By Frank Peter
This is a lengthy section, but please bear with us here. Etiquette is a very
important part of golf, and it is vital that you know about what to do and what not!
Golf is a game that requires a lot of concentration. If you are trying to make a putt,
or hit your tee shot into a narrow fairway, it will be much more difficult if someone
is laughing, rattling their clubs or running around the tee or green.
Golf etiquette is an extremely important part of the game of golf. The etiquette
golfers show to one another out on the course is one of the things that
distinguishes golf from all other sports. But what is etiquette? Etiquette has to do
with manners. It is through the courtesy we show to other people that we
communicate our respect for them and that we show them how important we
think they are.
Quiet is required on the golf course. Golf requires lots of concentration, and even
if the people in your immediate group don't seem to be bothered, there are other
groups all around you. So keep you voice down. Walk, don't run.
Watch that Practice Swing
The first and foremost rule of golf and golf etiquette is safety. This rule applies to
young and old alike. Without some good common sense and a notion of how
hard golf balls and clubs are, a golf course can be a very dangerous place. So
here are some safety rules to always follow on the golf course: Don't take
practice swings toward another person (Rocks and sticks and grass can fly up
and hit them in the eye. Besides, it's rude!)
You don't need a driver's license to drive a golf cart on the course, but you do
need some common sense . If you are driving a motorized cart, drive at a
moderate speed and keep your eyes open for other golfers. Depending on
weather conditions and other variables, courses will post different rules relating
to the use of carts. Be sure to obey the course rules regarding carts such as:
Keep carts on paths at all times -- this is a rule that courses use if the ground is
very wet and they don't want the tires of the motorized carts to damage the fairway
grass. 90 Degree Rule -- this rule requires you to stay on the cart path until you
are even (at a 90 degree angle) with your ball. Then you may drive your cart
straight out to your ball. When you've taken your shot, drive straight back to the
cart path. Adhering to this rule minimizes damage to fairway grass as well, but
still allows golfers to drive right up to their ball. Always, under all circumstances,
keep all carts, motorized or pull-carts away from the greens and off the teeing
ground. Often the course will post signs giving directions as to where they want
you to park your cart; follow the directions.
If golfers have to wait too long in between shots they get impatient and they lose
their momentum. So here are some things you can do to maintain a good pace
Don't wait until your turn to start thinking about what club you will hit, or whether to
go over the water or lay up to it -- be ready in advance.
As you approach the green determine in which direction the next tee is located
and leave your clubs on that side of the green.
When playing from a motorized cart, if one player is on one side of the fairway
and the other player on the opposite side, drop one player off at his or her ball
with a choice of a few clubs, then drive to the next player's ball and meet farther
down the fairway, after both have hit their shots.
Keep up with the group ahead of you. As they leave the green you should be
ready to hit up to the green. Don't worry about how far ahead you are of the group
behind you, focus on staying a reasonable distance from the group ahead.
Play "Hit When Ready" golf whenever it's appropriate.
If you are not playing golf in an actual tournament or other sanctioned event, it is
okay to play "ready golf."
Ready golf means the golfer who is ready to hit can do so even though he or she
may not be farthest away from the hole. Just agree ahead with the others in your
group that you will play ready golf when it makes sense. That way they won't think
you are just unaware of the rules. It is good courtesy to acknowledge that you are
playing ready golf to move things along.
Ready golf can really help to speed things along, but before you hit be sure that
everyone in your group knows that you are going to hit and that you are aware of
where everyone in your group is. You certainly do not want to hit someone who is
not paying attention, nor do you want several people hitting at one time.
Call the pro shop if you have any questions about attire.
Classic dress for men: slacks, collared sport shirt, golf shoes.
Classic dress for women: knee-length skirt, collared sport shirt, golf shoes.
A wide-brimmed hat, a visor, a bandana, and sunscreen are fashionable
preventives for skin cancer.
At clubs, use available locker facilities.
Golf or tennis shoes, please.
A good swing can hit any club.
Good used clubs are readily available.
Take a "test drive."
X-outs are an honest bargain.
Find out if your bag is for walking or riding? (small/big)
Ranges, munys, private clubs and adult-ed programs typically offer group
Play the course at low tide: weekday and weekend afternoons.
Par-3 and executive courses won't take all day.
Call for a tee time and be prompt.
Call and cancel your tee time if you can't make it.
Never carry your clubs into the pro shop.
You must have your own bag; no sharing.
Q & A
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
What's the proper etiquette if a single player is paired up with a group, and he
wants to play the shorter tee while the group plays from the tips?
The temptation to go along with the group can be strong. Nevertheless, in the
long run everyone will be best served by playing the tees that are the most
appropriate for them. Too often, golfers seem to bite off more than they can chew.
We've all seen it. The biggest problem with players playing together from different
tees is needless waiting. As soon as the last player from the back tees has hit,
even with the ball still in the air, immediately start to your tee. Don't wait for the
commentary. Don't wait out of some sense of politeness. Get going. The meter's
running. And while you are waiting for the gorillas to tee off, use the time
efficiently to start thinking about your club selection. Have a tee and an extra ball
ready because you're on deck.
Reading Between the Lines
How close to the line is it legal to stand and "observe" the line of a putt without
violating the rules?
This isn't so much a rules question as it is a question of sportsmanship. Proper
etiquette would have you out of the peripheral vision of the player about to putt. If
you're partners, or playing a scramble, that's different. On the pro tours, you'll
often see a caddie line up directly behind a player until just before the club starts
back. Different situation again. If you and I have nearly identical putts, stand
aside, and as soon as I've stroked it, you're welcome to move into position and
observe the putt as best you can, but that's after the ball's rolling. Until then, you
should stay out of the picture.
How to Just Say No, Politely
Every once in a awhile I like to play nine holes by myself. Mostly I just want to
work on my game and relax. My problem is, many times the group ahead will
invite me to play through, a nice offer, but something I hate to do as it hurts my
concentration. Most of the time the group isn't really that slow, but is just trying to
be nice. Any advice on how to politely decline?
It's absolutely OK to politely refuse an invitation. Sometimes at work you'll be
asked to join in for lunch but you've got something to do at your desk. So it goes.
If the course is empty enough not to slow play by hitting two balls or taking extra
putts, don't feel too bad about it, if there's one thing golfers understand, it's the
importance of practice and concentration. They're just trying to be courteous. A
"no thanks, take your time" should do nicely.
On the Practice Green
Harvey Penick had a way of emphasizing the importance of putting practice. He'd
point to a crowded range, then look back at the people putting on the practice
green and say, "These people [on the green] are going to take their [on the range]
money." Even if you're not putting for dough, diligence on the practice green is
usually rewarded with lower scores.
In baseball, a fly ball caught at the fence counts the same as a pop fly to the
catcher: one out. It's the same with golf. The inescapable truth is that a missed
18-inch putt counts the same as a 270-yard drive: one stroke. The buck in golf
stops on the putting green. A cursory glance at history reveals that all great
golfers have been great putters: put another way, there are no great golfers who
haven't been great putters.
Practice greens are usually free and open to the public. Golfers share an affinity
with fishermen who always keep their gear close at hand; their putter is never far
off. You'll often see people slipping in a few putts at lunch or on their way home
from work still dressed for the office.
Golf attire is not required to use a practice green; proper shoes are. Don't step on
a green without them. Actually, it's a good idea to stay off the green unless you
are putting. Walk around rather than cross over on your way to the clubhouse, pro
shop, or car.
The practice green differs in several respects from the green on the course, but
the etiquette considerations are the same.
Several holes are cut into a practice green to accommodate many golfers at
once. It can get crowded, but there is no reason why they can't be comfortably
shared with a little consideration. As you might expect, loud or boisterous
behavior will not be appreciated. A practice putt sunk from downtown does not
merit a celebratory lap exchanging high-fives.
More than one person can putt to the same hole. It is discourteous, however, to
tie up a hole that you're not using. This can be easily done without thinking. After
you've retrieved your ball, move far enough away from the hole you've finished so
others have a clear shot. One golfer, oblivious to others, can tie up two, even
three holes at once. A packed practice green still has empty usable space. Move
to an area of the green that doesn't have a hole cut in it and you'll be able to putt
in peace. Practice touch and feel, gauging how hard a stroke it takes to sink a
three-, four- or five-foot putt. Or putt two or three balls in clusters. As is true with
the greens on the course, practice green holes are regularly rotated to offer
different putts from one day to the next.
Go ahead and hit some long puts (60 to 70 footers) if the practice green is empty.
When it is crowded, courtesy insists that you shoot from closer range (15 to 20
feet or less).
Time for a little high school geometry. You may recall that a line is the straightest
distance between two points. What does this have to do with etiquette on the
green? Plenty. If ever a top ten list was compiled of reasons why good golfers
don't like to play with inexperienced golfers, stepping on putting lines would top
the list. There exists an imaginary line that connects every ball on the green to the
hole. These are known as putting lines. The putting line, in other words, is the
path that a ball will likely travel en route to the hole. Your mission is to walk to,
and putt, your ball without stepping on someone else's line. What's the big deal
about stepping on someone's line?
Believe it or not, your footprint, might cause a depression in the green that would
deflect a ball from rolling into the cup. It is one of those courtesies that sets golf
apart from other sports and, incidentally, sets golfers who observe it apart from
golfers who don't. We don't want you to feel as if you are negotiating a minefield.
Just be aware of the lines and do the best you can. Putting lines are more
significant when strokes are at stake during actual play. But the practice green
remains not only a good place to practice putting, it's also a good place to
practice etiquette as well.
Tee times are golf's reservation system. They're not mandatory, but they are
advisable, especially on weekends or holidays. Suppose you wanted to take a
friend to a trendy restaurant on Friday night. You wouldn't expect to be seated
immediately without first calling ahead and reserving a table. It's the same way
with golf. A tee time assures your place by assigning a specific starting time.
On a weekday afternoon you probably will not need a tee time. It's still a good
idea to check in beforehand. You never know: the course could be closed, there
might be a tournament, the greens might be under repair, etc. To reserve a tee
time on the weekend, you will need some advance planning.
Courses differ on how -- and when -- they accept tee times. Every attempt to
achieve equity in allotting tee times has been tried short of court-ordered lotteries.
It's not easy. The drama often begins before dawn. In worst-case situations,
golfers sleep out as they might for good seats to a hot concert. At some courses
we are distressed to hear that the starter, the person who manages the tee
times, may even require a little something extra for him -- or herself, in addition to
the regular green fee, before allowing golfers to proceed.
A municipal course reservation system for weekend play might typically run like
this: at 7 o'clock Friday morning, attendants take one tee time for the weekend
over the phone and one from players waiting in line, one over the phone, one
walkup, until every slot is filled.
Private daily fee course reservations might be accepted a week in advance to
play during the week, one day in advance for the weekend. As it would be at any
restaurant, your reservation to play golf should be made with honorable intent. If
you cannot keep it, call the pro shop with the unfortunate news, freeing up the
slot for others. When you receive a tee time, you are expected to have lined up a
foursome -- or at least have one assembled by your scheduled tee time. If you
know someone isn't going to make it, call or alert the pro shop as soon as you
can. Single golfers hang around the practice green to fill in foursomes the same
way skiers wait along crowded lift lines to fill in chairlifts.
You might do the same, but be prepared to wait. A single is the low man on the
totem pole. The best way to avoid being placed in an abominable fivesome is to
make sure your foursome is present and accounted for. Otherwise, threesomes
and two singles will be paired together.
Tee times are typically spaced eight to ten minutes apart. You will usually be
given plenty of advance notice. While you're waiting, you owe it to the golfers in
front not to crowd them on the first tee. Stay far enough back so as to be out of
Nothing can be more suffocating than standing on the first tee and looking back
to see a bread line of starved golfers. Anxiously awaiting their turn (even though it
may be 30 or more minutes off), they are oblivious to the disturbance they create
by chatting or taking ferocious practice swings. Their time would be better spent
on the practice putting green, almost always nearby, until summoned to the tee.
Another On-Time Arrival
It should go without saying that punctuality is important to everyone's peace of
mind and, thus, to playing well. We'll say it anyway because it does not happen
as often as it might. One member screeching into the parking lot just as his or
her group is being called to the tee is rude -- plain and simple -- and all too
familiar. Doing so is no more conducive to good golf than running through
airports is to harmonious business travel. Of course, sometimes it can't be
helped; do the best you can to ensure an on-time arrival.
Consider the average foursome. If each golfer individually wastes five seconds
per shot and shoots 90, that adds up to..how many minutes? Seven and one-half
minutes. Correct. And that's per golfer. Now, without any other mishaps, how
many minutes does that add to the length of the round?
I'll give you a hint. It comes after 29. That's right. Thirty minutes added to the
length of the round. Thirty minutes wasted, and that's before you include thrown
clubs, lost balls, the cart girl, mulligans, plumbobbing, etc. No wonder the
four-hour round is going the way of the eight-track tape.
Timely play remains the foundation for an enjoyable round. As those of you who
passed Beginning Golf Etiquette will recall, the right things in golf manners often
boil down to common sense -- and efficiency. Advanced golf etiquette does,
however, require a greater awareness: of our surroundings, the other players
and of the game itself. Here's the good news: regardless of skill level or
experience, age or gender, anyone can learn and practice these tenets.
What follows are a number of tips dealing with subtleties of social golf not
typically covered in primers. Sometimes even your best friends won't tell you.
One golfer's convenience is another golfer's nuisance. Basic courtesy insists
that the interruptions be kept as brief as possible. You wouldn't sit on the
telephone at home while entertaining guests, now would you? Call them back at
the turn if you must. An emergency situation, of course, allows for some leeway,
and their value in sneaking out of the office is certainly a plus. But their use really
should be limited; never in tournaments and sparingly among friends. No one
wants to be reminded of pressing business elsewhere, especially on their
backswing! One might apply the humorous touch -- the imposition of a penalty of
a mulligan or a stroke whenever the infernal device sounds off at inopportune
We know that there is golf and then there is tournament golf, and that they are not
the same. In the absence of a prize, a competition or a bet, an incorrect score
must ultimately rest on the conscience of the sloppy mathematician, not yours.
Who cares? During a recreational round the score is for all intents immaterial.
You might ask the question this way: What do you want (for score on the hole)?
Doesn't it sound nicer than: What did you have (a three or a six)? And, nowhere is
it written that you must keep score anyway. Like a rally in tennis, it might be more
pleasant just to enjoy the satisfaction of hitting a good shot now and then.
A tournament, of course, is another matter. Then you owe it to the rest of the field
to be unfailingly accurate. When someone appears to have trouble remembering
their score, approach it as if it's an honest mistake.
Are You In?
It's the principle of the bet that's at issue, not the amount. If you'd rather not
wager, a suitable excuse is that you are working on your game, thanks but no
thanks. If you are in the game, however, you are obligated to pay up. Would you
want to do business with someone who doesn't pay his or her debts?
Every golfer has sworn heavenwards: "Jeez, what am I doing wrong?" An answer
is not required. It is not an invitation, or even a plea. It is rhetorical, the golfer a
kettle blowing off steam. Better players especially must resist the temptation to
share their worldliness. If someone does offer to help -- and you are inclined to
hear them out -- the cure is best administered on the driving range. Playing
partners should not be burdened with on-course instruction. After the round you
will be able to devote your mentor your full attention.
Many golfers mistakenly believe carts are taxi cabs. They expect ball-to-ball
service when time would be saved by pulling a few clubs and striking out in
search of their ball. There oughta be a law about cart drivers pulling up so close
to the ball that the cart must then be reversed (with that irritating beeping) for the
shot to be played. Pull up alongside the ball, not directly behind and not close
enough to cause a distraction. Gridlock often results when carts are lined up one
behind the other on the path, the front cart holding up traffic. At the conclusion of
the hole, just get in the damn thing, with your club in your hands -- and move it! At
the next tee, you'll have ample opportunity to stow your tools and tally the score.
Upon arriving at the tee, if the way is clear, it's time to hit. The meter's running. It's
not a time out, nor is it like changing sides at tennis where the participants sit,
sip a drink and rest a spell. Play ready golf.
Here's another reason to take just one. The more you take, the more mechanical
the swing becomes. Visualize what you want to do. Staring at the ball or standing
over it for too long creates tension. From the time he stood over his ball to the
conclusion of his swing, the great Jones was said to take less than 3 seconds!
Mind if I Smoke?
Riding in a golf cart should be considered the same as sharing a table. Be
considerate of others with smoke, ash, litter.
The Blame Game
It has been observed that half the people don't care that you had a seven, and the
other half wish you had an eight. Trust me. No one wants to hear the excuse, the
explanation or the swing analysis, engrossing as you may find it. Of course, we
are all guilty to a certain extent, but the blame game gets old fast. Society may be
at fault for your duck hook. We sympathize, of course, but that doesn't mean we
need to hear a running monologue. Expressions of grief, joy or despair should
be emphatic and brief. Old Tom Morris's epitaph says it best: "modest in victory,
generous in defeat."
Some golfers seem to have brake trouble, never coming to a complete stop.
They pause, creep, delay, but they don't stop. Stand still, positively, absolutely
while someone is playing their shot. Then go.
Don't ask. Immediately mark your ball on the green. If it's not in the way, just leave
it. Asking: "Is my ball in the way?" is an necessary distraction. It's not a biggie but
it will waste time.
If the Glove Fits
Some putt with a glove, others don't. Some who take it off could put it back on as
they move to the next tee. But they don't. They wait until it's their shot and THEN
put it on. Tick. Tick. Tick.
If the hole ahead is open, you are obligated to let golfers play through with the
provision that a foursome has the right of way. When the course is crowded and
a twosome is sandwiched in, they will just have to hold their place. Playing
through is a courtesy extended, not a right assumed. Pressed by a group, it will
ease the tension level to say: "We'll let you through when a hole opens up." Of
course, rather than slowing down to let them through, the preferred approach is
to speed up.
Accentuate the Positive
Golfers are quick to note the transgressions. What was said about... if you want
to make friends on the golf course, pick up a ball? We should be equally effusive
about the small pleasures. When someone does something right when they
make the effort to keep play moving, or not stomp all over your line, let them know
it's appreciated. Don't take good etiquette for granted. Thank them. We're all in
Tom's Golf Tips