Like all sports, golf comes with its own set of rules and regulations, such as penalty strokes for water hazards or grounding the club when playing out of a bunker. Then there’s golf etiquette: not quite rules per se, but helpful in terms of what to do and what not to do when playing.
By showcasing good golf etiquette, you not only make the game more enjoyable for yourself, but for those playing with you and other golfers on the course too. With this in mind, here are eight of the most important golf etiquette guidelines that will guarantee you look and feel the part when you play next.
Nobody wants to wait for a player that hasn’t arrived ahead of their tee time. It puts pressure on the group and starts the round on the back foot. It also means you haven’t had a chance to warm up – you don’t want your very first swing of the day to be your opening tee shot.
Arrive early, loosen up, hit some range balls and get in a few chips and putts to make sure you have a read on the speed of the greens before you begin. Warming up will improve your game, minimise any injuries, and maximise your chance of playing your best.
Depending on the golf club and the conditions on the day, golf buggies may only be allowed on specified routes (wet conditions, for example, may result in areas of the course needing to avoid buggies being used on them). A good rule of thumb is to simply ask about it when you’re checking in – that way you have accurate information and can make use of your buggy accordingly.
There are many ‘breaches’ of etiquette, some of which are more serious than others. Talking or creating noise when a player is lining up a shot or during their swing could be considered one of these. Breaking a player’s concentration not only ruins what that potential shot could have been, it also adds extra weight to every other stroke they play on that hole.
While beginners might get a pass on poor etiquette in other instances, staying silent during someone’s swing is something everyone should know to do.
Not every shot will go in the direction you intended. If you’ve hooked or pulled your shot badly and it looks like it might be heading towards other golfers, make sure to yell “Fore!” loudly. It’s golfing jargon for ‘watch out’, and is possibly the only time one gets to shout on the golf course.
Nearly getting hit by a wayward golf ball is one thing, but when it happens without a warning shout, it’s quite another.
Few things can slow the pace of a golf game like looking for errant golf balls. In fact, a rule introduced in 2019 allows a player a maximum of three minutes to locate a lost ball. While it’s unlikely anyone will enforce this rule in casual play, it’s good to stick to the time limit regardless.
It may even be best to play a ‘provisional ball’ if you think it could be lost, this will stop that awkward walk back to where you played your last shot and holding the groups up behind you.
If you haven’t found your ball after three minutes, declare it lost and play your provisional ball or take the drop and penalty stroke if it’s ended up in a designated hazard area and play on.
Watch where you stand on the green. Putting requires precision, and this is difficult when someone’s in your line of sight or you’re distracted by movement out of the corner of your eye. Unless it’s your putt, stand somewhere you know you can’t be seen (and make sure your shadow isn’t interfering with anything, either!).
It’s also important where you walk on the green relative to where other’s balls are lying. Don’t step directly on any player’s line, as this might have an impact on the green itself and cause their putt to veer off.
You shouldn’t rush any of your shots, but don’t make your round of golf unnecessarily slow either. Slow play is detrimental to the sport; a slow group of players has the potential to sour the experience for those golfers behind them who want to play without a five-minute wait at each hole.
A great way to keep up a good pace is to be ready when it’s your turn. Keep tabs on the game and be prepared to play when it’s your turn to do so.
There’s a reason golf attire exists. It helps keep you cool (and warm) and comfortable on the golf course and play at your best. If nothing else, wear a pair of well-fitting golf shoes and trousers, shorts or a skirt with pockets, and don’t forget headwear and a pair of sunglasses too.
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