Is damaging a green golf's greatest sin?

When Nate Lashley dented the 16th green at Pebble Beach with an angry outburst, he damaged his reputation, too.
Nate Lashley reacts to his triple bogie by slamming his putter into the 16th green during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

What Nate Lashley did Sunday on the 16th green at Pebble Beach Golf Links was a travesty.

And I'm not talking about the four putt that cost him thousands of dollars, critical FedEx Cup points and a potential career-changing win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The thunderous Thor slam of his putter, damaging the green, was among the most cringe-worthy things I've ever seen on a PGA Tour telecast.

To me, outside of cheating, damaging the green is the biggest sin you can commit in golf. Sure, hitting on the cart girl and club tossing are embarrassing, but the greens are every golf course's sacred temple, especially at a legendary place like Pebble Beach. Even if the evidence of Lashley's dirty deed has already been repaired, the repercussions of his outburst will linger.

Every golfer can understand the embarrassment of a four putt. But this is a gentleman's game where etiquette trumps all. Lashley could have done any number of alternatives to let out his frustration. A putter toss, or a good ninja kick of the golf bag. He could have verbally abused his caddie for the four bad reads (J/K, of course). Anything but take a divot in one of Pebble's most notorious greens. The 16th is more tilted than San Francisco's steep Lombard Street.

It's also disappointing that Lashley didn't own up to his gaffe. He looked back at the damage and kept on walking. He should have turned around and started repairing it right then and there. He didn't even have to enter the confessional booth - the media center - after the round to ask forgiveness and make amends publicly. I'm sure the Tour gave him a good scolding, if not with a fine, then at least a firm talking-to.

I enjoy watching Lashley play. I texted my golf buddies during the round that we could all learn from his "high hands" follow through. He flushes the ball. I like rooting for underdogs like Lashley, but I'm not sure I can root for him anymore. Unless he comes clean with a public apology, his reputation, in my eyes, is as damaged as that hole in the 16th green.

What's the point of my rant? Treat every green like the hood of your car. Don't swipe, slash, smash or smush them after your flat stick goes AWOL. We get you're frustrated. Don't turn the incident into an embarrassing situation that leaves other golfers questioning your character.

What's the most embarrassing or sinful moment you've seen occur on a green? Let us know in the comments below.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
31 Comments
Commented on

I was disgusted when watching Lashley’s immature behavior. Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in unacceptable behavior among golfers, even at private clubs.

The only cure in my opinion is meaningful disciplinary action. From my experience, the first offense is subject to a discussion and memo to the member’s file. I may be wrong, but I would prefer a suspension of three months and a repeat violation is expulsion from a private club.

The PGA represents the role model for our young people. This means the PGA must strongly enforce etiquette expectations. I don’t care how many FedEx points he lost. I don’t care how much money he lost by 4 putting. I don’t want young people seeing this behavior. It simply is not okay and must be addressed by more than a memo to his file.

Commented on

Unacceptable behavior. He is a professional, he is 38 years old (not exactly a kid), he dang well should know better. Hopefully the Tour nails him with a hefty fine.
I have seen similar and commented loudly but thankfully all of my golf buddies have better restraint, even in competition when it goes wrong. They may throw a club but none would ever damage any part of the golf course. If they did, they would repair it immediately...and then apologize to our group.

Commented on

When you're feeling glum pop the thumb!

Commented on

JSD,
During my round one of our local courses yesterday this topic came up. I echoed virtually every point you made word-for-word. I also wholeheartedly agree with a previously stated opinion here that reminded us kids watch these tournament professionals as well. Pebble Beach should revoke his playing privileges there for at least 1 year. This hallowed course is no place for a classless excuse of a golfer.

Commented on

Golf is an emotional game. He knows what he did was inappropriate. Almost as inappropiate as the author of this article. Almost but he needs to apologize to me for misinforming me regarding the damage he supposedly did to the green and the sport.

Commented on

There is no tolerable excuse for intentionally damaging a green. Slamming any club onto any surface on a golf course is just a demonstration of bad temper and the inability to admit that he is not as perfect as he thinks others should consider him. An management invitation to play elsewhere is always an option.

Commented on

I don't think he damaged the green that much. And he did it far away from the hole. And since he was in the last group, it would have no effect on the tournament or the outcome. Should bounce his club on the green. No. Should he demonstrate his anger and frustration of being tied for the lead on the 69th hole of the tournament. No. A firm reprimand and a follow up apology by Nick along with his damaged reputation should be enough punishment.

Commented on

Did not like the action, nor the attitude, and I would never do that ... but from the video it does not seem he damaged the green ... a little exaggerated the commentary in my opinion

Commented on

Okay, first and foremost, "especially at a legendary place like Pebble Beach" doesn't even need to be included. This is a near-criminal act at ANY golf course. All of this "sacred ground", "hallowed ground", stuff is self-serving and puke-inducing. I played in an after work, Friday evening, 9 hole scramble for years at a course called Bide-A-Wee, in Suffolk, VA. while working in the area. Nice course, but not "hallowed ground". A guy in my group wanted to take the first putt at a birdie on a Par 3 (easily 25-30 feet, uphill, breaking hard left) he missed any stalked away and proceeded to drive the toe of his putter into the green up to the hosel, like he was splitting wood. I flipped out on him, and told him I'd never play in a group with him again, even if it was the only open slot for the game. Also, dressed down a close friend and neighbor for accidentally tearing a green with his putter when we were teens. Made him fix it, AND confess to the pro shop when we finished. Yes, it is the only thing that even compares to cheating, in some ways worse, because of the physical damage to the course. Don't care what course it happens on.

Commented on

The Golf Gods do not cater to gluttony....

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Is damaging a green golf's greatest sin?