There is no golf without etiquette. It’s a word that’s often heard in relation to golf, more so than in any other sport. It’s a game of manners, a game of respect, a game of tolerance, a game of joy, a game of friendship, and a game of sportsmanship.
In other words, golf etiquette is an essential part of the game and the guidelines for good golf etiquette, as strange as some may seem, are implemented for several important reasons. They relate to safety, pace of play and maintaining the quality of the golf course.
Newcomers to the game often learn as they go – especially when playing with more experienced golfers. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles this was part of the game that scared me the most, and I never thought I would be so comfortable out on the course as I am today thanks to all of my golfing mentors.
If you are new to the game, or just need to brush up on your golf etiquette, here are some basic ‘rules of the road’ that will help keep the game enjoyable for you and those around you.
Firstly, when starting out as a beginner golfer you are not expected to know all the rules & etiquette, so please don’t be offended or shamed when you are on course and the more experienced golfers are correcting or giving advice. I only say this because I remember feeling a little embarrassed and naive back in the day.
When standing on the tee, your playing partners will tend to have practice swings, do not swing your club until you know that others in your group are at a safe distance. When making a practice swing be sure there is no one in front of you, incase a small pebble or rock causes damage.
Don’t have more than one practice swing and be sure to have it away from your ball. Do this early so your playing partners are not waiting for you to take your shot, usually allowing 10 seconds to play your shot once you have addressed the ball. Do not hit the ball until the playing group ahead of you are out of range.
If your ball appears headed toward another player or another group, give them a warning by yelling out “FORE” ! (short for foreground). Never throw clubs in anger, in addition to being rude and childish, it could also be dangerous to others.
COURSE MAINTENANCE – Bunkers
Before leaving a bunker, players should carefully fill up and smooth over all holes and footprints. Check if rakes are left inside or outside the bunkers in line with the direction of play as this varies at different courses.
Pitch Repair, Ball-Marks & Shoe Damage
Players should carefully repair any divot holes and any damage to the putting green made by the impact of a ball (whether or not made by the player themselves). Use a pitch repair fork. Pierce the ground outside the margin of the divot and fold edges inwards then tap flat with sole of putter.
On completion of the hole by all players in the group, damage to the putting green caused by golf shoes especially around the hole should be repaired, usually by tapping down with the flat sole of your putter.
Preventing Unnecessary Damage
Players and caddies should avoid causing damage to the course. e.g. Do not remove divots when taking practice swings or by hitting the club into the ground, whether in anger or for any other reason.
Carry a bucket of sand, prepare this at the first tee prior to teeing off, to repair fairway divot holes after each stroke if required.
Ensure you do not damage the putting green when putting down bags or the flagstick. Avoid standing too close to the hole and take care when handling the flagstick and when removing a ball from the hole. Do not use club head to remove a ball from the hole. Replace the flagstick in the centre of the hole to avoid damaging the delicate edges of the cup before leaving the putting green.
Avoid leaning on a club on the putting green. Follow any local notices regulating the movement of golf carts (motorised), usually can’t be driven anywhere near the green.
Arrive early to play, avoid running to the tee.
Prior to play prepare your pencil, scorecard, green marker, short and long tees, pitch repair fork and place your initials or personal mark on your balls ready for play so you don’t have to fossick around in your bag during play whilst your group and those behind you, wait for you.
Avoid standing directly behind your playing partner as they play their shot. It can be distracting to the eye. It is better to stand to the side and watch their ball flight incase they lose direction, theres nothing better than being able to help a fellow player find their ball. They’ll be very grateful.
It’s best to keep noise to a minimum while your partners are addressing their shots, you will also benefit from it when they return the same etiquette.
Watch this small instructional video clip from R&A on rules & etiquette below, once you’ve opened the page scroll down to Explaining Etiquette to watch three small videos on Repairing pitch marks, Repairing divots on fairways & Padraig Harrington on Etiquette :-
I hope I have given you a head start or even refreshed your memory on golf etiquette!
Remember – It is always meaningful to shake hands or as women do, an air kiss cheek to cheek after the last putt at the end of the round. After four hours of golf you should politely know something about your partners from appropriate conversations during the round such as family, other sports, work, past travel.
There is nothing worse than playing with someone who remains almost silent (even if they are shy) and knowing nothing about them after a round of golf. Be careful not to give your partners the ‘third degree of interrogation”. Find the right balance of conversation – usually between holes.
I have to admit it’s around the 15th or 16th hole when I give a thought to a nice hot strong skinny latte! Good etiquette is to have a snack and or drink with your group after play. At clubs it is an unwritten rule for members to do this. If I’m unable to join my group after our round I’ll let them all know before we tee off.
“Conversation starter could be about Fairway Birdies and encourage your playing partners to subscribe”. 🙂