The time has come. You’ve watched golf on TV, your friends and family keep talking about it, and you finally say to yourself ‘It’s time I learn how to play golf.’
You show up at the golf course only to exit your car unaware of what you should do next. But what your friends, family and the TV announcers didn’t tell you are the unwritten rules of golf etiquette that will make your experience at the golf course a positive one.
So, what are the unwritten rules of golf etiquette?
Because golf has been around for over 200 years, it has adopted many unwritten and idiosyncratic rules that can further complicate one’s experience with the game.
New golfers often find their first few trips to the course daunting and overwhelming. Bad experiences with impatient, more established golfers can often send them away, never to return to the course again.
Well, have no fear new golfer. Stay patient, be humble and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone that has ever played golf was once a beginner and had to learn these unwritten rules themselves. Keep calm and read on to learn how you can better prepare yourself for your next/first trip to the golf course.
Before Your Round:
- Call the golf shop before you leave home. If you plan to show up without a tee time or just to practice, it is a good idea to call the golf shop first. Just by speaking to a staff member, you can learn how busy the course is, or if any practice areas are closed for maintenance.
- Research the clubhouse rules. Visit the golf course’s website to learn the dress code and code of conduct. This will save you from the embarrassment or added cost because you forgot to wear a collared shirt.
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before your tee time. Don’t be the golfer that shows up late. Thirty minutes is plenty of time to check-in, warm up and get to the first hole five minutes before your tee time.
- Always check-in at the golf shop counter. Pay for your round, purchase any equipment you need and learn the golf cart rules for the day.
During Your Round:
- Play from the appropriate tee box. A young athlete learning how to play baseball doesn’t start out in the big leagues. The same is true for golf; do not play from the very back tee if you are a beginner. Ask the golf staff for guidance on which tee box you should play.
- Silence and stillness are golden. Stand still and don’t talk while others are preparing to hit the ball. Mind your shadow so it doesn’t bother or interfere with the play of other golfers.
- Leave the course as you found it. Don’t leave practice balls scattered all over the practice area. Pick up your tee after your tee shot. Fill any divots you make with sand or replace the turf. Rake bunkers to preserve the sand for following groups. Repair any ball mark damage on the green. Don’t shuffle your feet when you walk on the green.
- 3 minutes to find your ball. If you hit an errant shot and can’t find your ball within 3 minutes, drop another ball and play on. And help others look for their lost balls, they will return the favor when needed.
- Play “Ready Golf.” Traditional golf is played with ‘Honours’, meaning players will tee off in order of score on the previous hole, with the lowest score going first. Additionally, after everyone has teed off, the golfer furthest from the hole is the first to hit their next shot.
Ready Golf is a simple amendment to tradition designed to speed up play in which the group agrees that whomever is ready to play will do so without waiting on others. Simply communicate to your partners your wish to hit your shot out of order and they should do the same. You can either express your wish to play Ready Golf on the first tee or when you can no longer see the group in front of you. It is recommended that golfers play Ready Golf every time they play, leaving tradition for the professionals.
- Let faster golfers play through. No golfer likes to wait on slow play. If you see someone waiting behind you, invite them to play through by pulling off to the side and waving them forward.
- Save your back, take fewer swings! Limit yourself to 1-2 practice swings per shot. Not only will your back will thank you later but you will play faster too. The average golfer will hit the ball 90-100 times per round and when you include 3-5 practice swings per shot, you are looking at almost 500 swings per round of golf!
- Don’t forget the golf cart! Park the golf cart behind the green of the hole you’re playing to help speed up play.
- Mind your temper. Golf is hard and you will hit bad shots regularly. Don’t let your temper affect the play of others…remember you could always be someplace worse than the golf course.
After Your Round:
- After the final putt. Remove your hat and shake hands (or fist/elbow bump) with your playing partners at the completion of play. Be courteous and gracious even if you didn’t get along with everyone.
- What’d you shoot? Total your score for the round at the clubhouse or in the parking lot, not on the 18th green.
- Tip the outside service staff. The person cleaning your clubs and your golf cart work for very little money. A few bucks goes a long way toward showing your appreciation for their hard work.