If you’ve played golf for a while, you know there’s not much worse than dealing with bad golf etiquette. It’s one thing to play with a novice golfer, but it’s quite another to play with someone who should know better.
Golf etiquette, in my opinion, can make or break a round, especially if you’re playing with complete strangers. Because, let’s face it, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Poor etiquette is the quickest way to never be invited back to a new club. People can forgive poor golf because it happens to everyone, but poor etiquette leaves a bad impression on other golfers.
Fortunately, once you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll be able to avoid many common etiquette blunders.
14 Golf Etiquette Guidelines
I’m confident that if you follow these golf etiquette rules, you’ll make friends, expand your network, and always be invited back.
1. Arrive early
Even though this is one of the simplest things to do, many people make this mistake every day. Make sure you get here at least 20 minutes before your tee time. When you scramble from the car to the first tee box, it’s rude to other players and bad for your game.
Arrive at least 20 minutes early to check in, stretch, loosen up, and hit some range balls. Even if you “don’t want to waste all of your shots” on the range, you should at least practice putting and chipping. There isn’t much worse than stepping up to the first tee cold and attempting to guess the speed on the first green.
Arriving early will improve the experience and, most likely, the round for everyone. You’re also more likely to avoid injury. Arrive at least 20-30 minutes ahead of your scheduled tee time.
2. Adhere to the Cart Path Rules
If you’re new to the game, you’re probably thinking that golf carts are the greatest invention ever. While they are fantastic, make sure you check with the golf shop before driving all over the place. Depending on the season and weather, you may only be able to drive on the cart path.
This is usually done during the winter or in extremely wet conditions to prevent carts from tearing up the course. This is also fairly common on holes 1, 9, 18, and any other holes visible from the parking lot or outside the course. They do this to show off-course conditions to people driving by or seeing it for the first time.
Maintain a positive first impression of the course by adhering to cart path only signs. Check with the starter first, and don’t try to drive like it’s a Fast and Furious movie. And, whenever possible, follow the 90* rule.
3. Begin by warming up with three balls.
Another quick way to appear to be new to the course?
Warming up with a bucket of range balls on the putting green.
Please bring your own golf balls and limit yourself to three golf balls on the putting green.
Also, make sure they are clearly labeled to avoid confusion and to avoid getting in the way of others.
4. Do not speak while others are striking.
The other tips mentioned are important, but I’d argue that this is the most serious golf etiquette blunder on the list. Stay silent when someone is hitting! When you’re standing over the golf ball, a twig can break and a whisper can ruin your swing.
This is the biggest gaffe on the golf course and can really irritate other golfers. Keep your phone off and be aware of when people are hitting. This will allow you to play ready golf without interfering with another player’s swing.
5. Talk to Competitors Shots
Speaking of talking on the course, another piece of golf etiquette for beginners is to only talk to your golf ball. Nothing is worse than hearing someone say, “Talk to your golf shot.” I despise it when other golfers say things like “Stay out of the water” or “Great putt” about your shot before it’s even hit.
Talk to your ball and only your ball.
6. Standing or moving behind someone on the green
Apart from not talking during someone’s swing, I believe this is the most important piece of golf etiquette. When putting, having someone stand behind your line of sight is extremely distracting. It’s even more annoying and awkward if that person moves. If you need a read from them, step aside and then run up to look at the break.
On the putting green, keep an eye on your shadow and never stand directly behind anyone. You also don’t want to stand behind the hole because it’s distracting. If possible, stand behind other players or far enough away to avoid being in their line of sight.
7. Take Caution Where You Walk
When it comes to putting etiquette, you should also be mindful of where you walk on the green. While the rules of golf now allow you to repair spike marks, walking in a fellow player’s line is still extremely rude because it can guide their putt off the green.
You should avoid not only their original line, but also their “through line.” If they miss long, their ball will go through the through line, which they will avoid.
8. Lost Ball Protocol
Another fantastic new golf rule for 2019 is the reduced time required to locate a misplaced golf ball. You now have three minutes instead of five to look for stray golf balls. Slow golf, in my opinion, is ruining public golf, but the new rules in 2019 should help.
If you believe your ball is about to land in a hazard or trouble, please keep an eye on it so you can find it quickly. Take the drop and move on when your three minutes are up. Remember, this is just a golf ball.
And, if you want to be a standout player, make sure to watch (rather than talk) to other players’ balls to assist them in quickly finding them. On the golf course, a little good karma never hurts.
9. Slow Playing
As previously stated, the slow pace of play is driving many people away from the game. Make every effort to play quickly. Growing up, my family’s motto was, “If you notice you’re behind the next group or get a marshal’s warning, pick up, move faster, and stay with the group ahead.” Please, too, don’t let your ego get in the way. Nobody wants to play a six-hour round.
Instead of walking off sprinkler heads, use a GPS device or rangefinder to speed up your round. Plus, if you’re just starting out, having the exact yardage probably won’t matter all that much.
10. Prepared Golf
One of the reasons golf takes so long is that the majority of golfers do not play ready golf. Ready golf is simply being ready to hit when the time comes. It’s all about being prepared and not wasting time once you’re up.
Whenever I play with strangers, I always say ready golf on the first hole to ensure that the group plays ready golf rather than honor golf. The only time I’d recommend honours golf is when someone makes a birdie, eagle, or you’re competing in a tournament.
Otherwise, play ready golf. Not only will you play faster, but I’m sure you’ll stay in rhythm and shoot lower scores as well.
11. Put Down Your Phone
This is a new golf etiquette rule, but it is an important one. Phones and social media can be addictive, but don’t let them ruin a fun round with your friends. Get as far away from technology as possible and turn off your phone.
If you must keep it on or close by, please ensure that it is in silent mode and that you remain present throughout the round. Just because you putted out doesn’t mean you should go back to your phone and check Facebook.
Staying off your phone will also help with slow play and make it more enjoyable for everyone in the Group.
12. Understand the Rules
Because each group is unique, make certain that the rules are clearly established on the first tee, especially if money is involved. What if you only spray one OB? Do you prefer match or stroke play? Are you putting or putting everything out?
It is critical to establish the rules for the day prior to teeing off. Nothing is more annoying than someone dragging a four-footer when no one gave it to them. Knowing the rules ahead of time will save you a lot of frustration later in the round.
Check out our article on golf rules to ensure you have a basic understanding before heading out to the course. Also, make sure you know what kind of golf game you’re playing.
13. Always Scream Fore
This rule is straightforward. Know where other golfers are on the course at all times. If your ball is about to hit another group, yell “FORE” loudly. If you’re in a congested area, I like to add “FORE left” or “FORE right.”
Other golfers can become enraged if they are close to being hit. So, to avoid a fist fight on the course, yell FORE if your ball is within striking distance.
14. Secure your Ball Mark
If you hit the green in regulation, congratulations. That means your ball left a small mark on the green. This is known as a pitch mark by some. You should repair your ball mark if you don’t want bad karma. Essentially, you want to use a special golf tool to smooth out the mark left behind so that golfers behind you have a smooth roll if their putting line crosses where your mark is. Read the rest of our article on repairing ball marks.
The Golfer’s Dress Code
Golf is unique in that you cannot simply show up to the course wearing whatever you want. Some courses are not as strict, but you must be prepared to follow a dress code. For men, this usually means a collared (tucked in) shirt, no jeans, and a few other requirements. Women have a little more leeway, but there are still some minimum standards to be aware of.
If you’re new to golf, make sure you know what you’re supposed to wear. Read our full article on golfer attire here. If you’re a woman, here’s what women wear to golf.
Mind Your Manners – Why Golf Etiquette Matters
Golf has long been known as a “gentleman’s game.” The spirit of the game is built around courtesy, manners and maintaining the pace of play. While the rules govern how to legally play each shot, golf etiquette provides guidelines on how you should conduct yourself from start to finish.
Some benefits of practicing good golf etiquette include:
- Showing respect for traditions
- Making the game more enjoyable for all players
- Promoting safety on the course
- Keeping pace of play moving along
- Maintaining course conditions by caring for the greens and repairing ball marks
- Projecting a positive image of the game to others
Golf Etiquette for Beginners Final Thoughts
“Golf is Better When We All Mind Our Manners” Don’t be concerned if you’re new to the game and make some of these errors. Learn from their mistakes and move on. The most important ones to avoid are talking in someone’s swing, walking in their line, and not yelling fore to another group.
The other ten tips will not only improve your etiquette but will also give the impression that you know what you’re doing out there. Hopefully, these golf etiquette tips will help you have more fun, make new friends, and play better golf this year.
Go here if you’re looking for golf-specific clothing. While you’re at it, if you’re a complete beginner, check out our post on common golf terms to avoid sounding like one.
If another player’s ball is heading toward you, the proper etiquette is to yell “Fore!” This warns the other player that their ball is going off course so they can shout a warning as well. Turn away from the ball, cover your head with your arms, and stay still. Don’t try to watch the ball or dodge it at the last second. Once the ball has passed by and the situation is safe, try to mark its location so the other player can play it from there. Don’t get angry at the other player, as bad shots happen.
The 90 degree rule states that you should play your shot only when you can do so without endangering other players. Essentially, wait to hit your ball until the group ahead of you is out of your estimated hitting range, which is defined by an imaginary 90 degree angle extending from your swing path. This minimizes the risk of hitting into the players ahead. If you can’t see the group ahead because of a dogleg, wait until their shots land before you play.
Playing music aloud on the golf course, whether from a speaker or your phone, is generally considered impolite. The etiquette guidelines recommend keeping sound and distractions to a minimum so all golfers can concentrate. Loud music can interrupt other players’ pre-shot routines. Instead, use headphones if you wish to listen to music while playing so only you can hear it.
How do you behave on a golf course?
When playing on a golf course, you should:
- Dress properly with collared shirts and avoid denim.
- Limit practice swings to avoid delays.
- Stay still and quiet when others are hitting shots.
- Keep your shadow from crossing other players’ positions.
- Carefully repair divots and ball marks.
- Allow faster groups to play through.
- Compliment other players for nice shots.
- Thank the starters, rangers and marshals.
- Replace your spikes, rake bunkers and fix ball marks.
- Keep up pace of play and don’t stall between shots.
- Don’t offer unsolicited swing advice to others.
- Apologize if your ball heads toward other players.