How To Use Golf Etiquette

Golf has grown in popularity over the past several decades. No longer a game reserved for the elite, people of all ages and all income brackets are taking to the links to get a little exercise and enjoy a beautiful, sunny day. Learning to master the game is fun and relaxing for many people (for others, it can be a bit exasperating!). One thing is certain--when everyone plays with consideration of their fellow golfers, the game is more enjoyable for all. Here are a few tips on using golf etiquette:

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Accurate scoring in golf is largely done on the honor system. Shaving a point or two off of your score is dishonest and will surely make you an unpopular golfing partner.
  2. Dress properly. Although denim shorts and tee shirts may be perfectly acceptable at some courses, at others you may be required to wear more traditional golf shirts and long pants. If you will be playing at an unfamiliar course, be sure to call ahead to inquire about the dress code.
  3. Stay safe. Although golf is a very safe sport, there are some considerations that players must make to ensure the safety of other players. Before swinging his club, a player should be certain that all members in the group playing ahead are far enough out of range to avoid being hit by the ball. Additionally, a player should take care that fellow golfers are far enough away so that they are not hit by the club, small stones, or other ground debris. If you hit a ball that takes an unplanned route, putting other players in danger, be sure to yell "fore" as a warning.
  4. Wait your turn. There is a specific order designated for play.  Here are the basics: The first side to tee off is determined by a random draw. For each hole played after the first, the side who won the previous hole will tee off first. If a hole is a tie, the side that won the last hole will retain the right to tee up first. Once everyone has made his first shot for each hole, the player who lands his ball the furthest from the hole hits next, and play continues in this manner. Although there is no penalty for playing out of turn, it is considered poor etiquette. The one exception to this is when, in the interest of speeding up the game, all players agree to play "ready golf."  Ready golf is simply allowing the first person who is ready to take a shot to do so. It is occasionally designated as the way to play at informal tournaments when time limits are important (for example, everyone needs to have his game completed by 5 p.m. so they can all sit down to a scheduled dinner).
  5. Shhhh. When a player is about to make a shot, whether on the tee, the fairway, or on the putting green, other players should try to remain still and quiet.
  6. Give 'em their space. All players should take care to stay a safe distance away from a player who is about to make a shot. This is a safety matter as well as a sign of good golfing manners. On the putting green, be sure that you (and your shadow) are not in another golfer's way.
  7. Make your mark. If your ball lies in the way of another player's shot on the putting green, you should pick up your ball and use a plastic marker (or a coin, if you do not have markers) to mark your ball's spot.
  8. Keep it moving. When your group finishes a hole, it is important to immediately move onto the next one--the next group is likely to be ready to approach the hole. Additionally, if your group is playing more slowly than the group behind you, it is proper etiquette to allow them to "play through" which means to let their group go ahead of yours.
  9. Smooth your path in a bunker. Once you have played your shot from a sand bunker, be sure to smooth the sand of your footprints and marks from your shot for the next player. Most courses provide sand rakes near each bunker for player usage. When entering and leaving a sand bunker, always do so on the low end.
  10. Try to remain divot-free. Do your best not to create divots (chunks of sod that are removed by your club when making a shot), but if you do accidentally make a divot, be sure to place it back where it came from and step firmly on it to secure it in place.
  11. Know your boundaries. If you hit a ball out of bounds and do not immediately see it (in tall grass or a wooded area, for example), you should take no longer than five minutes attempting to locate your ball before choosing to play a provisional ball. It will cost you a stroke, but it is important for everyone to keep the game moving.
  12. Cart rules. If you choose to drive a motorized cart rather than walking the course, be sure to keep the cart on the designated cart path. Some courses allow you to drive your cart right to your ball. If this is acceptable, always drive on the path until you are beside your ball, and then make a 90 degree turn straight toward your ball. In any case, always drive your golf cart in a safe and careful manner.
  13. Unplug. Turn off pagers and cellular phones while on the course, unless you have an extremely important reason to have them on.
  14. Mulligans, gimmies, and do-overs. Although not a part of any officially sanctioned game, many friendly games of golf offer each player one chance to reshoot a poorly made shot without adding an additional stroke to his scorecard. Opinions vary greatly on this practice, however, so it is important to establish a policy on reshooting before a game begins.
  15. Keep your cool. Good sportsmanship requires that you do not yell, swear, or throw your club--no matter how frustrated you are. Everyone has a bad shot now and then (more often when learning the game!). It is disrespectful to other players to behave in an angry or childish way.


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