You’ve learned the rules of the game. You know your equipment. You’re ready to get out on the green and play. Not so fast — there’s still the issue of golf etiquette.
Think of it as the difference between the legal code and good manners. Your play will not be penalized for bad manners, but you, as a player, may very well be. Golf etiquette deals with issues of safety, politeness, and game pacing. Dress codes may also play a role. Some parts of golf etiquette are universal. Others may vary from course to course. But in all cases, you need to know what’s expected of you and follow the code.
Golf Etiquette Tips
Because etiquette can vary from course to course, it’s important to call ahead to the course where you’re intending to play, or to check the course’s website for that club’s golf etiquette tips. You can view some general golf etiquette tips from the USGA, side by side with some specific club etiquette rules at the website for the Claremont Golf Club in Portland, OR.
Golf Course Etiquette: Safety First
The most important set of golf etiquette guidelines is meant to make play safe and pleasant for everyone. A lot of people think it’s difficult to injure oneself while playing golf, as golf is a slow moving and low impact sport. However, this is not the case. Head injuries, including skull fractures, are among the most common injuries from golf clubs and golf balls. This is particularly true in the case of young players. For this reason, golf etiquette for kids is a crucial part of learning the sport. And adults should also learn their manners and mind them.
One very common rule of golf course etiquette is never to hit the ball unless the players ahead of you are safely out of the way. Alternately, you may be asked to signal anyone in range that you’re about to strike the ball. If your ball is already heading toward someone, give a shout to let them know. And always look around you before you swing, to make sure no one is standing within range of your club.
By the same token, it’s important to take responsibility for your own safety. Golf etiquette for kids (and everyone else) requires that you look around to make sure that you’re giving anyone with a club in their hands adequate space. Look behind you, as well, to make sure that you’re clear of any balls that groups behind you may hit. A good piece of golf etiquette is to keep a mental picture of the groups ahead of you, behind you, and any that might be to the sides, and to keep safety first in your mind. Kids Health has an excellent article about safe play, with golf etiquette tips for golfers of all ages.
Golf Course Etiquette: Pace of Play
Another facet of golf etiquette involves pace of play. The average eighteen-hole golf game lasts four hours. Groups ahead of you may be larger or smaller, they may have players at different levels, they may be playing a different variation of the game, and they may move through the course faster or slower than you. Doing your best to maintain a reasonable pace of play keeps everyone happy and safe.
Golf Advisor recommends arriving for your tee time twenty minutes early; so you can sign in, load your bag, put on sunscreen, and take care of any other necessary preparations. GA also recommends lining up your putt while others are putting, so when it’s your turn, you’re ready to go.
The USGA advises allowing the players behind you to play through if you’re searching for your ball, so you don’t hold up their game as well. You should also avoid using your phone unnecessarily, and concentrate on your play. You can find more golf etiquette tips at Golf Advisor and at the Pro Golf Association website.
Attire on the Links
Attire, what you wear, can be a point of contention at many clubs, especially at many of the more upscale courses. Although a lot of municipal golf courses have begun to relax or even eliminate dress codes, most private clubs have not. If you’re not sure, you should always check with the club before arriving.
In many places, a collared shirt plus khaki-style trousers constitute acceptable golf course attire for both men and women. Both men and women must wear golf shoes. In general, metal spikes are out. Many clubs now prefer golf shoes with soft plastic spikes. Brimmed hats, such as baseball hats are popular for both men and women, for keeping the sun off during those long hours of play. In general, the following clothing items are considered against golf etiquette rules for both men and women:
- Denim clothing
- Tank tops
- Sandals, Boots, and street shoes
Women have additional options when it comes to clothing, such as skirts, skorts, and capri-length pants. However, women’s golf attire etiquette contains an additional element of modesty. According to Golfweek, halter tops, sundresses, sleeveless tops, and tube tops, are a no-no; shorter pants must reach to at least the knee. Fortunately, that still leaves comfortable, fashionable golf wear that still conforms to the rules of women’s golf attire etiquette.
Dress codes and play-through guidelines may seem like hair-splitting. But ultimately, rules of golf etiquette — establishing guidelines for good manners and fair play — make the game safer and more enjoyable. When in question, check with your club, and know before you go.
Featured image: CC0 Public Domain Benjamin Faske, US Air Force.