Golf Etiquette 101

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I think it’s safe to say we’ve turned the corner from The Longest Winter and are officially in Golf Season. Finally.

As everyone heads to the course for their first round, or maybe 20th round for the die-hards, it’s important to remember golf course etiquette. Both within your group and as a part of a busy golf course.

Inter-Group Golf Etiquette 

Depending on the seriousness of you and your friends’ golf game that day, you may or may not adopt some of the more formal golf etiquette practices. However, it’s important to establish expectations before the round to make sure everyone is on the same page. Maybe you agree to 1 mulligan per round and to improving your lie within one scorecard length. Whatever your groups’ unique rules are, make them clear and make sure everyone understands before you begin.

There are several golf etiquette practices that are universal:

  • Lowest score on the previous hole tees off first.
  • Player furthest from the hole goes first. Including on the green.
  • Mark your ball when on the green while others are putting.
  • Do not walk in-between a player’s, or your own, ball and the hole on the green.
  • Be quiet while others are hitting their shots.

It’s customary to adhere to these universal golf etiquette rules unless you’ve asked your playing partners for an exception. You might be ready to hit your shot before the person closest to the hole, or maybe you’re ready to tee off and the player who birdied the previous hole isn’t. In these instances, you would offer to go first to keep pace of play moving.

Intra-Group Golf Etiquette

While playing a round of golf, you also have a responsibility to ensure other golfers on the course that day have the opportunity to enjoy their round too. This means replacing or filing your divots in the fairway, repairing ball marks on the green, yelling “FORE!” when you hit an errant shot towards other golfers, and allowing faster players/groups to play through.

It’s extremely rude to not let a group play through that is waiting on your group. The one exception is if you’re also waiting because of the group in front of you. If this is the case, you should make this known to the group behind you.

Your ability to play golf doesn’t have to dictate your pace of play. If you’re new to the game, set a stroke limit of 8 for each hole. Once you get to 8, pick up your ball and place it on the green. Finish the hole from there. There are also understood golf etiquette practices regarding pace of play. These include:

  • Writing your scores down on the next tee box.
  • Parking your cart/golf bag on the side of the green towards the next hole.
  • Being ready to play when it’s your turn. Don’t sit in the cart while your playing partner is hitting. Get out and go to your ball, figure out what club you want to hit, and be ready when it’s your turn.
  • Playing forward. You’ll score better and have more fun!
  • Limiting the amount of time spent at the turn (between holes 9 and 10). Or let the group behind you play through.
  • Limiting practice swings to 2. You’ll be surprised at how much time practice swings adds to a round of golf.
  • If your group is walking and there are 3 or 4 of you, send the first person to putt out to the next tee box. If you’re in a foursome, send the second to putt out to the next tee box as well. The second to last person to putt out gets the flag. This practice can save 30 minutes in an 18 hole round. It’s also the practice used by the American Junior Golf Association to maintain their impressive pace of play standards.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own games while on the golf course. We may be having a great time with our friends and not realize the group behind us has been waiting on every shot for 3 holes. As golfers, we have to do a better job of being aware of our surroundings and putting ourselves in others’ shoes.

IMPORTANT! Letting a group play through is not a reflection of how well you play the game of golf. It’s okay if you let younger players through. You’re not less of a golfer if you let a group of ladies play through. We can all play a role in making golf more accessible and fun for everyone who wants to play. Have fun!