Golf Etiquette – What you need to know.

golf etiquette - what you need to know

Most sports and games such as golf require the basic adherence to a set of rules. The rules are in place to not only aid in scoring, but to also keep players and equipment safe, and keep the game honest and enjoyable. If you’re participating in professional sports, such as a golf tournament or championship, golf etiquette is going to have stricter rules and practices than if you simply were playing with your friends or colleagues on the course.

There may even be room for fudging on the golf course, as long as the players who are waiting for their turn behind you don’t get annoyed. For this reason, golfing etiquette may even encompass rules that aren’t necessarily written on the board, but still involve good common sense and respect for others. It also helps when the rules are the same across all golf courses and countries in the world, making it simpler for travelers who enjoy golfing all over the world.

There can be some dispute about golfing etiquette. Often it’ll be in the news that people must wear certain types of clothing for tournaments or on the golf course. The best way to ensure proper etiquette and avoid disappointment, especially if you want to enjoy a fun round of golf, is to read up on it in advance, and follow the rules.

Who is the R&A That Enforces Etiquette?

Many golfers may hear the reference of R&A or Ruling Authority, but not understand its origins. The R&A is the Ruling Authority for Golf through the UK and much of the world, encompassing over 110 countries.

In the beginning, it was called “The Society of St. Andrews Golfers”. Today, it’s formally called The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, and is headquartered in St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland. This is considered the “Home of Golf”. It was originally set up in 1754. The USA has its own set of rules with the USGA. These rules encompass the beginner, the expert, and the pro, and rules have been issued jointly since 1952.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club was originally just for men, but opened up its membership to women in 2012 on the advice of Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of St. Andrews.

What You Need to Know About Golfing Etiquette

If you’re new to the game of golf it can help to learn about golfing etiquette in advance. After all, you don’t want to be the new person on the course who embarrasses all their friends or colleagues! And you do want to be invited back, so it’s important to learn the basics, and ask questions if you get puzzled.

During your warmup be sure to work your way through your bag, trying the short irons, the mid- and long irons and then the woods. Try some wedge and putt shots. While it’s good to warm up, don’t overdo it.

Ball Identification

ball identification marker

The more you play your game the better you’ll be at discerning where you ball has landed. But it’s important to note the brand and color of your ball, or to mark it with a number to avoid any confusion during play and share the info with others. Plus, this will help you to spot it a lot more easily.


sand bunker

When entering a bunker, it’s important to enter from the lower side. When a player is getting ready for a shot they aren’t allowed to touch the ground, sand, water, etc. if they are making a practice swing. The only time they can do that is during an actual shot.

After you’ve made your shot, be sure to rake the sand smooth again in preparation for the next player. Be sure to leave the rake alongside the bunker and not inside it.

Note that if a bunker is a waste trap, it does not need to be raked afterwards. Often you’ll see these types of bunkers in coastal courses. You can also ground clubs in waste bunkers. If you’re uncertain what type of bunker it is, play on the safe side and assume it’s a regular one.

Fairway Divots

fairway divot

If you’ve caused some damage on the fairway you can’t leave it and expect the golf course staff to come by and fix it immediately. You should always repair your divots. Do your best to replace the grass in its place, or the sand. If you see containers of divot repair mix on your rental cart, or at tees, feel free to directly pour them into the divot.

Golf Carts, Trolleys, and Golf Equipment

Just like you should be respectful when surrounded by other players, you should also be respectful with your golf cart, trolley, and equipment too. Do not use them in a way to distract or annoy other players. You should park your cart on the cart path when you’re at the putting green or tee box. Keep them on the paths and never in the direct line of a ball. If you must remove your bag or clubs, do not place them in the front of the green where they can annoy other players.

90 degree rule golf.

Some courses do allow players to move the carts off the paths. In these instances, there is the “90-degree rule”. This means that the cart should make a 90 degree turn off the path toward the fairway to a given ball. Then they must return straight back to the path again, rather than taking the path of greatest convenience. You certainly don’t want to drive over another’s ball just to take a shortcut.

Also be aware of keeping your cart or trolley noise to a minimum, and don’t forget to set the brakes on it, or your golf trolley.

The player who earned the best score on the last tee has the honor of teeing off first on the next one. But in the instance that there was no winner of that last hole, keep on with the same order of play from the previous tee.

If you’re simply playing an informal game, it’s not necessary to worry about totaling the best scores, as you can simply set a random order.

Line of Sight

All players should remain in the line of sight. Always stand alongside the person playing, and not behind. It’s also acceptable for the player to ask their partners to move if they feel that they’re not safe.

Pitch Marks on the Green

A pitch mark is when the ball first hits the ground or the green. These should also be repaired to keep the green in good condition. After they’ve played their turn, they should check for their pitch marks and repair them.

Putting Lines

Make note of your other players’ putting lines. Don’t step on it as they play on the green, nor stand in their line of site. Don’t stand too close to the ball or behind it. If your ball ends up in another player’s line, be sure to mark your ball’s location before removing it from the green. Also avoid stepping within a one-foot radius of each hole.

Slower Players

slow golfers

If you’re a slower player, allow the following players ahead of you in a play through, particularly if there is room to do so in front. While you want to follow the players in front of you, don’t make them feel rushed in their play. You also don’t want to feel pushed by those behind you.

It should take you approximately 30 to 45 seconds to select your club and make your play. If for any reason you’re not ready during your turn, encourage another player to go first.

Walking Around The Course

You should always be respectful of other players on the course, so it’s best to walk with purpose, but never run or draw attention to yourself. Once play has begun for any player in your region, remain stationary while they play their shots. All other players should remain silent during their fellow player’s pre-shot routine, and also during their subsequent shot.

Closing Thoughts on Golf Etiquette

Remember to always arrive at your allotted time so that you’re not holding up your friends or the players following you. You may even want to arrive sooner, so you can warm up properly.

The main point of golf is to have fun, learn a few tips, and spend time with friends. If for some reason you do offend someone, simply apologize and note it as a learning experience. The thing about golf is that you can always improve and better your game.