Golf For Beginners – Golf Etiquette You Need To Know
One of the most complex and unique things about the game of golf is “golf etiquette”. And if you are new to golf, this can be confusing and make many beginner golfers feel intimidated and unsure.
And it is one BIG reason why golf is can be a challenge to learn.
So, let’s make this easier on you.
While is is typical to learn golf etiquette out on the golf course, why not know some of it ahead of time?
I’ve listed the top 19 most important rules of golf etiquette that will help you gain confidence out on the golf course. Hopefully it will make it a little less intimidating.
So, read through this and learn it. You’ll be a rock star out there on the course!
1. Know and Follow the Proper Golf Dress Code
There are specific items of clothing in the game of golf that you need to conform to while playing golf.
Golf comes from very traditional roots and some of these same traditions are still around today.
There are definitely levels of strictness in dress codes. With the addition of more and more entertainment style practice ranges, and facilities, you won’t see the stricter dresscodes here.
However, if you head out on a golf course, you may see more dress codes being enforced.
Typically, looser guidelines might be seen at par 3, executive or public courses. Stricter dress codes are usually observed at private and exclusive clubs and courses.
Be sure to call up ahead of time before you arrive to see what the dress code is. The worst thing is they won’t allow you to play or you might have to purchase something in their Pro Shop that adheres to the dress code.
For women, typical golf attire includes a skirt, skort, shorts or pants, a golf shirt with a collar or a dress with collar. No need for golf shoes, you can wear sneakers or tennis shoes. Optional accessories include a golf glove and a hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
2. Be On Time and Ready to Tee Off
A tee time is an exact scheduled time for your group to tee off on the first tee. You’ll see times like 12:12 or 2:24 and times like these.
The last thing you want is to be late for your tee time. In fact some courses may not even let you go out if you miss it by even 5 minutes as it will back up the rest of the groups that day.
Be sure to arrive earlier than your scheduled tee time so you have enough time to do the things you need to like practice at the range, putt, use the restroom, and get your clubs and bag ready.
Also be sure to have your glove on, a tee and a ball ready to go.
3. Keeping Pace of Play
Pace of play in golf is very important.
Wait, let me say this again. Pace of Play is important.
What this means is that you need to constantly be moving ahead towards the green or the next hole. A typical round of 18 holes takes about 4 hours. 9 holes takes 2 hours. Some courses may even be less or more depending on the golf course.
Plan for about 15 minutes per hole except for the par 3’s, which should take less time.
Golf can be a long day out and if you are following a group in front of you that is very slow, it can irk the most patient of players.
Sometimes it can be hard to know how fast or slow you are playing, but something to keep in mind is to ALWAYS keep up with the group in front of you.
Alternatively, if you look back and the group behind you is constantly waiting around, and the group in front of you is nowhere to be found or has moved ahead, you’ll want to pick up the pace or let the group behind you play through.
“Playing through” allows the group behind you to move ahead of you while you wait for them to play the hole you are currently on.
This works well if you want to take your time. Just beware that there may be more groups behind them and if you keep letting groups play through, it can be distracting to your game.
It is better to just pick up the pace of play.
4. Quiet, Please
While it is very social during the round, golf is actually a fairly quiet game. You must be as quiet as possible during someone’s golf shot or while they are setting up to hit their ball (includes the practice swings).
Talking in someone’s back swing is not a good thing and a big no no.
This also means no fiddling in your bag or whispering to another golfer.
Yelling, screaming or playing loud music is not something that is done on the golf course. The only time you hear someone yelling loudly would be at a big professional golf tournament (after the ball is hit) or when someone is yelling FORE!
Continuing with the word FORE, if you hear this yelled, you must duck and cover your head. It means an incoming golf ball has been hit towards someone and that could be you.
A golf ball can be very dangerous as it is very hard and compact. If a golf ball hits you on the head, it has the potential of giving you a concussion so be very careful and mindful of where people are located.
And, if you accidentally hit a golf ball towards a group of people, it is your responsibility to yell FORE! as loud as you can to warn and protect them from being hit.
Oh, and if you have a group in front of you that is slow, you must make sure they are out of range of your ball before you hit. It is very dangerous to “hit into them” and disrespectful.
6. Order of Hitting
According to the rules of golf, the person who is furthest away from the pin or the hole hits first.
This is the safest way to play so people aren’t hitting in front of others.
The only time this doesn’t apply is on the tee box for each hole.
Technically, the person who shoots the lowest score on the last hole goes first on the tee. That person has the “honors”.
Unless you are playing what is called ready golf. “Ready golf” means whoever is ready to tee off can hit first. This helps speed up the pace of play.
7. Where To Stand in Golf
Standing too close or in someone’s line of sight is not good for several reasons.
For safety’s sake, standing too close is dangerous.
Make sure you are standing far enough away from someone when they are hitting their ball and taking their practice shots as the club.
It is also distracting to stand in someone’s line of sight as they are hitting their golf ball. Line of site is anywhere they can see you in their back swing or even in front on the putting green.
8. Walking In Someone’s Line
Walking in someone’s line is typically on the putting green. Even a footprint may have an effect on the roll of the golf ball.
The “line” is the invisible line between a golf ball and the hole.
If you can, walk around the golf ball or ball marker and the hole. If you must walk through, make sure to gingerly step over the line and avoid walking directly on the line.
9. Marking Your Ball on the Green
When your ball lands on the green, you will need to “mark your ball”.
Place a ball marker just behind your golf ball, and be sure not to accidentally move your ball before the marker is placed. Once the marker is down, you can pick up your golf ball and clean it off.
That way, when others are putting there aren’t other golf balls laying around.
Once it is your turn and your ball is furthest away from the hole, be sure to place your ball down at the same spot as it laid before you picked it up. Remember to place your ball down in front of the ball marker.
10. Tending the Pin or Pin Etiquette
The rules of golf by the USGA and R&A made big changes over the last several years. Many of them were enacted to help speed up the game.
One of the rules used to be that a golfer would be penalized if they putted from the green with the pin in the hole and it was not being tended.
Tended means that another golfer had to stand next to the pin and hold it until the ball came close to the hole. If the ball looked like it was going in the hole, the tendee had to take the pin out of the hole before the ball went in.
Now, a golfer has the option to leave the pin in the hole when putting from the green and there is no more needing to tend.
What to keep in mind is that when taking the pin out of the hole, be sure to not damage the grass around the hole.
And lay the flag stick down far enough away from the putts that are taking place on the green.
This is pretty funny, but I have seen it done before. Don’t forget to put the flag stick back in the hole before leaving the green!
11. Repairing the Course to the Way You Found It
This one is about respecting the golf course. We learn this as children – to leave something the way you found it.
In golf this means if you take a divot or leave a hole in the fairway, the green or even the tee box, we must remember to fix it.
In the fairway or tee box, this means find your divot or the clump of grass that you took off when hitting your practice or shot and replace it back to the divot it came from.
Some courses have containers with a seed mixture that you just sprinkle on top of any divots. You can find these mostly on the sides on riding carts and sometimes next to tee boxes.
On the putting green, a ball mark or pitch mark is what is typically seen.
These are the little welts or indentations in the putting green surface. It is our responsibility and job as golfers who respect the course to fix these little ball marks.
A repair tool is what is used to fix these. And there is a proper way to actually fix the ball marks.
12. Bunkers or Sandtraps
This is more of a rule, but important to mention. When your ball lands in a bunker or sand trap, you can not perform a practice shot or touch the sand with your club at address prior to hitting your shot. If you do so, it can lead to a penalty stroke in your score.
Golf etiquette in bunkers is raking the sand trap after you hit your ball out. You must rake the place where your ball was hit as well as any footprints in the sand that you made.
When you are done, you should leave the sand rake somewhere along the outside of the bunker. Do not leave the rake in the bunker.
13. What to Say on the Golf Course – Positivity Please
So, what are you supposed to say after someone hits their golf shot. Usually it is something like:
“great shot”, “good ball”, “nice one”.
Anything that is positive is good. Unless you have that relationship with someone and want to give them a hard time. But typically that doesn’t go over all that well with anyone. Just sayin’ :).
So, what do you say if someone has a poor shot? Nothing really. Quiet is good. Every now and then I’ll say something like, you’re safe or not in trouble, etc. But sometimes whatever you say might trigger something. Most golfers when they have a poor shot already have enough negative stuff in their head and might be feeling some emotions.
14. Riding Cart Etiquette
Respecting the golf course is a big thing. Superintendents and maintenance crews spend a lot of time trying to keep a golf course in good condition.
When riding in a golf cart see if there are any rules for the day. It might be that carts need to “stay on the cart path”. This means that you can not drive the carts on the fairways or any parts of the grass.
Typically this happens when there has been a lot of rain that day or the day before. Carts might tear up the course and do harm to the fairways.
Also, be sure to follow the cart signs. These signs are usually up nearer to the green and are arrows pointing which direction to go with the motorized carts or they are little signs that say “carts”. What this means is to not drive beyond the signs and follow the arros which usually lead to the cart path.
Cart etiquette included driving respectfully and be careful not to tear up the course. Beware of cars on roads if you need to cross any and other drivers or golfers.
And finally, do not drive up ahead in front of someone who is hitting their shot. First of all, it is dangerous and second, it is respectful too. It is best to stay at or just back from the person hitting.
15. Push Cart Etiquette
As you approach the green on any given hole, think about where the next hole is located and park your pushcart on that side of the green if possible.
That way when you come off the green, your pushcart is already there and you don’t waste time crossing over the green.
This might be obvious but I am going to say it.
Never roll your pushcart over the green. The putting surface on a green is very delicate and a pushcart can damage it.
Walk around the green.
16. Golf Ball Etiquette
White golf balls used to be the only ball you could find. Colors in all different varieties are now available which make it a lot easier to identify a golf ball you are playing.
Many golfers will mark their white golf balls with some sort of unique pattern. This is to help identify their ball when it is out on the fairway or in the woods etc.
After you hit your ball, be sure to watch it actually land so you know where to go for your next shot.
The worst as a beginner is if you can’t remember where you hit it. This happened to me a lot in the beginning.
Finding a lost golf ball actually has a time limit of 3 minutes to help with the pace of play. If you lose a ball, it is ok to hunt around for it just don’t spend a lot of time or the pace will slow considerably.
It is good to help others find their ball as well as long as you are not up next to hit. If that is the case, hit first then go help.
Always think about the pace of play.
A quick note: this gets more into the actual “rules” of golf, but if your ball is lost in a penalty area (water) you can drop where it went in. If your ball is lost in a non-penalty area, the rule is to hit from the same spot you just hit from when you lost the ball.
If you think it might be lost, save time by hitting a provisional ball from the same spot and just tell everyone “this is a provisional” in case you can’t find your ball. This will save a lot of time than having to go back to your original spot to hit another.
17. Honor and Honesty in Golf
After you start playing on a golf course, you’ll be responsible for counting your strokes or the number of shots you hit on any given hole.
You then mark this number on your scorecard for that hole.
Golf is all about honesty and a bit of honor. This means thinking back and making sure you count every stroke (mostly for competition or if you are trying to create a handicap for yourself).
18. Good Sportmanship
Golf is all about tradition and respect. It is not a good thing to hear people swearing or going off on their golf game or their club.
I have been around these people who rant and mouth off in anger because of their poor shot or a shot that didn’t go where they wanted it to. Not fun and uncomfortable.
Golf teaches us many things, just like in life. Keeping our emotions in check is important and, yes hard to do.
We all experience these strong emotions while playing golf. Try to shake it off and move on to the next shot or hole when you get frustrated.
Be humble when you win and a good sport when you lose. Be positive and supportive with other’s shots.
On the green, when someone putts really close to the hole, you can let your partner “have it” or tell them “it’s good” or “take it away”. This means they don’t have to actually putt the ball into the hole. This is called a “gimme” in golf.
After the round, it is customary to shake your partner’s hand. And thank them for a great round or a great day on the course.
Then you head to the 19th hole for some socializing.
19. Golf’s 19th Hole
After a round of golf, it is so fun to head to the 19th hole. The bar or restaurant located at the golf course. It’s now time to socialize, reminisce and relax after playing golf. A reward for a day out on the golf course.
Just remember, there is a lot to know with golf etiquette when playing golf. Noone expects you to know it all in the beginning. We all had to learn it. You’ll start to remember through playing and repetition and making mistakes too.
Most partners you are playing with will be fairly lenient and helpful in explaining etiquette and rules especially if you are new to golf.
But, if you just read through these important etiquette tips, you will be in great shape for your round.
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It is a community where you can engage and interact with others learning the game.
Best of luck to you in your golf journey!