Every sport has its own unwritten rules, and golf is no exception.
I shamefully remember not practicing proper golf etiquette during my first-ever live round. One of my playing partners was teeing off, and I stood in his line of sight, a big no-no in the golf etiquette book.
Following proper golf etiquette can seem daunting if you’re new to golf. To help with that, we’ve created this simple guide. Learning these rules can give everyone a respectful and enjoyable experience on the golf course.
Table of Contents
- Basic Golf Etiquette Rules
- On The Green
- In The Bunker
- On The Tee Box
- Golf Cart Etiquette
- Golf Course Care
- Cell Phone Etiquette
Basic Golf Etiquette Rules
No matter how old you are or where you come from, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Safety First.” This rule definitely applies while on the golf course. Each golfer should practice safety measures to protect themselves and their fellow patrons.
Why is this so important? Think about it. Even average amateur golfers have a ball speed of around 133 miles per hour when using a driver.
So if the course is packed, there could be up to 18 people teeing off simultaneously. Always follow safety rules while on the course to avoid any type of injury.
1. Always check to your left and right before swinging.
This rule applies to both live shots and warm up swings.
2. Never tee off if the group in front of you is within striking distance.
On most holes, it’s common courtesy to wait until the group ahead of you is on the green before teeing off. The only exception is on Par 3 holes, where you must always wait until the group has completed the hole before teeing off.
3. If you’re a high-handicap golfer, consider teeing off with a forgiving hybrid, long iron, or fairway wood instead of your driver.
Hybrid clubs will give you a high launch off the sweet spot and a ton of forgiveness, leading to fewer shots in the rough.
4. If you hit a wayward shot (such as a wicked slice or hook), yell FORE to the top of your lungs.
This is a common courtesy because it alerts other players to take cover or cover their head.
5. Keep a safe distance away from other golfers at all times.
This applies not only to your playing partners but to other groups of players as well.
Maintaining Pace of Play
Nothing is worse than getting behind a group of high handicappers playing slowly. It makes it almost impossible to shoot a good score because you can’t get into any kind of rhythm with your golf swing. Here are a few guidelines to follow as far as pace of play is concerned.
If you’re unsure how long it should take to play each hole, peek at your scorecard. Most golf courses will tell you how much time to allot for each hole.
1. If your group is playing slower, let the group behind you “play through”.
This is standard golf etiquette, as holding other groups up for too long is considered rude.
2. To save time, beginners or golfers with slower swing speeds could hit from shorter tees.
3. Try to keep pace with the group in front of you.
4. Play ready golf.
This means that whichever player is ready the fastest hits their next shot.
5. Keep practice swings to a minimum.
6. Think about and plan your next shot while walking to your ball.
This will save a ton of time. When in doubt, use one of your rescue clubs with more loft
7. If someone in your group needs a bathroom break, let the group behind you “play through”.
Respecting Other Players
Golf is often referred to as a gentlemen’s game. This means a premium is placed on respecting all folks on the course. This will go a long way toward ensuring that everyone has an enjoyable experience during their round.
Whether on the golf course or off, practicing the golden rule of treating others how you’d like to be treated is always a good idea. Here are some tips to help make each interaction with others a positive one.
1. Stay as quiet as possible when your playing partners hit their shots.
2. Be mindful of any noise.
Even things like jigging your keys or whispering to your buddy can cause a distraction for a golfer during their swing.
3. Always ask every player in your group before putting on any music.
Some folks like it, while others find it distracting and disrespectful
4. Never stand in a golfer’s line of sight.
This can cause them to hit a bad shot.
On The Green
Putting is serious business! The classic phrase, “You drive for show, but you putt for dough,” is incredibly accurate. This means following proper golf etiquette while on the putting green is crucial.
For the most part, this means remaining quiet at all times (especially when someone is putting or studying a putt). However, we’ll also show you how to repair ball marks and how to handle the flagstick.
Repairing Ball Marks
1. If your approach shot hits the green, take the time to repair your ball mark.
This is considered good course management and a common courtesy to other golfers. Neglecting to do this can result in a missed putt for yourself or someone else, which is never a good thing.
2. Use a divot tool when repairing a ball mark.
Push the two prongs all around the sides of the ball mark. Pull each part of the mark into the center to smooth out the turf. Then gently tap down on the green with your putter.
Handling The Flagstick
1. When one of your playing partners is about to putt or chip, ask them if they’d like the flagstick in or out.
They may also ask you to tend it. This means you’ll leave it in until they hit their shot and remove it.
2. Once your group finishes putting, firmly place the flag back into the hole.
Observing Putting Line Etiquette
1. Never walk in another golfer’s putting line.
This could leave spike marks, which could affect the accuracy of their putt by messing with the spin.
2. Don’t stand too close to someone who’s about to putt.
It may sound crazy, but your shadow can affect their depth perception.
In The Bunker
Everybody likes to go to the beach. However, that’s not something any golfer wants to do. Adhering to proper golf etiquette in the bunker can help your fellow players and the course maintenance staff.
Raking After Your Shot
1. Neglecting to rake your footprints after a bunker shot is a huge faux pas in golf.
It’s rude because another player’s shot may end up in your indention. This makes for a much tougher bunker shot, especially for high handicappers.
2. When raking the bunker, always use 2 hands and push the sand forward.
Dragging the rake behind you with 1 hand can lead to a big pileup of sand. The goal is to get the bunker as level as possible for the next golfer.
Entering and Exiting Bunkers
1. When your shot goes into the bunker, walk slowly to find the lowest entry point.
This will be the safest way for you to get in.
2. Pay special attention to the edges when going in or out of the bunker.
You don’t want to catch your spikes on the edge and ruin the landscaping.
On The Tee Box
Since every hole begins on the tee box, following the proper etiquette is crucial. In this section, we’ll dive into what order of play rules to follow and other tips on behaving while on the tee box.
Order of Play
1. In standard stroke play, the golfer with the lowest score on the previous hole has the “honor” of teeing off first.
Let’s say that Golfer A shoots a 3 on Hole #1, Golfer B shoots a 6, and Golfer C shoots a 5. In this case, Golfer A would tee off first on Hole #2, followed by Golfer C and then Golfer B.
2. If you have the honor and aren’t ready to tee off yet, let someone from your group go first.
This speeds up the pace of play and is considered good manners.
Tee Box Etiquette
1. Always stand far away from the golfer who’s teeing off.
2. Never stand in a golfer’s line of sight because this will distract them.
3. Don’t talk and make noises while someone is hitting their shot.
4. If you want to take some warmup swings, do so off the tee box when it isn’t your turn to hit.
Golf Cart Etiquette
Yes, there are even some basic rules to follow when driving a golf cart. While most folks love to have a little fun by driving erratically, that’s never a sound safety practice. Adhere to these road rules, and you’ll be fine on the golf course!
1. Look for signs that tell you whether or not to abide by the “cart path only” rule.
Courses sometimes enforce this if they’ve had rainy weather that morning or the day prior.
2. Stay on the cart path on Par 3 holes.
This is standard golf etiquette around the world.
3. Don’t drive too close to the golf cart in front of you.
4. Observe the 90-degree rule on all holes.
This means you stay on the cart path until you’re parallel with your golf ball and then drive out to it.
Parking and Positioning
1. Park a safe distance away from the tee box.
2. Never park on or near the green.
3. Park far enough away from all of your playing partners’ shots and at an angle so that other carts can pass through on the path.
Golf Course Care
Golf courses are tough to maintain, and they require lots of tedious upkeep. Because of this, it’s imperative not to make the grounds crew’s job more complicated than it has to be. Follow these etiquette rules regarding replacing divots and throwing away your trash.
1. Most golfers leave a divot on most of their approach shots.
While this is part of the game, you must take the time to repair your divots. This is good course management, but it’ll keep other golfers’ shots from landing in your divots.
2. Pour the sand from your golf cart into the hole to properly repair a divot.
Once the hole is filled, mash on the sand with your feet and clubhead until it’s entirely level.
Disposing of Trash Properly
1. Never litter on the golf course.
There’s usually a trash can on each hole, making throwing your stuff away easy.
2. Throw all of your trash away before turning in your golf cart.
While this isn’t mandatory, it’s considered a nice gesture.
Cell Phone Etiquette
I don’t think cell phones should be allowed on the golf course, but that rule would never fly today. However, Augusta National did ban cell phones during The Masters this year, so there’s hope. Here are some basic cell phone rules to follow on the course.
1. If you must take your cell phone on the course, leave it on silent or vibrate mode.
2. If you have to take a call, step away from the course so you don’t distract other golfers.
3. Don’t play music on your phone unless every person in your group is okay with it.