The Ultimate Guide to Golf Etiquettes
Golf is a unique sport. It’s unique in that golfers often value playing fair-and-square over winning. As a golfer, I have to keep myself in-line with the rules at all times.
It is likely this characteristic of golf that led to its long list of unspoken rules.
Golf etiquette may be a little tiresome to beginners. It might even come off as silly, from time to time. But learning and abiding by golf etiquette is part of the charm and fun of golf.
Below are the essential rules of golf etiquette, both for beginners and experienced players. Golf etiquette for dummies, in other words. Much of this can also be applied to golf course etiquette for spectators.
Etiquettes Before the Game
Golf etiquettes for clothing
A beginner golfer has likely already noticed that golfers dress a certain way. Indeed, golf has a somewhat strict dress code.
For my upper half, I wear a polo shirt with a collar. For my lower half, either full-length trousers or knee-length shorts.
A belt is a must, too. As for my feet, a pair of short, white socks, ankle-height, and a pair of golf shoes will do.
Get there early
After we’re dressed, it’s vital to arrive early. For me, “early” is about 20 to 30 minutes before the round starts.
I use that time to pay and warm up by practicing a few putts. Avoid being a no-show or canceling at the last minute!
Master the handshake
Finally, the handshake. The handshake is a gesture of respect and good sportsmanship. If I’m playing with strangers, I always greet every one of my partners with a firm handshake.
Etiquettes for general play
Once we’ve begun to play, it’s important to remember a few broad rules about playing etiquette.
Don’t take too long for each stroke
Beginner golfers will almost always take more strokes than more experienced ones. There is no shame in that.
However, that is also why it’s important for beginner golfers to not take too long for each and every shot.
A decent pre-shot routine is okay and expected, but it shouldn’t be overdone. One or two practice swings is more than enough, trust me.
To minimize my stroke time, I always pick what club I’m going to use and have it out and ready beforehand. I recommend other beginners do that too.
Leave your temper at the door
A bad temper isn’t welcome on the golf course unless you’re a major pro golfer.
Throwing a club, cursing and shouting after every bad shot, breaking a club in anger or just being an all-around spoilsport are all no-no’s.
Be careful where you stand
Don’t accidentally distract another player who’s taking a shot by standing in the wrong spot.
It’s okay to stand 90 degrees to the other player’s chest, at least two yards away from the ball.
It’s also okay to stand between 90 and 45 degrees to the other player’s chest, at least two or three yards from the ball.
Keep quiet and stand still
While we’re on the subject, another important rule for when other golfers are playing nearby is to keep quiet and stand still.
The idea is not to accidentally distract other players. Also, don’t advise a player who didn’t ask for it. That’s usually unwelcome.
Lastly, remember to shout “fore!” if your ball is flying toward other people!
Etiquettes on the tee
Keep quiet and be polite
Golf etiquette on the tee box is very straightforward. At the teeing grounds, it’s important to remember to keep quiet, as always.
After one of my partners tees off, I’ll usually pass a “nice shot” comment.
It’s always welcome, but don’t say it if it was clearly a bad shot! It can be taken as sarcasm, and having a bad attitude isn’t welcome on the course.
Don’t walk off or look away while somebody else is teeing off
Don’t forget to stand and watch while other people tee off. It’s polite. I always observe, even if I’m not actually that interested in my partner’s shot.
Who plays first?
It is part of both golf etiquette and the rules of golf to let the person with “honors” play first. If it’s the first tee, that is. After that, the player with the highest score on the previous hole plays first.
It continues in that order, with second playing next, then third, and so forth.
However, if it’s a game of “ready golf”, it’s just a matter of who’s ready to tee off first.
Golf etiquettes on the green
Fix your pitch marks
When I’m on the green, I always fix my pitch marks, without exception. That’s because I like it when the course I’m playing on is in pristine condition.
The grass tends to heal faster if the pitch marks are repaired right away. And at the end of the day, I’m doing the green-keepers a favor, too.
A beginner can use a pitch mark repairer, but a pocket knife or tee peg can do the trick as well.
Mark your ball
I always mark my ball with a coin, but anything that’s equally flat can also be used. Don’t use anything with any height, use something flat.
That could mess up another player’s shot.
Don’t stand on other golfers’ lines
This one isn’t as obvious, but it’s one that’s important to remember. Not that it’s as major of an issue.
Greens tend to be torn up a little anyhow, so it isn’t as if I’m ruining a perfectly pristine stretch of grass by stepping on it.
But still, if just to avoid grumblings, try and avoid stepping on other players’ lines. That’s the straight line that extends from the golf ball to the hole.
Watch your shadow
When I’m on the green, I always try to be aware of where my shadow is cast.
That is doubly important to remember if we’re playing in the early morning or late afternoon.
I never let my shadow touch another player’s putting line.
Etiquettes after the round
Shake hands, be polite and courteous
After the round, we always shake hands with each other. Remember to say: “Thanks, that was fun”, or anything along those lines.
Do that even if it wasn’t actually entertaining. And if that’s the case for me, I always have an excuse ready for why I can’t stay for a drink after.
If you enjoyed yourself, stay for a drink or two
That’s because it’s a tradition to stay and have a drink after a round of golf.
They're all chasing Van Rooyen through 54, who has opened up a 4-shot #DDFIrishOpen lead. Get caught up with highlights: https://t.co/VwhOEnF901 pic.twitter.com/KIdbWMajEB
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) July 8, 2018
This may all seem like a handful to remember, but to be honest, I only covered a few basic rules of golf etiquette. These can be summarized as follows:
- Don’t distract, interrupt or otherwise interfere with other people’s shots by standing on the player’s putting line, directly behind the player, and so on.
- When somebody else is taking a shot, keep quiet. Afterward, don’t forget to comment on the shot, if it was a good one.
- Repair any pitch marks or divots.
- Dress for the occasion.
- Be friendly, courteous and polite. A bad temper or a bad attitude isn’t appreciated.
Golf may have a few odd traditions here and there, but these traditions arguably give the sport its charm.
And at the end of the day, I wouldn’t worry about etiquette to the point of it ruining my fun.
Most amateur golfers are laid-back folk, just looking to enjoy the day away from work or family.
If I forget a rule every now and again, nobody will hate me for it. But it’s always refreshing to see a beginner try to uphold the traditions of golf.