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The Basics of Golf Etiquette

Updated on March 11, 2015


If you're a golfer, you know how important the unspoken rules of golf etiquette are. Whether you're teeing off, playing on the fairway or putting on the green, it's important that every player knows what is expected of them.

Golf is a game that has a rich history full of tradition, culture and common courtesy. Along with the rules of golf, etiquette is one of the most important areas to understand - The behavior that everyone should adhere to when they are on the fairway.

This article explains the main areas of golf etiquette and provides tips and advice that all golfers should be aware of so that everyone playing has a great time. We'll cover:

  • General golf etiquette
  • Order and speed of play
  • On the green
  • When other people are playing

General golf etiquette

This is the etiquette you should keep in mind for every aspect of the game:

  • Learn the rules of golf; although you don't need to know them exactly, having a general knowledge can be very helpful
  • Learn any specific rules for the golf course where you will be playing
  • Agree house rules ahead of time, for example if you offer a 'Mulligan' - A do-over of an errant shot; this also applies if you're having a friendly bet on the golf round
  • If you find any lost property on the golf course, for example golf clubs, covers or hats, return them to the club house
  • Always repair any divots that you make when either teeing off or on fairway play. Containers of sand should be provided for this, and you should also have sand with you for use on the fairway
  • Always rake any sand traps that you land in; this should remove any signs of your play, footsteps and swings
  • Pay attention to cart path and golf cart rules; learn where you can drive your golf cart on the course. On wet days, this will often be the '90 degree' rule, which means that you should always use the cart path until you are parallel to your ball, when you can drive onto the course
  • If a golf ball looks like it might hit someone else, shout 'Fore' as loudly as possible. This will alert people to be on the lookout for incoming golf balls! This goes for balls that you are hitting out of a sand trap as well as when you are playing down a fairway
  • Turn off your mobile phone or cell phone

Decide on the order and speed of play before you tee off
Decide on the order and speed of play before you tee off | Source

Order and speed of play

Decide on these areas before you set out on your round and review them during your game:

  • Decide the order of play before you start, this might be that the person with the lowest score goes first, or simply the person that's ready first
  • Always keep up with your own group, play at a consistent speed and don't slow them down
  • If there are other groups or players that are completing holes quicker than you and they catch up, let them play through; this means allowing them to take their shots down the fairway and on the green before you start
  • If other players are playing through, don't start teeing off until they are out of harm's way
  • Watch where your golf ball lands, so that you know where to take the next shot from. It also helps if you can watch for where your fellow golfer's balls land
  • Help other golfers find their golf balls; the less time you spend searching, the more time you can spend playing

It's a hamster, playing golf - What more needs to be said?
It's a hamster, playing golf - What more needs to be said? | Source

On the green

When you reach the green, bear these points in mind:

  • Never step on someone else's 'putting line' - The area between where their golf ball is on the green and the hole
  • When you get to the green, mark where your ball is and remove it; this means it will not distract from the putting of other golfers
  • When another player is on the green, ask them when they want the 'pin' (flag) taken out of the hole
  • If your ball leaves a mark on the green, do your best to repair it

It's important to be discreet and quiet when someone else is taking a shot
It's important to be discreet and quiet when someone else is taking a shot | Source

When other people are playing

One of the most important areas is how you should treat others when they are playing:

  • When people are setting up their swing, practicing and making their swing, give them room and stay out of their sight line. Try to stand behind them if possible
  • Be aware of your shadow, make sure it doesn't fall over a putting line or into a person's sight line when they are swinging
  • Be aware of golfers that are left handed, this may mean that they hit the golf ball from the other side
  • Don't talk or make noise whilst other golfers are taking swings
  • Never give other golfers advice on their game or swing unless they ask you to

Golf rules and etiquette

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In closing

If there's one general piece of etiquette to remember, it is to be courteous towards other players and to be considerate of the golf course and your surroundings.

This, and the tips above, will help to make sure that you have an excellent experience every time you play golf.


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