While there are formal rules for golf, how players should conduct themselves during games are not part of them. In fact, there are no official rules regarding golf etiquette in the United States, although some organizations occasionally issue guidelines.
Over the years, though, some basic rules and practices have emerged, aimed at making golf safer and more enjoyable, and minimizing potential damage to courses and equipment.
The problem is that, increasingly, golfers are flouting such norms, while others aren’t sure what such customs are. Here are some basic rules regarding golf etiquette.
Be on Time
And that means early. Because it’s impolite to fellow players, and deleterious to your game, to have to scramble from your ride to the first tee, try to be there at least 20 minutes early. This will also give you some time to warm up, say with a portable golf launch monitor.
Remain Silent While a Another Player is Hitting
For most golfers this is a very big deal. You are absolutely not to talk when someone is hitting. When a player is poised for a strike, the smallest sound can throw them off.
Follow Cart Path Rules
Yes, golf carts are nifty little vehicles. There can be a temptation, especially among golf newbies, to go a bit rogue in them. Some courses, though, require drivers to remain on the cart path, depending on the season and weather conditions, so that the grounds aren’t damaged. Before tooling the cart all over the course, be sure to check with the golf shop.
Only “Talk” to Your Ball
It’s common for golfers to exhort the ball they’ve just hit. “Stay down! Or “Stay out of the water! are common examples. But it’s poor form for a golfer to talk to someone else’s shot. In fact, it’s annoying.
Watch Where You Walk
Another big faux pas is walking in a player’s putting line, since that can guide their putt offline. So be sure you are extra careful about where you walk on a golf course.
Don’t Stand Behind a Player
When you’re putting, you don’t want anyone hovering behind your line of sight. That can be very distracting, especially if they make some movement. If they’re helping out with a read, they should stand adjacent to you then hustle up afterward to check out the break.
Put the Cell Phone Away
Yes, etiquette policies and practices evolve with the times. Nearly everyone now owns a cell phone and has it with them all the time. That can be problematic on the golf course, since using one can slow play and extract from what’s supposed to be a fun round with pals. If you must keep your phone handy, make certain it’s in silent mode.
Adhere to Dress Codes
Golf has standards regarding what players should wear. While some courses are not as strict about such standards, be ready to follow a certain dress code. For example, men are expected to wear a collared shirt and to tuck it in. Many clubs don’t permit jeans, running shoes, cowboy hats, or basketball shorts. Pro women golfers are not permitted to wear racerback tops, leggings, or too-short skirts.
Limit Warmup Balls
It’s uncool to show up on the putting green with a bucket of range balls. Three golf balls are sufficient; just make sure they’re yours and clearly marked so as to avoid confusion. And don’t warm up in the way of other people.
So, does etiquette still matter in golf? Yes. There will always be those who resist compliance, or, because they’re new, aren’t fully versed in expectations. But without etiquette, the game of golf would not be the same.