that etiquette on crowded ranges works both ways. If you are the golfer waiting, look for someone who is hitting driver or whose bucket is nearly empty — signs that they are getting ready to wrap up their sessions. Try to avoid setting up camp behind someone who has just begun hitting, which will be frustrating to you and, quite possibly, annoying to them.
On the range, as on the road, clear communication can prevent clashes. Just as you should use your turn signal at an intersection, it’s also on you to alert other golfers of your intentions on the range. If you plan to keep hitting and someone is waiting, inform them politely of your Hogan-like ambitions: “Just to let you know, I’m going to be here for a while.”
They might not be happy. But they’d have no right to rage.