Don't Be That Guy: Golf Etiquette Basics

Like everything else in the world, good etiquette is the rule of the day. In fact, one might argue that it's even more important in golf than in other areas of life, since the game is so reliant on fair play and good sportsmanship.

It's understandable when we're talking about a new player, but if you're seasoned and should know better, nothing spoils a good game quite like poor etiquette. So, to help keep things cordial on the course, here are 10 golf etiquette tips everyone should know.

Arrive At The Golf Course On Time

It should go without saying, but you need to get to the course on time, and preferably before tee time. If you're set for a 1:30 tee time, please for all that's decent and respectable, do not get there at 1:30. Unless, of course, you don't care about being respectful, or you're trying to be funny. But chances are, if you're reading this, you do care about being respectful. So get there on time!

golf time

What time should you arrive? At least 30 minutes before tee time is a good rule of thumb. This will give you plenty of time to check-in, get your gear situated, and warm-up. Trust us, you'll want to warm up. Have you ever tried swinging a golf club after sitting in a car for two hours? It's not pretty.

If you arrive any later than 30 minutes before tee time, the staff may start getting antsy. They'll be wondering why you're not out on the course already, and they may even start to get a little pushy. But if you arrive too early, don't worry – there's plenty to keep you occupied. Most courses have a bar or restaurant where you can grab a drink or something to eat, and of course, there's always the pro shop.

If you have plans of ever being invited back to play golf with the same group of people or at an exclusive course, it's important to be punctual. No one wants to wait around for the straggler, especially when they could be out on the course enjoying themselves. So do everyone a favor and show up on time!

Learn The Cart Paths

We get it- everyone loves a good golf cart. Nothing really takes the fatigue away like a golf cart, because who loves walking around in the sweltering heat? But, and it's a bit but- you need to be mindful of the rules regarding cart paths.

Carts may technically be all-terrain vehicles (at least on the golf course), but the season and prevailing weather conditions can determine where you're allowed to go and where is strictly prohibited.

golf cart on designated path

Could you imagine a cart driving all over the course, on the greens when it's wet? That would absolutely destroy the turf. So, in order to keep the course in pristine condition for all players, it's imperative that golf cart users learn the cart path rules and stick to them.

In general, golfers are expected to use the cart paths when the ground is soft, such as after a rainstorm. This helps to prevent any further damage to the turf. If there are no cart paths available, golfers should drive their carts on the fairway, as close to the edge of the rough as possible.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and it's best to check with the pro shop before you tee off to find out what the specific cart path rules are for that day

Don't Waste Too Much Time On Lost Balls

Lost golf balls can really kill your playing tempo. But did you know there is an actual rule regarding how much time you are allowed to actually search for the ball? This time stands at 3 minutes as was amended in 2019 and stands to this day.

Yes, we understand that golf balls aren't exactly cheap. But if you want to maintain a good tempo during your game, then it's best not to spend more than 3 minutes looking for a ball that is most likely gone for good.

searching for golf ball

To increase your odds of finding the ball, make sure to keenly watch the flight of the ball when it is hit. This will give you a good idea of where the ball might have gone. If it's headed towards the woods, then it's most likely lost forever. But if it is headed towards some long grass, then there is still a chance you can find it.

If you hit it in water, then the best thing to do is to just take a drop and move on. There is no way you're going to find the ball and it's not worth losing your tempo over.

Even better? How about you keep an eye on your mates' lost balls too. That simple gesture helps with upkeeping the spirit of the game, which is more important than any one golf ball.

Having An Endless Warm Up

Know what screams of an amateur without having to say a word? Your warmup. It is customary to hit three balls on the putting green before starting your round. However, this warmup does not mean that you can take your sweet time with a bucket full of golf balls at the ready.

This just shows that you don't have any trust in your game and are trying to find some sort of groove before teeing off. It is understandable that you want to get a feel for the speed of the greens, but this can be done by hitting one ball to each hole. You should also be using putts that are inside of five feet, as anything outside of that is considered a lag putt.

By having an endless warm up, you are only prolonging the inevitable and putting more pressure on yourself. So, next time you are at the course, take a few minutes to hit some putts and then get ready to tee off. Your game will thank you for it.

Be At The Ready

While you're waiting for it to be your turn again, try not to wander too far away or get lost in thought or conversation. What you should be doing is thinking ahead, assessing which golf club might be the best to use for your next shot, and getting a sense of the wind direction. Remember, it's always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

Your playing partners will appreciate the fact that you aren't the one holding up the game, and you'll be more likely to maintain your focus throughout the entire round.

Be Quiet

Golf is a game requiring focus, so it's not surprising to hear that frequent babbling is one of the major pet peeves of golfers across the globe. Be respectful of your fellow golfers and try to keep quiet while they're taking their shots. If you absolutely must talk, save it for between shots or during breaks in play.

There have been real-life episodes of fights breaking out because a player feels slighted due to the incessant chatting of another player, so it's best to just avoid it altogether. Not only will it make you more popular with your playing partners, but it will also likely improve your own focus and concentration.

So the next time you hit the links, remember peace, love, and quiet.

Standing Behind Someone Or Hovering On The Green

This has to be the second most annoying golf faux pas and is a piece of etiquette that is often broken without the offender even realizing it.

The rule is simple: never stand behind the player who is hitting, or hover over their ball on the green. It's considered very rude and can be distracting for both the player and those around them.

If you're waiting to tee off and someone is already hitting, simply wait to the side or behind them. And if you find yourself on the green while someone else is putting, take a seat on the bench or stand off to the side until they've finished.

Just avoid their line of sight completely, including preventing your shadow from falling on their ball.

You may think you're being respectful by not talking and not standing in their way, but if you're standing directly behind them it can still be a major distraction. So do everyone a favor and just stay away from the player who is hitting or putting.

Again, it's just common courtesy and good manners.

Minimize Phone Use

We can't get away from the times we live in. Technological advancements are everywhere, including that convenient little device we all keep in our pockets: the smartphone.

 angry man waiting for you to get off phone and play golf

And while smartphones can be great for a number of things, they definitely have little place on the golf course. If you absolutely must take or make a call, do so during a break in play or between holes.

This is so much more annoying if you're a social media lover and can't help but snap a picture of the beautiful scenery or share your score with the world. Every chance you get.

But trust us, your fellow golfers will appreciate you putting your phone away and enjoying the game, not to mention avoiding any potential embarrassment if you get called up by a golf marshall for your slow pace of play.

So unless it's an emergency, leave your phone in the car or in your bag. You can even put it on silent mode if you're worried about missing a call. Just avoid using it while you're golfing.

Rake The Bunker

This is a piece of golf etiquette that is often broken, but definitely shouldn't be.

 rake the bunker

If you find your ball in a bunker, the proper thing to do is to rake it up when you're finished hitting. This helps to ensure that the bunker is ready for the next player, and also makes it more difficult for future players if they happen to find their ball in the same spot.

Of course, raking the bunker is not always convenient or possible, especially if there are a lot of people playing behind you. But if you have the time and the opportunity, it's definitely the courteous thing to do.

So next time you're finishing up in a bunker, take a few seconds to rake it up. It will be appreciated by both the course staff and your fellow golfers.


Shouting fore serves a very important purpose that is sometimes lost on new golfers. It's not just a way to warn people that you're about to hit the ball, but it's also a way to signal that you have the right of way.

In other words, if someone shouts "fore" while you're hitting, you should stop what you're doing and let them hit their shot.

It's considered very rude to ignore someone who has shouted fore, and it can even be dangerous if you're in the way of their shot.

So next time you're on the golf course, make sure to shout fore when necessary. And if someone else shouts fore while you're hitting, be courteous and stop your swing.

Final Words

There are many other unspoken rules of golf etiquette, but these are some of the most important ones.

Golf is a gentleman's game, and following these simple etiquette tips will help to make sure that you're respecting both the game and those around you. By doing so, you'll not only be a better golfer but also a more enjoyable person to play with.

Have a great game out there!