Regardless of your skill level (or interest) in the game of golf, everyone knows that the sport is both expensive and elaborate. Unless you’ve picked up all of your equipment at thrift stores or garage sales, chances are you’ve spent upwards of $500 on this aspect of the game alone. As we all know, though, the reward is absolutely worth the expense.
The wide variety of rules and regulations surrounding golf are also rather remarkable. There are 34 different rule categories in the official United States Golf Association (USGA) Rules and Decisions list, and each one of these larger rules is broken into several specific subcategories. While professional players, their caddies, and USGA officials are sure to know all of these by heart, the average person knows very little about the specific ins and outs of the USGA’s Rules and Decisions list.
No matter its costs and intricacies, golf is a wonderful and rewarding game that is loved around the world. The team from AtTheTee.com has already produced an informative blog post on understanding the new and amended USGA rules for 2016, and the purpose of this article is to continue that education by demystifying golf etiquette. You will find useful tips for carrying your golf bag, what to do with your cell phone, how to use golf carts, how to treat your caddie, and a host of other suggestions and solutions. We guarantee that reading this post on golf etiquette will keep you from turning into Al Czervik from Caddyshack!
How to treat your caddie
The relationship between a golfer and their caddie is a very important one; many successful professional players will keep the same caddie for the duration of their career. In 2007, Forbes.com did a study on the top 10 earning caddies on the 2006-2007 PGA Tour. According to their findings, Tiger Woods’ former caddie Steve Williams made $1.27 million that year, which is more than many high-level executives and CEO’s. While caddying isn’t usually this lucrative, the point remains that caddies are an integral component of their golfer’s success.
In an article on golf caddie etiquette tips, Active.com explains that the relationship between golfer and caddie is an unusual one “because the caddie’s job is to serve the golfer’s interest, but the caddie may know both the course and the golfer’s best interest better than the golfer does. Courtesy on the part of both golfer and caddie can make [things more] comfortable.” Because a caddie’s “overarching job is to help a player play the best possible game,” they are responsible for far more than meets the eye. Their tasks include carrying the bag of clubs, cleaning clubs, cleaning balls, replacing divots, tending the flagstick, keeping track of the golfer’s ball, and providing helpful advice on distance, club selection, and greens.
Active.com also outlines a few things players should keep in mind when interacting with your caddie. They point out that you should not “engage a caddie if you’re going to spend the round discussing business or other private matters that you do not want overheard,” and to “listen to what your caddie has to say respectfully, even if you choose not to follow the advice you receive.” In terms of compensation, the article recommends that you always “tip your caddie generously, and even more generously if you’re particularly pleased…if the caddie fee is large, a tip of half of the caddie fee is a good choice for a satisfactory caddie and a tip equal to the fee [is appropriate] for an exceptional caddie. If the caddie fee is less than twenty dollars, even a good job should earn the caddie a tip of more than the fee.”
How to interact with other parties
When you are playing golf (either alone or with a group of friends), you should always try to avoid slow play and keep up with the groups in front of you. The PGA recommends you “walk at a reasonable speed between shots” and “begin planning your next shot as you approach the ball by studying the strength and direction of the wind. When you reach your ball, check the lie, select your club, visualize your swing and shot, and then play your shot. From the time you select your club until you actually hit your shot, you should take no more than 30 to 45 seconds. If you aren’t ready to play when it is your turn, encourage one of your fellow players to play.” Keeping these tips in mind not only demonstrates respect towards the members of your party, but also the golfers in front and behind of you.
In an article in Golf Monthly, Jeremy Ellwood reports that “many golfers [feel] that pace of play is the biggest scourge facing the game; others feel it has become a little overhyped by a vocal minority for whom a round of golf is seemingly as much about how quickly you can get a round as how low you can score.” Ellwood is a golf expert who writes on equipment, courses, players, rules, travel destinations, and much more. His advice? “Be ready to play when it’s your turn,” “keep pre-shot routines in check,” if in doubt, play a provisional ball,” “wave people through sooner,” “get it right up at the green,” “mark cards at the right time,” “[watch] where you’ve hit [your ball],” “set the course up to be playable,” “keep twos and fours apart,” “provide clear course signage,” and “retain the marker posts.” To learn more about Ellwood’s advice, click here.
How to respectfully use golf carts
At first glance, it might seem like using a golf cart on the course would be fairly obvious: you use it to save a few steps as you travel from hole to hole . However, it turns out that there is much more involved when it comes to properly using a golf cart. According to Wilson, “if you choose to ride in a cart, be sure to stick to the cart paths, especially as you approach the greens and tee boxes. Most courses will have signs in front of the green directing you which way to go. The signs will direct you back to the cart path. If there is a string going across the fairway near the green, stay on the far side of it and head directly to the cart path to advance.”
When it comes to music, golf writer Brandon Tucker of Golf Advisor makes the interesting point that you should never blare (or even play) music in your golf cart. If you absolutely feel the need to play music during your round, Tucker suggests you “ask before you turn it on and see if you can find some common ground on a playlist…be sure to keep the speaker at a reasonable volume so that if they’re 10-20 yards away it’s barely audible…if the music bothers you, speak up.”
Golf legend Arnold Palmer asserts that “the sheer pervasiveness of [golf carts] makes cart etiquette vitally important. Your goal when driving a cart should be to leave no trace you were there…avoid wet areas and spots that are getting beaten up from traffic. Golfers tend to play ‘follow the leader’ and drive in single file out to the fairway before branching off. It’s usually better to ‘scatter’–everyone take a different route–so cart traffic is spread out.”
How to avoid making noise
More than any other sport, another important aspect of golf is maintaining silence when other players are taking their turn. Golf expert Brent Kelley of About.com Sports urges players to “never talk during another player’s swing” and to never “yell out following a shot (unless you are yelling ‘fore’). Even if boisterous behavior doesn’t bother your playing partners, there are other people on the course who may be within earshot.”
This may seem self-evident, but you should also be sure to keep cell phones off during your round. According to Mr. Palmer, if I had my way, cell phones would be turned off at all times on the course, but most clubs have given in to the fact that people are going to use them. I don’t know all the gadgets and settings on those phones, but do whatever you have to do to keep it quiet. And if you absolutely have to make a call, move away from all the other players [and] keep the call brief so they don’t even know you made it.”
Mr. Palmer concurs that you should be a silent partner by knowing “where to stand and when to keep quiet. Position yourself directly across or at a diagonal from a player setting up. Never stand on the line of play, either behind the hole or directly behind the ball. When a player is about to hit a shot, think of the fairway as a cathedral, the green a library.”
How to handle your golf bag
Although carrying your golf bag might seem like a no-brainer, our experts also made it clear that properly handling your golf bag is an important aspect of anyone’s game. Steve Silverman of Golf Link explained that you should “carry your clubs over your left shoulder if you are a right-handed golfer [and vice versa]. You don’t want to put any unnecessary strain on your dominant shoulder. Switch shoulders every so often, but let your non-dominant shoulder do most of the work.” When you’ve reached your destination and it is time to put your clubs down, you should never “throw your bag to the ground…other golfers in your playing group and those within earshot do not want to hear the sound of clubs crashing to the ground. When it’s your turn, take the appropriate clubs out of the bag and place your bag on the ground without creating a ruckus.”
Last (but not least), you should always “study the course layout before the start of your round so you can determine the appropriate spot to leave your clubs. Many fairways are adjacent to each other, and that allows the golfer to leave his bag on the ground for several spots.” You should always “leave the bag at a convenient spot that is close to the green you are approaching…being able to leave the bag on the ground in a spot where it is not in the way of other golfers, you will save yourself quite a bit of work while playing your round of golf.” While these guidelines are all rather simple, it is still very important to keep them in mind whenever you hit the links.
How to treat your fellow players
In an article in Golf Digest, Arnold Palmer warns that “throwing clubs, sulking, and barking profanity will make everyone easy. We all have our moments of frustration, but the trick is to vent in an inoffensive way.” Mr. Palmer also recommends you take the time to learn the little things, like “laying the flagstick down carefully, tamping down spike marks when you’re walking off a green, letting faster groups play through, and so on…just know that golf has a way of returning favors, and every piece of etiquette you practice will be repaid tenfold.”
According to Mr. Palmer, another important thing to do is to lend a hand to your fellow players whenever you can. “One obvious way is looking for lost balls–better yet, [watch] errant shots so they don’t turn into lost balls. Pick up that extra club left on the fringe or the headcover next to the tee, and return it to its owner after saying, ‘Nice shot!’ And if you see a cart out of position or a provisional ball that needs picking up, don’t just walk by.” You should also be sure to respect other people’s time by “always mak[ing] your tee times and show[ing] up for your lesson with the pro a little early. Social functions are no exception.”
Mr. Kelly also reminds us to “be aware of your shadow on the putting green. Don’t stand in a place that causes your shadow to be cast across another player or that player’s putting line.” Additionally, you should “never walk through a playing partner’s putting line. Your footprints might alter the path of a partner’s putt. Step over the putting line, or walk around (behind) the partner’s ball.” Finally, “when a playing partner is swinging or putting, try to stand out of his or her line of vision.”
How to treat the golf course
Mr. Kelly gave the following advice on being kind to the golf course, which, keep in mind, has just provided you with hours of enjoyment. He cautions that you should always observe cart rules and “keep carts away from greens and hazards. The wheels on carts can damage these sensitive areas.” You should also always repair any divots and ball marks that you leave on the green and remember to “rake sand bunkers after hitting to erase your footprints and damage to the area where your ball was.”
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club website also points out that “etiquette is about showing respect for the course on which you are playing and the work that has been put [into creating] it. It’s about making sure that the game is played safely and that others on the course are able to enjoy the round as much as you.” You should remember and acknowledge that golf course employees but hundreds of hours into maintaining fairways and greens, which means you should demonstrate your respect and appreciation accordingly.