Golf course etiquette advice from the experts In Rules of Golf, the first subject addressed is etiquette--before any discussion of rules or definitions. Of course, the United States Golf Association can't define every minute detail of etiquette, but the overriding theme is that golf is a game that involves discipline, accomplishment, integrity, companionship, and the challenge of competition . . . so play it with character. These are some of the most important rules to remember:

Safety * Before taking a practice swing or hitting a shot, make sure that nobody is standing close by or in a position to be hit by your club, the ball, or any stones, pebbles, twigs, or other objects that might be moved when you swing your club.

* Yell "Fore" loud and clear if you hit a ball in another person's direction.

* Watch your temper--throwing a golf club in anger isn't going to improve your game and it's dangerous.

* Be sure to drive your golf cart by the rules and use common sense.

Consideration for Others * The player who has the honor (the one with the lowest score on the previous hole) should be allowed to hit first.

* Don't move, talk, or stand close to or directly behind the ball or the hole when a player is addressing the ball, swinging a club, or putting.

* Don't drive your cart or walk ahead of other players before they hit their shots.

* Keep an eye on the ball when the other players in your group hit; they may need help finding their balls.

* Don't hit your ball until the players in front of you are out of range.

* Don't walk in another player's line on the green--in other words, don't step between a player's ball and the cup, because you could affect the roll of the ball with your spikes.

* After putting, take your ball out of the hole with your hand. Don't use your putter--it could damage the cup.

* Don't yell to each other. Remember, there are others on the course trying to concentrate on their shots.

* Don't over-complain about your game.

Pace of Play * In the interest of all players, try to play without delay.

* Be ready to hit your shot; don't wait until your turn to pick a club or line up a putt.

* If your group doesn't keep up with the group in front and you're holding up the group behind you, let the group behind you play through.

* If you're looking for a ball, signal the players behind you to play through as soon as it becomes apparent that you're not going to find it easily. Do not look for more than five minutes before waving the next group through. Then, let that group get out of range before you resume play.

* When the last person in your group has putted out, leave the green immediately.

* Drive or walk to the next tee before writing down scores, cleaning your club, or otherwise "dallying."

Care of the Course * Rake the sand trap before you leave it, filling in holes and footprints.

* Replace your divots from tee to green. Some courses keep a container of sand and seed right in the golf carts.

* On the green, repair your ball marks and any damage made by your spikes.

* Don't damage the green when you put down the flag stick or your bag. Don't lean on your putter (it could make a dent in the putting surface), and replace the flag stick properly in the cup before leaving the green.

* Follow the local course rules, which explain where you can drive your golf cart.

* When you take practice swings--on the tee or in the fairway--repair any damage you cause.

* Always read the score card for local course information and rules.

* Be sure to observe all signs regarding course repairs, cart-paths, flower beds, and other information.

* Pick up your tee after you hit your shot; tees can damage golf course maintenance equipment.