Golf Etiquette

14 Rules of Golf Etiquette (for Dummies)

If you’re someone who’s been playing golf a while, you know there isn’t much worse than having to deal with poor golf etiquette. It’s one thing to play with someone who’s a brand new golfer but it’s entirely different to play with someone who should know better.

In my opinion, someone’s golf etiquette can really make or break a round, especially if you’re playing with complete strangers. Because let’s face it, you only get one first impression.

And the quickest way to never get invited back to a new club is having poor etiquette. People can forgive bad golf as it happens to everyone but bad etiquette leaves a bad taste with other golfers.

Luckily, once you’re finished reading this post you can avoid a lot of common etiquette mistakes.

14 Rules of Golf Etiquette

If you follow these golf etiquette rules, I’m confident you will make friends, grow your network, and always get invited back.

1. Show Up Early

This is one of the easiest things to do yet so many people still make this mistake every single day. Please make sure to show up at least 20 minutes before your tee time. It’s rude to fellow players and bad for your game when you scramble from the car to the 1st tee box.

You want to arrive at least 20 minutes early so you can check in, stretch, get loose, and hit some range balls. And even if you “Don’t want to waste all of your shots” on the range”, you should at least hit some putts and chips. There isn’t much worse than stepping up to the first tee cold and the first green trying to guess the speed.

Showing up early will make it a better experience and most likely a better round for everyone. And you’re more likely to avoid injury too. Aim to arrive at least 20-30 minutes before your scheduled tee time.

2. Obey The Cart Path Rules

If you’re new to the game, you probably think golf carts are the best thing ever. And while they are awesome, make sure you check with the golf shop before driving all over the course. Depending on the season and conditions, you might only get to drive on the cart path.

This usually happens with winter golf or when it’s really wet conditions to make sure the carts don’t tear up the course. You will also find this is pretty common on holes 1, 9, 18 or any other holes that can be seen from the parking lot or outside the course. They do this to show off course conditions to people driving by or first seeing it.

Keep that first impression of the course positive by obeying cart path only signs. Make sure to check with the starter and don’t try to drive likes it’s a Fast and the Furious movie. And stick with the 90* rule whenever possible.

3. Warm Up with Three Balls

Another quick way to look like you’re brand new on the course?

Warming up on the putting green with a bucket of range balls.

Please use your own golf balls and don’t use more than three golf balls on the putting green. Also, make sure they are clearly marked to avoid confusion and don’t putt in the way of other people.

4. Don’t Talk While Others Are Hitting

The other tips mentioned are important but I’d argue this is the biggest golf etiquette screw up on the list. When someone is hitting, stay silent! When you’re standing over the golf ball, you can hear a twig break and one whisper can screw your swing up.

This is the biggest faux paus on the golf course and can really make other golfers angry. Make sure to stay off your phone and always know when people are hitting. This will help you play ready golf and not interrupt another players swing.

5. Talk to Competitors Shots

Speaking of talking on the course, another piece of golf etiquette for dummies is to only talk to your golf ball. There is nothing worse than someone saying talking to your golf shot. I hate hearing other golfers say things like “Stay out of the water” or even worse “Great putt” about your shot before it actually went in.

Talk to your ball and your ball only.

6. Moving or Standing Behind Someone on the Green

Aside from talking in someone’s swing, I’d argue this is the next most important piece of golf etiquette. It is extremely distracting to have someone stand behind your line of sight when putting. And if that person moves, it’s even more annoying and awkward. If you need a read from them, stand aside and run up afterward to look at the break.

On the putting green, you want to make sure to watch your shadow and never stand directly behind anyone. You also don’t want to stand behind the hole as it’s also distracting as well. Make sure to stand behind fellow players if possible or far enough away to not be in the line of sight.

7. Be Careful Where You Walk

Speaking of putting etiquette, make sure you are super careful of where you walk on the green as well. While the rules of golf now allow you to fix spike marks, it’s still extremely rude to walk in a fellow players line as it can guide their putt offline.

Not only do you want to avoid their original line but also their “through line.” The through line is where their ball would go if it missed long and avoid that line as well.

8. Lost Ball Etiquette

Another great new rule of golf in 2019 is the shortened time to find a lost golf ball. Instead of five minutes you now have three minutes to hunt for wayward golf balls. Personally, I think slow golf is ruining public golf but the new rules in 2019 should help.

If you think your ball is going into a hazard or potential trouble, please make sure to watch it land so you can find it quickly. Once your three minutes are up, take the drop and move on. Remember, it’s only a golf ball.

And if you want to be a standout player, make sure to watch (not talk) to other players balls to help them find them quickly. A little good karma will never hurt on the golf course.

9. Playing Slow

As I mentioned, slow pace of play is turning away so many people from the game. At all costs make sure to play fast. My family motto growing up,

Even if you’re playing bad, make sure that you play bad fast.

If you notice that you’re behind the next group or get warned from a marshall, pick up, move faster, and stay with the group ahead. Please don’t let your ego get in the way either. No one wants a six-hour round.

Speed up your round by using a GPS device or rangefinder instead of walking off sprinkler heads. Plus, if you’re just beginning golf, having the exact yardage probably is not going to matter that much anyway.

And if slow play becomes a regular thing, tee it forward as it’ll make the game more enjoyable for you and everyone on the course.

If you’re guilty of this one, make sure you study our article on how to let groups play through.

10. Ready Golf

One of the reasons golf takes so long is that most golfers aren’t playing ready golf. Ready golf is nothing more than being ready when it’s your time to hit. It’s about being prepared and not taking loads of time once you’re up.

Whenever I’m playing with strangers I always say ready golf on the 1st hole to make sure the group plays ready golf vs. honor’s golf. The only time I’d recommend playing honors golf is when someone makes a birdie, eagle or you are in a competitive event.

Otherwise, stick to ready golf. Not only will you play faster but I’ll bet you also stay in rhythm and shoot lower scores.

Golf Etiquette Rules

11. Get Off The Phone

This is a new golf etiquette rule but an important one. While phones and social media are addicting, don’t let them ruin a fun round with your friends. Get away from technology as much as possible and stay off your phone.

If you need to keep it on or close by, please make sure it’s in silent mode and stay present throughout the round. Just because you putt out doesn’t mean it is time to go back to your phone and look at Facebook.

Plus, staying off your phone will help with slow play and make it more fun for everyone in the group.

12. Know the Rules

Each group is different so make sure the rules are clearly established on the first tee, especially if money is involved. What happens if you spray one OB? Are you doing match or stroke play? Are you giving putts or putting everything out?

It’s so important to establish the rules for the day before teeing off. There’s nothing worse than someone dragging a four-footer when no one gave it to them. Know the rules in advance and save yourself a lot of frustration later in the round.

Check out our article on the rules of golf, to make sure you have basic understanding before showing up to the course. Also, make sure you understand what type of golf game you are playing.

13. Always Yell Fore

This rule is simple. Always know where other golfers are on the course. If your ball is heading toward another group, make sure to yell “FORE” loudly. And I like to add “FORE left” or “FORE right” if you’re in a congested area.

Nearly getting hit can make other golfers extremely angry. So make sure you’re avoiding a fist fight on the course by yelling FORE if your ball is anywhere close.

14. Fix your Ball Mark

Congratulations if you hit the green in regulation. That probably means your ball created a small mark on the green. Some people call this a pitch mark. If you don’t want bad karma, you better repair your ball mark. Basically, you want to use a special golf tool to smooth out the mark left behind so that golfers behind you have a smooth roll if their putting line happens to cross where you mark happens to be. Read our full article on repairing ball marks.

Bonus: Golfer’s Dress Code

Golf is a little unique in the fact that you can’t just show up to the course wearing anything you want. Some courses are not that strict, but you need to be prepared to adhere to a certain dress code. For men, that usually means a collared shirt (tucked in), no jeans, and a few other requirements. Women get a little more flexibility but there are still some minimum standards you need to be aware of.

If you’re new to golf, make sure you understand what to wear. Read our full article on the golfers dress code here. Or you are a woman, here is what women wear golfing.

Golf Etiquette For Dummies Wrap Up

If you’re brand new to the game and you happen to make some of these mistakes, don’t worry. Learn from them and move on. But the biggest ones to avoid are talking in someone’s swing, walking in their line, and not yelling fore towards another group.

The other 10 tips will not help your etiquette but also make it look like you know what you’re doing out there. Hopefully, you can use these golf etiquette tips to have more fun, make new friends, and play better golf this year.

If you’re looking for some golf course approved clothing, go here. And while you are at it, if you are a complete beginners head over to our post on common golf terms so you don’t sound like a beginner.

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