Golf Course Etiquette for Newbies
Most experienced golfers can handle playing with someone who is just learning and has lower than average skills provided the new golfer possess adequate course etiquette and plays at a reasonable pace. Bad etiquette, however, is virtually guaranteed to prevent a future invitation to be part of the group. Here are a few basic rules of golf course etiquette that will be useful for anyone just starting out and a good reminder for more experienced golfers.
These Shirts Don't Have Collars
Before Going to the Course
Even before going to the course, there are a few things you should know and do.
- Try to go to a driving range before playing a round.
Unless you are incredibly athletic and can pick up a golf club and start hitting 200 yard drives, you may want to go to a driving range a time or two and get used to the grip and golf swing. Take along a friend who knows how to golf and can just show you the basics of the stance, grip and swing. Review each club and know the purpose. You should know that a 5-iron will travel farther than a 9-iron when hit correctly.
- Make sure you have your own set of clubs.
I am not saying you have to buy a set, but you should not borrow clubs from others in your group while on the course. Borrow a complete set from a friend if you must or rent a set at the course. Many courses will have sets available for rent and most require everyone to have their own set when playing.
- Dress appropriately.
Golf is a game full of tradition and etiquette. There is not a uniform, but there is a dress code. Many courses do not allow golfers to play in jeans or T-shirts. Khaki pants or shorts and a collared polo-type shirt are expected. If you have any questions, check with a member of your group or the course to determine what you should wear. There is nothing worse than showing up to play and being turned away because you are dressed inappropriately.
Arrival at the Course
There are also a few things that you need to know when you arrive at the course.
- Arrive before your scheduled tee time.
You can't expect to show up 3 minutes before you tee off, get your bag out and loaded on the cart, get your shoes on, pay for the round, warm up, etc and make it to the first tee on time. Golf courses are businesses and many are busy. Tee times are often scheduled at 7 minute intervals so it is imperative that you arrive with plenty of time (think 30 minutes or so) to actually be hitting the ball at the scheduled time. The last thing you want to do is make the entire schedule for the rest of the day late.
- Bag Drop
Golf courses usually have an area where you can get your bag out of your car and set it down before parking. Fancy courses will even have an attendant who will get your bag out and bring it to a cart. Be prepared to tip this individual as you would a skycap. These attendants may also retrieve your bag at the end of your round and clean your clubs. Again, be prepared with a tip.
During the Round
There are several items that should be remembered while on the course in order to respect the course itself and the players with whom you are playing. Respecting the course boils down to damage to the course and allowing those behind your group to play the course under the best possible conditions. Several points to remember:
- Keep the carts on the path near all tees and greens and on all par 3 holes for its entire length.
- Follow any special cart rules for the day such as 90 degree or cart path only if the course is very damp.
- Replace divots in the fairway (or fill with sand mixture if provided) and on all the tee boxes. Also fix your ball marks on the green.
- Never drive a cart in long grass, bunkers, or hazards.
- Throwing clubs could damage the course (not to mention make you look like a jerk).
You should also show a deep respect for the other players in your group by adhering to the following:
- Do not make noise or move when another is taking a shot. Do not stand in the line of sight or the peripheral vision of another player while taking a shot. Also be cognizant of your shadow so that it is not in the line of the shot.
- Do not walk between the ball of another player and the hole when on the green. In other words, do not walk "in the line" of someone else's putt.
- Do not shoot while another is taking a shot.
- The player farthest from the hole is the one who takes the shot.
- The player with the lowest score on the previous hole has the "honor" of teeing off first on the next hole unless everyone in the group has agreed to play "ready" golf meaning to hit when you are ready as long as no one else is hitting.
These are a few of the basic rules of etiquette that should get you through the game. At the end of the round, be sure to shake everyone's hand and thank them for playing. Golf is meant to be a fun game in which you compete against yourself and the course while enjoying the company of others.