Golf Etiquette

Golf Etiquette


The golf season is upon us. As the days get warmer, veteran golfers and newbies start returning to golf courses. With that in mind, I thought we’d go over basic golf etiquette rules.

After all, nothing screams amateur more than someone refusing to follow proper etiquette. You’ll be playing with colleagues, friends, and strangers. So you want to look like you’re in your zone.

Long story short, do you want to impress someone on the course? The first step is to be on your best behavior. Luckily, this golf etiquette guide will help you with that. You’ll be playing with the manners (if not skills!) of a pro in no time!

Golf Etiquette

1. You’ll Have to Be More Than Just Punctual

Being on time for your round isn’t enough. You need to allow enough time between your tee time and your arrival. Your tee time is when you’ll be ready to go and actually start playing. Don’t use this as an indicator of when to arrive.

No one wants to see you scrambling off the golf cart in time for the tee. As a rule, you should arrive at least fifteen minutes early. Though I prefer being thirty minutes early.

Needless to say, being late is completely unacceptable. I recommend using the free time to stretch and practice so that you’re warmed up for the actual game. Speaking of warming up!

2. Don’t Litter the Greens With Too Many Practice Balls

Warming up is cool and everything, but you shouldn’t go overboard. You should limit yourself to 2 or 3 practice balls. Any more than that, and you’ll take too long, slowing down your group. Again, this is just an etiquette thing.

If you’re alone, you can take as many practice shots as you want. Limiting yourself to two practice shots in an actual game also helps.

The two shots are a perfect balance to get a feel for the conditions. Try not to go for a third shot because it can mess with your focus. You might overthink the actual shot, making yourself nervous.

3. Playing Honors

Usually, the person with the lowest score in the previous round plays first in the next. This is what we call playing honors. Some players are pretty strict about this stuff. So stick to this routine.

If you want to play first, you can always talk to the person. If they’re cool with it, you’re good to go. Of course, playing honor roll isn’t the only way to go.

If you want to play faster rounds, go for ready golf. In this method, the person who’s ready to take the shot first goes for it. The catch is that you can’t linger before shooting the ball. That means you’ll have to think and plan ahead.

4. Keep up the Pace

Your pace of play should be fast enough that you don’t keep other groups waiting for a turn. The pace of play covers all the time between your tee time and the time you finish the course.

If you take too long at a tee, you’ll keep the group behind you waiting. Plus, it’ll take you five to seven hours. You should aim for a 4–4.5-hour mark to complete the course.

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If you’re having trouble getting the shot right, move on. Go to a tee box that’s more convenient for your skill level. Alternatively, you can let the group behind you move through first. This will be more helpful if the party behind you has one to three people.

5. Rake the Bunker….. Properly

When you’re playing in the bunker, you’re playing in the sand. That means you’ll be leaving marks. These marks can interfere with other people’s shots. You need to rake the bunker to smooth out these marks.

Of course, you can’t simply plant the rake in the ground and pull it to one side. That’ll just leave another mark. Your goal is to smooth the area as best as possible, so be gentle with the rake.

Once you’re done, you need to put the rake back. Some golf courses require you to put the rake inside with its handle outside.

Others ask you to lay them on the greens beside the bunkers. You can usually tell what you’re supposed to do by looking at the other rakes.

6. Repair the Divots

When you make your shot, chances are you’ll take out a piece of turf. That creates a space called a divot. These divots can throw the ball off course, ruining a shot. Your job is to repair the divot so other players can make their shots.

Use the sand and seed mixture in your cart, or replace the duvet. Remember to try to smooth the area with your putter afterward.

7. The Same Goes for Spike Marks

The ball leaves marks too. So repair those as well. The general rule is to fix yours and three others that you find. Use your repair tool to fix these.

Place your on the edge of the mark and push it in. Once it’s in, move it toward the center. Now, repeat this process on all sides. Once you’re done, smooth it over with your putter.

Don’t insert the tool at an angle, and don’t push the earth up from the center. You’ll kill the grass and make things worse than they were.

Follow Golf Rules

8. Dealing With the Flag

If you don’t have caddies, the person closest to the flag has to remove it. You’ll remove the flag once the ball has been shot. Loosen it at the base and then raise it. You shouldn’t cast your shadow over the putting line or the hole.

Walk away from the hole. If you want to lay the flag down, try not to damage the greens. Once everything’s done, return the flagstick to its position. Be sure to check with the player to see if and when they want the flagstick removed.

9. Don’t Walk Through Other People’s Putting Lines

This one’s a big no. If anyone’s going to tell you off, it’s going to be for walking through their putting line. You could leave spike marks. Those can guide a good shot off course, annoying the player.

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The putting lines are usually imaginary lines connecting the player’s ball to the hole. If you have to get somewhere, go around this line.

Otherwise, you need to ask your partner if they’re cool with you walking through. Even then, take a long step or hop to the other side to avoid disturbing the greens. Repair any spike marks afterward.

10. Those Lines Include the Hole or the Through Line

Remember what I said about putting lines? Yeah, you should be careful around the hole too. The ball’s trajectory in case it misses the hole is the through line.

You should be careful with those because the player still needs to make another shot. A three- to four-foot distance from the hole should be enough.

You can calculate it based on the initial power of the putt. If someone is giving you trouble for walking longer distances, they have bigger problems.

11. Don’t Distract the Other Players

Don’t hover. Your partner needs to focus on their ball, and your presence will ruin that focus. Don’t stand on the putting lines, through lines, or behind their shoulders. Stand to the side where you’re sure you’re out of their peripheral vision.

Another thing is not talking to them. Don’t make comments like ‘good effort’, ‘great shot’, etc. If it’s actually a good shout, you can appreciate it. But only do it after the ball has gone into the hole.

If they miss, they might already be frustrated. Your comments (even if well-intended) will only annoy them more. Plus, you risk sounding condescending. Of course, staying quiet while they’re playing will also help their focus.

12. Clear the Rules Beforehand

If you want to play honor or ready golf, you need to decide beforehand. It won’t do you any good to start fighting during the game. Clearing the rules is especially important if you’re starting a match with stakes.

See if the course has any local rules. These special rules only apply to that course. Mark your balls and let the others know about them. This helps you avoid disputes later.

13. Don’t Hit Out at Other Players

Watch the group in front of you. Don’t hit your ball at them. It doesn’t matter if they’re playing slowly. Of course, it’s an entirely different situation if you just miss the shot.

In such cases, you yell ‘FORE’ to warn them about the ball. Always shout a warning if a mistaken shot is about to hit someone.

If someone gets hit, or even nearly hit, they might lose their temper. A simple warning will save you from any repercussions. The last thing you need is a fight ruining your time.

14. Stay Off Your Phone

Yes, your phone is important, but you need to give it a rest. When you’re playing, keep your phone on silent. If you must, you can check for messages between rounds. But don’t stay glued to the screen.

Don’t take any calls unless it’s an emergency. Even if you take calls, go to a distance and talk in a low voice. There is no need to broadcast your business to the entire court. It looks tacky and distracts other players from their shots.

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15. Dress Appropriately

Public golf courses shouldn’t be that big a problem. However, some courts have a dress code. Typically, they’ll ask men to wear collared polo shirts with shorts or pants. The shorts should go down to your knees. Pair these with golf shoes. Don’t wear jeans.

Women have to have a collared v-neck or polo shirt. They can also wear sleeveless shirts. Pair these with pants, shorts, or skirts (knee-length). You can even opt for a golf dress. Again, you have to have golf shoes.

It’s a good idea to check the website before going so you’ll have a good idea about the dress code. Some courses have changing rooms on-site, so you can change later. I recommend taking a sports cap or visor to avoid the sun.

16. Don’t Take the Cart Everywhere

Golf carts are great. They save you from walking everywhere, but there are rules to follow. Some courses will let you drive on the greens, while others demand you stay on the cart paths. Check to see what you’re supposed to do.

If your course doesn’t let you take the cart off the path, carry your bag with you. There is no need to make multiple rounds to get the right club. But be careful of where you place it. Don’t place it in other people’s line of sight when they’re playing, and don’t damage the greens.

Don’t pass through other people’s lines when driving the cart. Be careful, or you might get hit with a stray ball. Drive safely and don’t hurt people or the course while driving.

17. Finding a Lost Ball

If someone has lost their ball, it’s common courtesy to help them look. However, you can’t spend an hour looking for it. The common rule is to search the area for three minutes and then cut your losses. Move on!

Keep an eye on the ball to see where it ends up. That way, you’ll have an easier time searching for it. Other than that, losing a ball isn’t that big a deal.

18. Keep Your Temper in Check

Like with any other sport, it’s easy to get frustrated while playing golf. But that doesn’t give you a pass to go off your rocker. Keep your temper in check and stay polite, even if the game’s not going your way. Or else you’ll ruin the game for everyone else too.


Golf is an engaging sport and a perfect way to spend an afternoon. But proper etiquette is a thing. It isn’t too big a deal when you’re playing with close friends. But it’s a different story with strangers or other acquaintances.

Following proper etiquette helps you make a good impression. Plus, the overall experience is much more enjoyable. Breaking a rule or two won’t mean the end of the world, so don’t be too nervous. Just play naturally, and you’ll get used to the etiquette.


Christopher Diaz

Christopher is an avid golfer who calls Miami home. As a Phil Mickelson fan, he set up this website as an informational portal for all other fans of "Lefty." He also occasionally reviews equipment and golf training programs, but admits he'd rather be on the course than anywhere.