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Golf Etiquette – The Essential Guide

August 2020

It’s important when playing any sport, to be as courteous and polite as possible. Whilst most golf etiquette is obvious and requires simple common sense, sadly, many golfers choose to ignore it.

Golf etiquette is not simply there for show, but instead is there so players have a safer and more enjoyable experience on the course.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews rule book states that “The overriding principle is that consideration should be shown to others on the course at all times”.

Golf is a sport with a long tradition and, therefore, takes pride in upholding etiquette standings.

To help you on your way and make sure you don’t ruffle any feathers out on the course, we have put together an essential guide on golf etiquette.

This article is part of our Beginners Golf Guide.

Etiquette for Golf

General Politeness

golf etiquette

  • Always remain patient with other golfers. Not everyone will play to your standard or as fast as you.
  • Always try to keep noise levels down on the golf course. Whilst talking is perfectly acceptable, any loud noises should be avoided.
  • Always mark your ball prior to the game to avoid any embarrassing confusion during play.
  • Never stand close to a player when he or she is swinging. This may distract them.
  • Always remain silent when another player is playing their stroke.
  • If you tear a divot on the fairway then always replace it and stand down on it to compress it back into the soil. If this is not possible then replace the divot with sand.
  • Never hit a ball if there is a player in front of you within striking distance of your shot.
  • Never hit a ball if someone in your vicinity is putting.
  • Players should never run on the golf course to avoid distracting other players.
  • If you hit a wayward shot then you must shout ‘fore!’ to alert other players that a ball may be coming their way. This is a purely a safety precaution. See other important golf terms.
  • Always shake hands with your fellow golfers after the last putt is played on the 18th green.
  • Dress to impress! Many golf clubs have strict golf rules when it comes to golf dress code and there is no point arriving somewhere only to find you can’t play.
  • Always turn off your cell phone to avoid any sudden distractions.
  • Never throw your clubs. Not only do you want to remain calm, but you also don’t want to damage the course or hit another golfer!

Avoiding Delays

  • Always arrive at the tee on time. If you arrive late you disrupt the order of play and hold up far more people than just yourself.
  • Always be watchful as to whose go it is. This avoids delays.
  • Try to keep a good walking pace to avoid delays. Also, make sure to think about your next shot on the walk instead of when you arrive at the ball.
  • If someone in your group has lost their ball then you should offer to assist in finding it. If this takes time, make sure to let any players behind you play through.
  • If you are significantly slower than a group behind you then you must let them play through. However, although polite, this rule does not apply to players on their own coming up behind you.

Teeing Off

golf etiquette tee box

  • Never practise your swing in the tee zone.
  • According to tradition, the player with the lowest golf handicap should tee off first from the clubhouse.
  • The player who won the last hole has the honour of teeing off first from the following hole. If there was no outright winner then the teeing off order remains the same from the previous hole.
  • Players at the tee off point should stand alongside the player who is teeing off and not in front or behind. If the player teeing off asks you to move then this request should be honoured.
  • After addressing the ball at the tee, a player may swing and miss with no penalty (but the shot will be counted). However, if the ball moves, even slightly, then a 1 stroke penalty will be incurred when the ball is replaced on the tee.


golf etiquette bunkers

  • After hitting a ball from a bunker, always rake the bunker, including where your footprints have been. Try to leave the rake beside the bunker and not in it.
  • Once in a bunker or water hazard, a player may not take a practise swing and the club may not come into contact with the ground.
  • A bunker should always be entered and exited from the low side when possible.
  • Always knock the sand off the bottom of your shoes before entering the green.

Putting Green

golf etiquette putting

  • Always repair your ball divots on the green. If you find any other then also repair them.
  • Never step into another players putting line.
  • When holding the flagstick for another player, do not stand too close to the hole. Make sure you are out of their line of sight.
  • If the flag is blowing loudly in the wind, try to hold it down to keep distraction to a minimum.
  • Never speak or make a noise when someone is putting.
  • Golfers should avoid stepping within a 1 foot radius of the hole.
  • If your ball is in the putting line of another player’s ball you must pick up your ball and mark its location with a ball marker.
  • Try to avoid retrieving the ball from the hole with your putter. This often damages the hole.
  • Remember to leave the green, bunkers and fairways as you found them. You should leave no holes, divots etc.
  • Always leave the green immediately after the last ball has gone down to avoid delays. Your scorecard can be updated as you walk to the following hole.
  • Always make sure your shadow is never over another player’s putting line.
  • In casual games, most players will offer their partners a ‘gimme’ if the ball is very close to the hole.

Buggies and Carts

golf etiquette carts

  • Never drive a buggy on the green or tee off areas. Before entering a green, park your buggy nearby and walk.
  • Golf carts should not be moved when another player is swinging. All carts should be parked safely to the side when teeing off.
  • On most courses, golf carts can only be used on paths and must be left on the path when you go to play your shot.
  • Try to keep reversing in a buggy to a minimum as the noise can detract fellow players. Always make sure to have the brake on when disembarking the buggy!
  • Thats it! We hope you have enjoyed this guide on golf etiquette. Always remember, treat others how you would want to be treated and leave the golf course in the same or better condition than you found it.

About the author 

Paul Bradshaw

Paul hit his first golf shot at the age of 5, and from that point on was immediately hooked. He went on to become one of the leading amateurs in South Africa, securing a full golf scholarship with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Turning professional in 2004, Paul played extensively on the Sunshine Tour and co-sanctioned European Tour events. Paul is our lead editor at Golf Assessor.

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