Golf is not just a game you play by yourself and, perhaps, your friends. It is a game you play out on the green relative to other groups and individuals who are playing at the same time. The social rules or etiquette rules are those that help us all to get along and move the game along as smoothly as possible. Here are 20 rules of golf etiquette every golfer should know.
20 Rules of Golf Etiquette
20. Practice Your Putting
A general rule of thumb is to practice your putting before you start playing on the formal golf course. Be able to follow through on a golf swing and get the ball in the cup in relatively few swings.
If you take forever to get a ball in the cup, you’re going to slow down everyone else – and golf is already a several hour commitment. If you’re not ready to play on the formal golf course, invite your friends to the putting green instead and talk there.
19. Stay on Schedule
If you booked a 3 PM tee time, show up at or before 3 PM at the tee to start playing. If you’re late, you’ll end up getting in the way of others who showed up on time. However, you shouldn’t show up more than 15 minutes before your tee time or you’ll get in the way of those that literally just came before you.
There is the possibility that you’ll end up taking longer to play than expected. If you’re starting to cause a line to form or getting in the way of others’ playing, let them play through the hole before you resume play. Then they’re able to continue on their way and you can go at your own speed.
Honor others’ schedules, too. If someone is physically slow, you could supply them with a golf cart so they can keep up with the group as they play their round. Don’t leave someone behind to get in the way of others. If you play at the speed of the slowest player, again, let others play through so that you don’t slow them down, too.
If one of the players is taking forever to hit the ball, ask them to stand aside while the rest of your group plays through. Then let them resume the trying to hit the ball. If they’re still taking too long, either ask them to return to the putting green, give up on this hole or let the rest of the group move on.
Another variation of this is respecting everyone’s time. It is perfectly fine to talk to your business buddies while you’re playing, but don’t hang around the 5th hole chatting while others wait to play.
It is universally rude to slow everyone down because you wanted to check your phone for the fifth time or respond to yet another text message.
This rule applies to putting greens, too. If you booked a time slot, show up at least five minutes early for your putting time, not five minutes late. Respecting everyone’s schedule is one of the cores of golf etiquette.
18. Don’t Distract Players
It is rude to talk to players who are hitting. Whether they are taking practice swings or actually trying to hit the ball, stay silent or talk to someone else while they are trying to focus their attention on the swing.
Take care not to distract players in other ways like taking their picture without their permission or getting too close to them while they’re playing. If they’re playing, you could send a text message, but don’t make a phone call.
Here’s a hint – don’t talk to someone’s ball. It distracts the human player. It is annoying to other players. And some will consider it to be at attempt to make fun of them.
17. Know the Rules
An often forgotten rule of etiquette is to know the major rules of the game before you play for real. If you’re constantly consulting a rule book or arguing over commonly known rules, you’ll slow everyone down and create unneeded drama. So know the rules before you get out on the green.
A good way to minimize disputes is to invest in a USGA golf rule book. Then you don’t have to argue over the rules – you can go to the source immediately. There may be local course rules, too, but the reference book will cover 90% of what you need to know. Green staff and caddies can fill you in on the rest, if necessary. In general, any local rules will be printed on the score cards.
16. Be Honest
Let’s be honest – if you’re cheating at golf, your friends are going to figure it out rather quickly and lose all faith in you. Be honest when playing golf. If you say you’re a better player than you really are, they’ll figure that out, too, and wonder what else you’ve lied about. If you hit your ball into the grass and can’t find it, admit it, ask to get another one out, mark it on your score card and keep going.
15. Play It Safe
When you’re playing golf, making sure everyone involved is safe is a demonstration of respect for them. First and foremost, make certain that no one is standing close by or in any position where they could be hit by the golf club, the ball and anything that could go airborne when you take a swing. For example, don’t stand behind someone as they putt even if you think you can give them pointers.
Make sure all players in front of you are out of range. Alert the green staff, too, if you’re going to make a stroke that could put them at risk. If your ball does end up going in a direction where it could endanger someone, shout a warning immediately. That’s what “fore” means.
This rule can take other forms, as well. If someone looks like they’re overheating, suggest that they sit down and drink some water. If someone is having chest pains, help them sit down and call for medical assistance.Another important thing is if someone has strained a muscle or otherwise become injured, stop playing and render aid.
14. Determine Who Tees First
Many people don’t want to tee off first because the first player at the first hole is subject to the most scrutiny. Determine who will play first before you approach the hole so that you don’t end up creating a delay for other players while you argue about it. In fact, determine the order of play for your group before you get on the green.
If you can’t decide, form a circle, grab a tee, spin it, and make that person first. Repeat the process until you have your order of play. After that point, whoever has the best score on the previous hole gets to tee off first at the next one.
13. Don’t Have Too Many Balls on the Practice Green
Having lots of balls on the practice green seems like a time-saving move. And for you, it may be. However, unless you’re playing by yourself, you should only have two practice balls out on the putting green. More than that, and you’re hogging real estate. Furthermore, you’re creating a trip hazard for others, as well.
If you’re failing to hit all those balls into the hole when putting, stop and assess where the putt is. Many players perceive the hole as closer than where it is. Others assess the putt from the wrong position.
If the putt is downhill, read the putt from behind the hole. If the putt is uphill, read from behind the ball. (Another possibility is that you need to admit you need to wear your glasses while playing – or just need glasses.)
In other cases, someone is hoping that increasing the quantity of hits increases the quality of their game, when they really need a coach to teach them better technique.
12. Take Your Clubs with You to the Hole
Take your golf clubs with you to the hole. If you have to run back to your golf bag or the golf cart carrying your gear, you’ll slow everyone down. Do this too often, and you’ll wear yourself out, too. If you can’t carry the golf clubs personally, invest in a rolling golf cart you can pull along or pay a caddy.
In some cases, you may be able to request that the next game be played where the golf cart can come onto the green or all the holes are a short distance from the golf cart path. If you’re too tired to walk around with your golf clubs, either stick to the putting green or call it a day and return to the club to rest.
11 Be Careful where You Put the Golf Club Bag
Don’t put your golf club bag on a tee box. The bags can be distracting if they’re in a player’s striking vision, as well. Don’t put your golf bag in the way of someone’s shot or walk path. Make sure your golf bag isn’t on top of someone else’s or in any way in anyone’s way. Another issue relates to how you put the golf bag down.
Many golf bags have small legs to support the weight while holding them upright. This gives the player ready access to the clubs inside while minimizing the risk that the bag will leave an impression in the green.
10. Treat Your Caddies with Respect
Caddies may be paid assistants, but give them respect, too. This is often a kids earning extra money and hoping to learn more about the sport. Don’t abuse them or criticize them. Treat them with respect. Note that your peers will judge you based on how you treat your caddy.
Your personal reputation will improve if you treat the caddie well and tip them generously. You’ll find a lot of caddies want to work for you if tip well and/or volunteer to buy them refreshing drinks at the end of the round.
09. Watch Your Shadow
When your shadow is in their tee line or over the tee, you’re making it harder for them to read the break, see the undulation around the cub or just see the ball. Try to move so that your shadow is out of the way before they start to play, since a moving shadow is in and of itself a distraction. This is true whether they person is first teeing off or putting the ball into the hole.
08. Be Ready to Play when It Is Your Turn
Many people have a routine they follow on the green. This could include warming up, stretching, drinking water, making practice swings, cleaning the ball, marking the ball, reading the green and the putt. Don’t wait until it is your turn to come up to the tee to start this routine. The more you can do in advance, the faster everyone’s game will go. And that shows how you respect their time.
07. Help Others Find Their Ball – within Reason
It is considered an act of kindness to help others find their ball. You could certainly help them get back into the game faster. If it takes too long, suggest that they play with another ball or loan them one of yours. After all, you don’t want to waste 30 minutes looking for a $3 ball.
Know that the golf ball shot into the woods can be counted as lost or out of bounds, so you’re allowed to play a second ball according to the Rules of Golf. If they don’t have a second ball, you could save everyone time by lending them one of yours.
06. Make Sure You Are Really in Agreement
Silence isn’t consent, and just because two people say something while the rest are silent doesn’t mean the rest are in agreement. This can take several forms. Don’t assume everyone else wants to bet money on the match or talk about their love lives. Ask for everyone’s consent before committing everyone to betting on the outcome. See if others are comfortable with a discussion topic like politics or business before you get engrossed in the conversation.
Don’t use the opportunity to pump someone for information they’re not allowed to disclose. Don’t assume that they’ll offer you a job or promotion because you’re playing golf together.
Never assume everyone will want to stay for dinner and drinks after the round. Don’t pressure someone to drink alcohol or buy it for others. Don’t commit others to pay for something they haven’t expressly agreed to pay, such as “X is a member of the club, he’ll get Y a shirt with his discount”.
05. Mark Your Balls
Marking your balls serves several purposes. First, it helps you identify your ball when you’re playing. Second, it can help prove the ball you found out in the grass is yours. Don’t assume that using a particular brand of golf balls is good enough to prove they are yours. Having neon orange or yellow balls could eliminate this issue altogether, assuming no one else is using the same neon color.
04. Budget Accordingly
No one wants to go on a date where another is stuck, unwillingly, with the bill. Know how you’re going to play for the game and any associated costs before you hit the green. Budget enough money to pay for your game if someone else isn’t paying for it.
Have money to pay your caddy, pay for your own drinks and pay for dinner later if desired. Never stick someone else with your bill. Take the time to figure out what you need like ball markers, bottled water and equipment before you go out on the green so you don’t waste money on expensive gear in the shop and then lack the cash to tip your caddy.
03. Be Sportsman-Like
At the end of your round, shake hands with fellow players. Congratulate the winners. Thank them for playing. If you storm off in a huff or otherwise fail to be a good sport, few will want to play with you in the future.
02. Leave the Green in the Condition You Found It
Whether you hit a couple of divots in the grass, walked through with spiked heels or otherwise damaged the green, it is an act of respect to try to restore the play area to the condition you found it. Rake bunkers. Repair pitch-marks. Replace divots. If you rip up the turf, either kick the turf back in as much as possible, or fill in the divot with the seed and soil mixture the course uses. This makes it easier for others to play when they arrive.
This is the sporting equivalent of cleaning up your picnic site so others can play in the park without tripping on your trash. And while you’re at it, pick up your bottle caps and other trash; throw it away at the club house instead of littering the field. While you’re at it, pick up your flagstick.
01. Control Your Temper
It is easy to get frustrated playing golf. However, there is no room on the golf course for outbursts. Yelling, screaming, cursing at people, throwing clubs or intentionally damaging the green are all out of bounds. In fact, do this too many times or put on too great of a performance, and you could get banned by the golf course. If you get mad and strike someone, that can get you ejected from the golf course or simply charged with assault.