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Refresher - Guide to Golf Etiquette

Some timeless tips on golf etiquette for most situations


Golf has one of those reputations of being a stuffy, uptight sport with numerous rules both written and unwritten. This refresher provides some guidance on navigating some of the more common ones so that you can focus on enjoying your golf -- after all, that's really why we play the sport.

Suitable Golf attire is easy to find and wear

Be on time

Because time is our most valuable commodity, there are few good reasons for breaking a golf date. Unless it is an emergency, and that can include the threat of repercussions from your spouse, cancelling golf last-minute is really bad etiquette and should be avoided. If you decide to cancel, do so with as much advance notice as possible. That will give the golf course the opportunity to fill the vacancy created by your cancelation.

Once the date and time are set always make sure you’re on time for the booked tee time and for most courses, that is a minimum of 30 minutes before. If you can, show up even earlier so that you are set and ready when you are called to the first tee. And don't forget, a warm-up is better than no warm-up.

See our tips here

Keep up with your group on the course

Once you have played your tee shots and start heading out onto the fairway, make sure you’re aware of your own pace of play. That means being aware of how quickly you are moving to your golf ball, assessing conditions, the club you need for your next shot, and then being ready to play your shot when its your turn. When you’re playing, make sure you are not slowing down other players in your group and do your best in keeping up with the group ahead of you.

Many local practices include the "gimme putt" within a foot of the hole, another is "continuous putting", meaning that once your ball is within a few feet of the hole, politely let your playing partners know that you will putt out to speed up play. This allows you to avoid marking your ball and then having to replace it once everyone else putts out. It really can speed play up if the entire group adopts it. Remember, once you advise your playing partners that you will "putt out", check the position of the other balls and take a stance that doesn't involve you stepping on their "line". If you're unsure, ask them if your intended stance will be okay with them.

Golfers looking for a lost ball near a pond
If you think your ball *might* be lost, then play a provisional ball to keep play moving along

Remember, be ready to play when it is your turn. Your playing partners will appreciate it and you will too as it can help you find a rhythym in your play that can bring out your best golf. So with that being said, don't take too much time looking for a lost ball, You only have a maximum of 3 minutes looking for the lost golf ball.

Better yet, if you think your golf ball might be lost, tell your playing partners that you are going to play a "provisional ball" just in case you don't find your first shot. That helps speed up play and keeps you from falling behind. Also, check the local rules at the course you are playing at. Golf courses have the option of implementing a local rule that allows you to simply drop a ball within reasonable vicinity of where you thing the ball became lost.

Do not let your emotions get the best of you

In the inevitable moments of frustration, keep your emotions and actions in check, do not scream/shout anything rude because you missed a short putt or topped your shot from the fairway. You have to get creative with the ways you vent your frustration -- just vent out in a way that does not make people feel uneasy. For example, perhaps take a harder warm up swing on your next shot/hole or better yet, learn to manage your expectations.

Guy catching air while driving a golf cart
Don't be the person that treats their golf cart like a Willy's Jeep

Be extra careful with golf carts

Golf carts have become a big part of golf over the years. Many now included digital scorecards, built in yardage information, and even allow you to pre-order something when you are making the turn onto the 10th tee box.

So with carts in the picture, it is important that you ensure you do not drive in such a way that damages the turf. Stick to the cart paths and other areas designated for cart traffic. Many times, Superintendants will have a roped area near the greens. That's to warn you that carts should stay several yards back from the ropes.

A great tip would be simply avoiding any wet parts on the course , or well worn parts that tend to be full of people. If your entire group is using golf carts and unless it is a "cart path only" situation, it is essential that you spread out and not drive one behind the other as players tend to drive in single file out to the fairway. That will impact the turf far less, minimizing the possibility of worn area on the course.

Starter's shack at the First Tee
Arriving on time or even earlier is the best way to start your round of golf. After paying your green fees, check in with the starter.

Golden silence & clear sightlines

When players assume the tee box setting themselves up for their shot, remember to stay clear and out of their way and stand still and quite until they have taken their shot.

This etiquette practice also includes remaining out of someone's sightlines so that any inadvertent movement cannot disturb or distract them from their shot or putt. Also, don't walk in someone's line of play when putting on the green. When approaching/walking onto the green the first thing to scope out is the locations of every golf ball in your particular group and then steer clear of their line to the hole.

Again, you should not be standing in the line of play. You have the option of standing off to either side of the player but never beyond the hole or directly behind the ball/player as it is a rule infraction. When a player is about to take his shot, you should think of the fairway as silent room or library, complete silence is a required etiquette practice in that situation.

Golfer standing on the putting green while chatting on a mobile phone
Mobile phones are convenient devices, but they make for lousy golf accessories.

Put your phones away and on silent

The most annoying and the last thing you want happening is for your phone or someone else’s phone to start ringing in mid-swing. Most clubs allow phones and other gadgets as they are necessary for GPS yardage but it would make things a lot better if they were used properly. In the case that you desperately need to make a call you can move away from the other players. Even when making the call keep it so short and sweet that no one notices you even made the call. Otherwise in a normal circumstance do whatever you have to keep your phone silent until the end of the round.

Importance of dress code essentials

With few exceptions, the clothing worn in golf has usually been undeniably sharp. You can take a look at many top PGA or LPGA players, not one of them shows up with untucked golf shirts or dirty golf shoes to the first tee.

two couples standing by the golf cart chatting
Most golf courses don't require players to adhere to strict dress codes, so a nice polo style shirt with pants, shorts, or a skort, can go a long way without breaking the bank

How one dresses in general can say a lot about an individual. Golf being a more prestigious sport, you should most certainly dress neatly. Golf attire can range from the standard polo style shirt and shorts or pants for men, to something more athletic and casual, while still being within the dress codes of many private and semi-private courses.

Many women like to express themselves on the golf course by combining some of the wonderful styles of Asian golf. While these styles can be pricey, there are still plenty of great golf attire for men and women to fit your budget and is both fashionably stylish and comfortable.

Here are some that you can check out:

Final Verdict

Golf etiquette has lot of different aspects that we haven't mentioned, but these are some of the basics. What’s important in this sport is that you pay attention to the small things through observation and just be respectful towards other players and the golf course. If everyone can do that, then a round of golf will be even more enjoyable.


This story is a collaboration with Golf Royce. To learn more about Golf Royce check them out here:


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