Unlike the rules, there isn’t an official book of etiquette for golf. Knowing golf etiquette, like knowing the rules, is essential to being a good golfer no matter your skill level.
Respect the Game
Pace of Play
Pace of play is one of the most important rules when it comes to golf etiquette.
This starts with your tee time. Aim to be at the golf course ready to play 20-30 minutes early. Be at the first tee 8-10 minutes before your tee time.
Keep up to the group ahead of you, not ahead of the group behind you. Letting faster groups behind you play through is polite and encouraged.
Be ready to play when it is your turn to hit. If you hit a ball that might be lost, hit a provisional ball to save the time of going back if your ball isn’t found. Move on after three minutes if the ball is not found. It is kind to help others to find lost balls — unless it is your turn to hit. If so, hit first, then help them to find their ball!
To further speed up play, roll your push cart to the side of the green that is most convenient to walk to the next hole.
Know Your Ball
It can be awkward and embarrassing to accidentally play someone else’s ball thinking it is your own. Do your best to remember the make and number on your ball. Another trick is to mark your ball with a permanent marker to easily identify it from others.
Keep track of your score either in your head, on your watch, or using a manual shot-keeper. It can be embarrassing to inaccurately report your score, not to mention it’s cheating.
If you are having a bad hole, it is acceptable to tell your partners you are picking up your ball. Write down an X on your score card or your net double bogey score (also known as your “max”). Players cannot pick up in a tournament.
Record your scores at the next tee, not at the green!
Know the Rules
Do your best to know the rules and play by them. If you feel insecure about the rules, ask your playing partners. If you unintentionally break a rule, remember it happens to the professionals too. Getting called on a rule you didn’t know is hard, but a valuable learning experience.
Dress code varies from course to course. Women have been debating what is acceptable golf wear for generations. If you are worried about the dress code, stick to a polo-style shirt with slacks, longer shorts or a skirt. This is acceptable everywhere.
Respect the Course
Repair the course after you play the ball.
Repair ball marks on the green and fill divots on the fairway. Rake the bunkers after your shot. It is common practice to put the rake on the outer edge of the bunker, although some courses prefer you to leave the rake in the bunker. If unsure, place it out.
Observe the posted cart rules — especially in winter or wet weather. At any time, do not drive or push golf carts on the greens, the teeing area, or between the bunker and the green. Avoid making tire tracks through damp areas.
Know the rules for out of bounds areas.
Be aware of protected environmental areas. Players may not search there for a lost ball
Mark your putt and clean your ball. Use a proper ball marker.
Use your hand or a golf ball pick-up tool on the end of your putter grip to pick the ball out of the cup. Using a putter head damages the cup for the next players.
Respect your Playing Partners
Noise is distracting.
Turn off your cell phone. Keep your clubs still when others are swinging. Do not talk while others are hitting. Velcro and zipper fasteners can wait until they have finished their shot.
Some golfers enjoy music, while others despise it. When unsure, ask your playing partners. Always keep the volume to a minimum so as not to disturb other groups in the vicinity.
Motion is distracting.
Don’t take practice swings while your partner is playing, even in the air.
Don’t walk around while they are putting or swinging.
Stand 2-3 meters 90 degrees directly across from their chest. Stay out of their line of sight.
Be aware of your shadow crossing your partner's putting line.
“When in doubt, yell it out!”
Shout “Fore” if your ball is going toward other players on the course. Yelling “Fore” with a direction like “right or “left” is even more considerate and helpful.
Wait for the group ahead to be fully out of your range before hitting. Don’t hit towards maintenance workers who are on the green or on the fairway.
It is disrespectful to stand or walk on someone’s putting or chipping line on the green.
Make a positive comment to your playing partner only after the ball has finished rolling and only if the results are favourable. Say nothing at all if they are not.
Delay leaving the teeing area or putting green until everyone in your group has finished play.
Although “ready” golf is now encouraged, be aware that many players consider it disrespectful to let go of the honour of first on the tee. Particularly after a birdie. The unwritten rule is to let the player who scored the lowest on the previous hole tee off first.
Breaches of etiquette happen and people will vary in their tolerance. Most golfers know beginners will make mistakes and will helpfully correct them.
If someone is unhappy with your etiquette, apologize and correct it in the future.
Simply put, if you respect the game, the course, and your playing partners, you will have a head start on unwritten etiquette rules.