When it comes to basic golf rules, some are obvious.
For example, it’s poor sportsmanship to toss your club in a lake (like John Daly at the 2015 PGA Championship). Spitting in the cup, arguing with your caddy, and fairway fistfights are other obvious no-nos.
Most golf course etiquette, however, is more subtle than that. Whether you’re a player or a spectator, there are certain standards of behavior you’re expected to follow.
Are you getting ready to attend your first Masters or another tournament? Have you been invited to play in a local tournament? Or are you just curious about how this “gentlemen’s game” is played?
In this post, we’ll outline 5 basic golf rules for players and for spectators. Read on to learn more about golf etiquette!
Basic Golf Rules for Players
Are you preparing to play in your first golf tournament? Here are 5 important things to keep in mind.
1. Silence Is Golden
As a player yourself, you know that golf requires a huge amount of concentration. Nothing is as distracting as noise and movement in the background—especially right before you take your shot.
Learn to be a silent partner on the tee, in the fairway, and around the green. Never walk into someone’s line of play or stand directly behind them.
Bonus tip: Always be aware of where your shadow falls, especially around the green. You never want to cast a shadow over the area where someone is trying to putt.
2. Repair the Ground After Your Shot
Imagine what the golf course would look like if everyone played on it and immediately moved on.
A vital aspect of playing golf (and keeping the course in good shape for everyone else) is repairing the ground you play on. If you make a divot in the fairway, replace the grass or fill it with sand or grass seed mix.
If you take a bunker shot, use the rake to smooth out any divots or footprints. Leave the sand in the same condition you would expect to find it.
3. Respect Everyone’s Time & Space
It’s never fun to be the slowest player in a group. But if that’s where you find yourself, do your best to keep pace.
Make sure you’re ready when it’s your turn at the tee and the green. Don’t spend more than a few minutes looking for a lost ball. If another group is moving up quickly behind you, be courteous and let them play through.
You also want to ensure there’s plenty of space between you and the group playing ahead of you. Hitting into other players is both rude and extremely dangerous.
4. Dress to Impress
Fashion trends change over the years, but golf fashion is always consistent (and always respectable).
The golf course is no place to appear sloppy or unkempt. Chances are the course you’re playing has some strict dress code rules in place, so be sure to check before you arrive.
Expect casual items like denim jeans or T-shirts to be a no-no. Polo shirts, khaki or dress pants, and clean golf shoes are a good place to start.
5. Control Your Temper (Always)
Golf can be a frustrating game, especially when you’re having a bad day.
No matter how poorly you’re playing, there’s never an acceptable excuse for unsportsmanlike behavior. Shouting, cursing, throwing clubs or other displays of emotion have no place on a golf course.
Don’t do it. Ever.
Basic Golf Rules for Spectators
Will you be attending your first live golf tournament? Here’s a brief rundown and how you should (and shouldn’t) behave.
1. Dress Respectfully
If you’re unsure how to dress as a spectator, take a cue from the players. The closer you can emulate their style, the more you’ll blend in.
Think polos, khakis, and comfortable walking shoes. Jeans are almost never allowed, so save those for another occasion. Bring a light jacket or rain slicker in case the weather changes suddenly.
Ladies may choose to wear a dress or skirt instead of pants, as long as it’s a modest length. Leave the short shorts and high heels at home.
2. Stay Quiet & Still
The last thing you want to do is distract the players. Follow the instruction of the stewards at all times.
Stay behind the ropes and keep absolutely silent as each player prepares his or her shot. Never make any sudden movements during the backswing.
If you’re allowed to have your mobile device with you, make certain it’s on “silent” mode.
3. Keep Your Distance
Stewards do their best to keep everyone organized and safe, but you have a part to play too.
An errant shot can have a ball flying into the rough and towards you. Be alert at all times and, if a shot lands near you, step back to allow plenty of room.
4. Respect the Players (At All Times)
It’s an amazing experience to see your favorite golfers playing live, but that’s no excuse to crowd around them.
Never approach a player to ask for a photo or autograph (unless you’ve explicitly been told it’s okay to do so).
Also, if you’re following your favorite player around, stay at least 25 yards behind them and follow the direction of the stewards.
5. Don’t Move Chairs
There’s an unspoken rule at many courses that spectators can reserve their spot with a folding chair.
If you come across an empty one, be respectful and don’t move it. Set up your chair nearby without obstructing someone else’s view.
Golf Course Etiquette: Now You Know
As you can see, there’s a lot of details when it comes to golf etiquette.
Like anything associated with a “gentleman,” basic golf rules center around politeness, respect, and dignity.
Keep these tips in mind—both on and off the course—and you’re sure to blend right in at your first tournament.
Are you eager to learn more about golf course etiquette? Click here to find out what’s acceptable to bring with you (and which items you should leave at home).