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Golf Course Etiquette Every Golfer Should Know

By RJ Wiegand, PGA

Golf etiquette extends beyond the scope of the Rules of Golf.  To golf purists it is bad enough that golf in the U.S. has adapted the mentality of mulligans as a part of the game.  And evolving from the mulligans have been the “rollovers,” the 12-month “winter rules,” and the never-ending “gimmies.”  Whether you play by the Rules of Golf or not, your awareness of golf etiquette is not up for debate.  Despite your talent for the game of golf you shouldn’t even think about setting foot on a golf course until you familiarize yourself with these basic requirements.  As a golfer, you can not feel completely comfortable on the golf course until you master this collection of traditional behavior we call etiquette.

The focus of this article is to shed some light on the widely perceived mystery surrounding golf etiquette to ensure a more enjoyable golfing experience for everyone involved.  I offer this information as a guide from which we may all draw.  In my opinion, golf etiquette parallels and is no more complex than common social etiquette.  Golf etiquette can be broken down into three components:

  1. Leave the course better than you found it.
  2. Respect fellow players.
  3. Play quickly and efficiently.

Leaving the course in better condition than you found it means:

  • Replace your divots or, even better, spread the sand and seed mixture from your golf cart in the hole you just made.
  • Should your ball take you into a bunker, simply rake the sand behind you as you exit the bunker.
  • Whether you hit the green in regulation or not, fix at least one ball mark on every green.  Every golfer should carry a divot tool to repair pitch marks on the putting surface.
  • Although metal spikes are uncommon these days, do not drag your feet while walking on the golf course especially while walking on the putting surface.
  • Lastly, despite your level of frustration, never throw golf clubs or damage the course in any way.

Respecting your fellow players means:

  • Do not talk or play with the tees and change in your pocket while another player is about to make a stroke.
  • Similarly, do not make a practice swing or stand close to another player about to make a swing.
  • Do not step on another player’s line of putt.  The player’s ball must be on the green for this piece of etiquette to be relevant.
  • Should your ball fly in the general direction of other players, warn them by yelling “Fore!”
  • Always keep an eye on other players’ ball flight in order to help locate the ball if necessary.
  • Generally compliment good shots and ignore bad shots.
  • Try to maintain your composure regarding vocal expressions for celebrating is often perceived as annoying to others.

Playing quickly and efficiently means:

  • Be ready to hit when it is your turn.  What does this mean?  Being ready to hit involves knowing your yardage and selecting a club before it is your turn to hit.  The player farthest from the hole is always next to hit.  Regarding order of play on the tee, the player who had the lowest score on the previous hole has the “honor.”  It should be noted, however, that in the interest of time it is commonly accepted to play “ready golf” should the player with the “honor” be slow to arrive to the tee box.
  • Keep pace with the group in front of you.  You are out of position when the group in front of you is more than one hole ahead of your group.
  • Let faster groups play through.  For example, if your group is delaying a single playing behind you and there is an open hole in front of you, let the single play through.
  • Do not look for a ball for more than five minutes.  Under the Rules of Golf, a ball is deemed lost if it is not found within five minutes from the time you begin searching for it.
  • Never hit your ball until the group in front of you is out of range.

Utilizing these basic fundamentals of golf etiquette should add pleasure to any golf game.  As I mentioned before, whether you decide to play by the Rules of Golf or not is up to you and the group you play with; however, demonstrating proper golf etiquette while on the golf course should be automatic and something we do whether we feel like it or not.  If you are going to play this game you better learn the Rules of Golf and the proper etiquette surrounding the game of golf.  Good luck to all!