Golf etiquette is the broad-reaching term for how golfers are supposed to act in a courteous way toward each other on the golf course. They're the rules for how to make the round go faster, stay out of fellow golfers' way during the round and making sure everyone has a good time.
The rules of golf etiquette are largely unwritten. They're things you have to learn just by playing golf, and then, over time, they kind of become second nature for an experienced player. And it's typically golf etiquette that keeps players from taking up the game because they're afraid they'll violate these rules and upset others.
Don't worry about any of that. We're here to help you learn golf etiquette to make sure you know what to do in any situation on the golf course. That way, you can play with confidence, knowing you're doing the right things and helping your experience go as smoothly as possible.
So what rules actually comprise golf etiquette? Let's go over them.
Golf etiquette: Rules for behaving on the golf course
- Using the Honor System: Low score on the previous hole goes first on the next tee. That's how tournament golf works. That doesn't mean you have to abide by that rule, but, if your group insists, that's the deal. Ready golf is better golf unless it's match play.
- Play ready golf: When it's not your turn, make sure to do everything you can to be ready to play immediately when it's your turn. Find your ball. Identify the yardage. Pick a club. Eye up the shot. Take practice cuts. This can all be done while it's not your turn, and it'll speed up the game. Take no more than 45 seconds to play your shot once it's your turn. Really, it's 30 seconds.
- Limit mobile phone use: Keep your phone on silent or vibrate, taking only important/emergency calls. Limit how often you look at your phone for other purposes, including emails and other messages.
- Don't hit into groups in front of you: Yes, we're trying to keep up and keep moving, but don't do so at a pace that could injure or anger groups in front of you. Make sure you're only hitting when you know you won't interfere with the group in front of you. If you can't hit, let others go in front of you.
- Replace your divots: When you take a divot with your swing, particularly in the fairway, make sure to put that turf back into the ground after your shot and give it a good stomp to keep it in place. If you can't replace the turf, make sure to put some of the pre-mixed seed that facilities will give you for your cart or bag.
- Rake the bunkers: When you have to hit out of the sand (sometimes multiple times in a row), make sure to clean up the bunker for the next person by using the rake to smooth out your divot and foot prints, including your path to you shot in the bunker.
- Walking into the bunker: Try your best to take the shortest path to the ball in the bunker, making sure to not walk down or up any steep bunker walls or slopes which will have to be rebuilt or raked and waste time. Take the rake in with you if it'll mean a long walk back out to get it.
- Fix your ball marks (plus one other): When your ball hits the green from any kind of distance beyond 50 yards, you're going to make a ball mark. Find that spot and fit it with a divot repair tool, gently working the edges to the center with pulling up or tearing the grass. Then find another ball mark that some jerk didn't fix and clean that one up, too. Not all heroes wear capes.
- Don't walk in someone's putting line (directly or through line): It's rude and potentially game-altering to step in someone's intended putting line. Try your hardest to step over or around it. And when your partners are putting, make sure not to stand behind them (until the putt is hit) or in their through line (the area beyond the cup).
- Mark your ball on the greens without prompting: Have a ball marker handy to mark your ball if your partner could potentially hit your ball or be distracted by it with their intended line. If necessary, ask if you need to move your mark off the original spot so that the partner's ball will not roll over the mark and cause it to move or lose speed.
- Know when to be quiet: Don't talk while someone is swinging or standing over a putt. That's just good general info, but some people really don't care all that much.
- Stand behind and/or to the side of your partners while they swing: It's distracting to have someone in your peripheral vision when you're swinging the club, so make sure to stay out of your partner's eyesight as they swing. It's also not a good idea to stand directly behind someone as they swing, so make sure to keep behind and to the side.
- Tend the flagstick the right way: When tending the flagstick, get out of the way of any potential players who could be putting your way. Hold it at arm's length, loosening the base of the stick in the cup so that you can pull it easily in the event the ball might go in the hole.
- Pulling the flagstick: When you're holding the flagstick and not dropping it to the ground, make sure to hold the stick first by grabbing the flag and pulling it around the stick so that the wind doesn't whip the flag to make distracting noise. And if you're the closest player to the hole when everyone gets on the green, your job is to pull the flagstick, putting it down on the fringe.
- Know the Rules of Golf: The Rules of Golf are complicated, but you should know the basics, including how to handle red, yellow and out of bounds stakes on the course. If you think your ball is in a hazard or out of bounds, go ahead and prepare for the next shot, whether that means re-teeing, dropping or something else.
- Curb cussing and other bad behavior: Every group of golfers has their own standards for decorum, but it's generally a bad idea to swear like a sailor, throw or break clubs and be a whiny asshole.
- End-of-round handshake: When the round is over, shake hands with your partners. That's just good practice.