If you’ve never played a round of golf before with a group of seasoned aficionados of the sport, you better bring more than your high end golf clubs and a set of designer golf shoes. Golf courses are meticulously cut, manicured and preened so that golfers are able to play in an absolutely serene environment with no distractions. Don’t think twice about letting a friend borrow your 60 degree Vokey wedge if you intend on playing a fair game where everyone has a similar handicap. These are the ten rules of proper golfing etiquette you should be following from the very first day that you step on the green.
1. Retrieve Your Lost Balls Quickly or Use a New One
Golf may be a game of leisure, but your buddies certainly don’t want to spend the majority of their day off from work trying to locate every ball that you lose. This is why golfers carry loads of spare balls in their golf bags and clubhouses make a mint off of selling loose golf balls to visitors. If you lose a ball in the rough, don’t spend any more than two or three minutes looking for it. Keep a spare ball or two in your pocket so that you can resume the game as soon as possible.
2. Arrive Early or Don’t Come at All
If you have an invitation to play golf with your friends early on a Saturday afternoon, don’t saunter in five minutes beforehand and think that you’re showing proper etiquette. It is an unwritten rule of golf to always arrive approximately 20 to 30 minutes beforehand. You’ll need time to greet fellow players, get acquainted with your caddies, and make your way over to the first hole. If you pull into the parking lot and you see other people that you will be playing with arriving at the same time, make sure that you grab their attention before you make your way to the course so you can all stroll in together.
3. Know Which Ball is Yours
It is a pretty good idea to use colored markers to put a different colored dot on each ball so that you can tell which ball is yours after each swing. If you’re playing with a group who take the game of golf seriously, you will commit a major blunder by hitting the wrong ball and messing up another player’s score. Mark up all of your balls so that you don’t make this embarrassing error and show that you have a little bit of home training.
4. Put the Flagstick Back in the Hole
Golf courses are generally pretty big. If you’re playing a traditional round of 18 holes, those flagsticks that rest in each hole can make it very convenient for players to navigate to the right area. Since the flagsticks need to be taken out in order to putt properly, it is critical to remember that someone has to put them back once your group has finished up with a hole. Generally, whoever putts last is supposed to be the flagstick handler. Bad behavior and poor manners can get your membership revoked at private clubhouses, or at least make you the subject of gossip every time you visit.
5. Don’t Get Ahead of a Group Playing on a Different Hole
Maybe you have a magical swing that enables your ball to always land on the fairway in a single stroke. Although you don’t need to hold back, even if you are playing casually, you do want to show respect to other groups of players that in front of you. Prepare to wait for a while as they clear the area before you grab your tee and make your first swing on a new hole. Even if another group seems to be taking their sweet time, good golf etiquette involves showing patience and respect by standing far back and not making them feel pressured or rushed. Besides, you can use the time you spend waiting chatting to your group and talking about topics that don’t center around golf.
6. Keep Your Most Used Clubs on Hand
If your group has hitched all of their golf bags on the back of the cart and it is parked far away from the hole, you don’t want to walk over to the putting area with a single club in hand. Although you do get a lot of cardiovascular exercise in the form of walking during a game of golf, you shouldn’t be spending your time going back and forth from your cart if it is not going to be parked very close. Eventually there will be another group who shows up and you don’t want to annoy them by needing to return back to your bag every time you require a different golf club. Show that you know what to do from the onset by taking several good clubs along with you to every hole.
7. Don’t Stand Too Close to Players as They Putt
You could be playing golf with your best friend or your future father-in-law, but the rules are the same for everyone. Golfers need room to concentrate and space to comfortably complete each stroke. If another player can practically feel you breathing on the back of their neck, not only will they feel crowded, they may get justifiably annoyed. Observe where everyone else normally stands during each putt and then create the same amount of distance between yourself and the currently putting player. As soon as the player has made his move, you can walk over and resume your conversation.
8. Don’t be Braggadocios
With the exception of making a hole in one on an exceptionally windy day while standing in the rain, you have to remember that this is not the Master’s Tournament at the PGA. Being especially vocal about your skills, screaming every time you take a swing, or cheering when you clear the rough isn’t just a poor way to behave, it will have your entire group wincing. Remember that golfers enjoy playing with groups that are reflective of their skill and social levels. While most are happy to take in a novice, it is for the purpose of grooming him or her and helping to enhance skill. Being loud and vulgar will have your fellow players regretting giving you an invitation to join them.
9. Keep Your Phone in Your Pocket
It is okay to take a call if you believe it to be critical, but playing mobile games while another player putts, or as you’re walking around the course as a group is bad manners. There’s no reason to fire off texts during a game of golf as the game should be entertaining enough to hold all of your attention. Leave technology behind, save for emergencies, as you intently watch the game and you will be shown the same level of respect when it is your turn. Turn your phone onto silent if you are being distracted by calls or simply shut it off completely if your family doesn’t understand that you don’t want to be disturbed. If your group feels as though you don’t enjoy golf, don’t be surprised when they exclude you from their next get together.
10. Practice Before You Show Up
Your swing doesn’t have to be perfect and you may lose at least half a dozen balls every time you play. Everyone who starts playing golf for the first time is a bit wet behind the ears. On the other hand, if you can’t tell your clubs apart and make rookie mistakes such as walking over the fairway while carrying a heavy golf bag, you will leave your group shocked, and not in a good way. Learn how to properly tee-off, come prepared with the right equipment, and ask questions if you don’t know the correct way to do something before you make a fool of yourself. As long as you know the very basics of golf before you make your way on the course you will show that you have good etiquette and that you are highly teachable.
While playing golf, you should be able to notice an improvement and earn compliments from your buddies as you gain a better understanding of the game. You don’t need to be a good golfer to have good etiquette, but a lot of the better players are also courteous, humble and very hospitable. Know when you should be quiet and when it is okay that you tell a funny joke while on the course, and always act as a good host when a new player has come out to join your fellow group of players. If you make an error, don’t ignore it, but do promptly apologize and try to move on so that everyone can get back to playing. In case another player makes a faux pas, don’t make a big deal out of it and do what you can to make him or her feel better. Golf can be competitive in the professional world, but a game between friends should always be relaxed and friendly.