Golf Etiquette

This page is golf etiquette for beginners.

The page covers the broad spectrum of playing golf with others. Besides the rules of golf, there is a whole set of golf etiquette rules that you have to follow while on the golf course. Some people take this really seriously, and it’s best to understand the intricacies of playing with others.

In the interest of pace of play, I will point out tips to keep the pace moving, especially for those new to golf and still learning.

In the section below, we assume you’ve taken some lessons, had some practice and now you are ready to try your skills on the golf course. We cover the whole experience from check-in to departure and everything in between on the golf course.

Arrival and Check-in

An 8am tee time, means that you’ve checked in at the pro shop, drove the golf cart out to the first tee, and checked in with the starter and are ready to go. You’re supposed to be ready, including have your glove on, tees in your pocket, ball and club in hand, ready to go at 8am, not still on the driving range.

You should arrive at the course at least 20 minutes prior to your tee time. 30 minutes if it’s a resort course or a very busy course, especially on days like Saturday.

Most courses have a bag drop. Busy courses and resort courses almost always have people there ready to help you get your clubs out of the car. Remember they are working for tips.

Who Goes First?

Sadly, some people take this way too seriously, especially on the tee box. So it’s best to figure it out on the first hole.

Personally, we play ready golf. If you’re ready, it’s your turn. Though, we try and remember to let anyone that scored a birdie on the previous hole go first.

On the Tee Box

On the first hole, it based on the “draw”. Usually weekend golfers, who care, will stand in a circle, someone will flip a tee and whoever it points to goes first. Then do it again to see who goes second and so on.

After that first hole, it’s based on who had the lowest score, on the previous hole. Then it’s in order based on score, followed by the order on the previous tee box, in the event of ties.

On the Course

The player that is farthest from the hole, goes first, in that order.

On the Green

Again, the same rule applies. the player that is farthest away goes first, in that order. Now if someone is off the green, but closer, we will generally allow them to go first, and chip on, so that everyone is on the green. It’s not as important now that we can leave the flag in the hole. Under the previous rules, it was slow and annoying to take the flag out, put it back in, then take it out again.

With the new rules starting in 2019, you can leave the flag in. Some people like this and some don’t. I leave it in on very long puts, rather than have someone tend it. If some people in your group want it in, and some want it out, let the ones that want to leave the flag in, go first.

On and Around the Green

If you think you may not be on the green, bring any additional clubs with you, such as a sand wedge. It is unacceptable to go back to the cart to get another club.

Marking Your Ball

Players should mark their balls if they are in the line of sight of another player putting, even though they may not be directly between the player’s ball and the hole. If your ball is close to their line, it could be distracting, and that includes through the hole. If they hit it too hard, and it goes past the hole, your ball shouldn’t be in a position that their ball could strike yours.

If your ball is on their line, you can’t put a ball marker on their line. Take your putter and use the length of the putter head to move the marker. Technically, you mark the ball and pick up the ball. Then put the front edge of the putter head against the ball marker. Aim your putter head at something in the distance like a tree. This is the best way to ensure that you put it back in the correct place. After you have the putter head aimed at a target, pick up the ball marker and place it at the back end of the putter head. When it’s your turn, remember to put it back in the reverse order.

Where to Stand

This is one of my biggest pet peeves when playing golf. I am easily distracted. Any player putting should not be able to see your feet. You should not be moving or practice putting. You can not straddle another player’s line to watch the break, and that includes through the hole. In other words, you can not stand on the other side of the hole, directly on another player’s extended line to watch the ball break. Once the ball is in motion, it is then permissible to move anywhere to watch the ball roll.

Get the Flag

Once all the players are on the green, the player whose ball is the closest to the hold should pull the flag. Though with the new rules in 2019, a player may want to leave the flag in. I prefer to leave the flag in for very long puts. The first player in the hole, pick up the flag and hold it until everyone finishes and place the flag back in the hole. Do not allow the flag to flap in the wind while other players are putting.

Extra Clubs

If you brought a wedge with you, because your ball was not on the green, place any extra clubs on the edge or first cut around the green, between the hole and your golf cart. It’s a penalty on you, if someone else’s ball rolls into your equipment lying on the green. Also, if you place between the hole and the cart, you won’t forget your club, because you’ll have to step over them on the way back to the cart.

What are Local Rules?

Some courses have what’s called local rules. These are not part of the official rules of golf, they are specific to the golf course. For example, some courses have conservation areas, and you are not allowed to walk into the conservation area to find your ball. Some will tell you that you get a free drop or maybe it’s a one-stroke penalty. Some courses even print the local rules on the back of the scorecard.

The Golf Cart

Obviously, keep it away from water, the woods, and wet spots. During the summer months, be aware that some courses get wet and muddy and try to avoid those spots so as not to create ruts in the fairway.

Whats a 90-degree rule?

The 90-degree rule means drive on the cart path to your ball. You can drive on the rough but stay out of the fairway. If your ball is across the fairway, the rule means drive straight across, 90 degrees, to the rough on the other side. After you hit your ball drive down the rough to your ball or drive straight across the fairway to the rough or cart path on the other side. Do not drive down the fairway.

Cart Path Only

Cart path only means just that, do not drive the golf cart off the cart path. That means drive down the cart path to where your ball lies. Try and determine the distance, grab that club, then take the next club up and the next club down, yes 3 clubs, and start walking. If your playing partner is not too far, he or she should do the same, after the person that is the farthest away hits, they go back to the cart and move it up.

Golf Cart Around the Green

Do NOT park the cart in front of the green. You should always park the cart towards the back of the green. Then when everyone walks off the green, the players behind you can hit while you are putting your clubs away.

Don’t be these guys.

Don’t Park In Front of The Green

During slow play, do NOT drive up to the next tee box if the group in front of you is still standing on the tee box. Stay well back, but out of the way of the previous hole. Nobody likes an audience, and it’s just plain rude.

Pace of Play and Ready Golf

“Golf’s not a sport, it’s a game too big for a box” – Rob Vasquez 1987

A foursome with golf carts, should, easily, be able to play 18 holes in 4 hours or less. Golf is considered a sport, act like it.

Even when it’s not your turn, you should be thinking about your shot so that you’re ready. Nothing is more frustrating than being on a slow course, watch someone hit their ball, get back in the cart, drive 10 feet and stop so the other player can get out and hit their shot. Are you kidding me!? This happens all the time. Get out of the cart, figure out the distance, grab a club and start walking while your playing partner is playing, without being a distraction to your playing partner. Get a little exercise.

Don’t stand there cleaning your club after the shot, or putting the head cover back on. Put the headcovers back on after you finish 18.

You should always carry 2 balls in your pocket, preferably 3. You should never have to go back to the cart for a ball, while it’s your turn.

Don’t sit in the cart, next to the green and figure out your score, drive away. You enter your score at the tee box on the next hole.

New R&A guidelines around ready golf. They make sense and this is how we’ve played for years.

Follow this link, scroll down past the video to see the highlights. https://www.randa.org/pace-of-play-manual/rules/2-management-practices/subrules/5-ready-golf

If you are not keeping up with the group in front of you, and the group behind you is constantly waiting, you are supposed to let them play through.

Against the Rules, But Do It Anyway

When you’re new to golf and still learning, these are suggestions to keep the pace of play going, and making sure your friends don’t hate playing with you.

If you have those occasional huge number holes, I suggest you adopt this simple rule – make the max score you’ll take on a hole as double par plus one. That’s a 7 on a par 3, 9 on a par 4 and an 11 on a par 5. Nobody wants to sit there and watch you hit a 14 on any hole. If you just hit shot number 7 on a par 4, and you’re still not on or around the green, pick up your ball and take a 9. Go hold the flag for everybody else.

After you hit 2 in the water off the tee, and there isn’t a drop zone, go to where ever your playing partners ball landed, drop your ball, take a 2 stroke penalty and play from there.

if water makes you nervous, then after hitting the first one in the water, drop on the other side and take a penalty. Frankly, if you’re scoring over a 100, nobody cares.

End of The Round

A lot of nicer courses and resort courses have people waiting for you to clean your clubs and take them out front. Truthfully, depending on the course, sometimes I just grab my clubs and go, especially if it’s been a long, hot 4 1/2 or 5 hour round, because I’m fed up and just want to get away. If you let them clean your clubs, remember they work for tips.

Remember this most of all; It’s supposed to be fun. You’re not doing this for a living. Get a grip.