The Proper Golf Etiquette

Friday, May 4, 2007

Have you ever played golf with your father-in-law only to have him putt out of turn while stepping directly in your line, yet you chose not to say anything because, well, he's your father-in-law?

Perhaps we can help.

The gentleman's game, after all, prides itself on honesty and proper behavior. The United States Golf Association considers etiquette such an integral part of the sport that the first four pages of its 2006-07 rulebook are dedicated to the subject.

"It's the cornerstone of our game," said Andy Pazder, the PGA's senior vice president for tournament administration. "Etiquette, professionalism, gentlemanly conduct. For me, playing with somebody who understands proper etiquette makes for a beautiful round of golf."

Most recreational players try to adhere to the do's and don'ts of the game, but sometimes they might err without even knowing it.

Below is a guideline of what's expected in golf course behavior. Feel free to share with your regular playing partners -- especially with that impetuous fellow who tends to toss a club or two during the round. Or better yet, leave it on the coffee table for the next time your wife's father comes over for dinner.

-- Thomas Heleba


• Place an identifying mark on your ball and inform the other players of the type and number of ball you are playing.

• Be silent and still while others are hitting, and do not stand where you will distract the person teeing off.

• Drawing straws or tossing tees is a good way to see who hits first. On holes that follow, the person with the best score on the previous hole should hit first. If there is a woman in your group who recorded the best score, she has the honor of hitting first on the next tee. However, she should refrain from doing so if the women's tee is located significantly ahead of the men's tee, simply because of time.

• Clean up broken tees.


• Locate and move to your ball as soon as possible without disrupting other golfers.

• Think about your upcoming shot -- such as the target, wind conditions and club selection -- while others are hitting.

• Hitting the ball when it becomes your turn should not take more than 30 seconds.

• If you aren't ready to play when it's your turn, encourage one of your partners to do so.


• Retrieve your ball if possible, but only if it doesn't delay other players.

• Take a drop at the ball's point of entry, within two club lengths, or use the drop area if one is provided.

• Be aware of environmentally sensitive areas and act accordingly.


• The rule states that a player has five minutes to locate a lost ball, but it is recommended that unless you are in a serious tournament situation, the maximum time allowed should be two minutes.

• If a ball cannot be located, drop a new ball at the nearest point you believe it to be, free of any obstructions.


• Avoid making sharp turns, which can damage grass.

• Stay out of bunkers and off grass mounds. Keep away from tee decks and greens.

• Don't drive while others in your group are hitting.

• Never park the cart ahead of a player hitting, whether that player be on the tee or in the fairway.


• Replace your divots, either by using the toe of your shoe to kick in the turf around the edges or by filling them with a mixture of soil/seed provided by the course.

• Bring a rake with you into the bunker, and enter the bunker from the low side at a point nearest to the ball.

• Repair any indentations made by hitting onto the green, using a tee, knife, key or repair tool.


• Be aware of all ball locations on the putting surface and do not step on an area that a player may be putting.

• Walk around the outside of the ball instead of taking big steps or jumping over a line the ball might be traveling. This ensures there will be no stepping in a player's line in case of a significant break and also will prevent possible damage to the green.

• If your ball is in a player's line, mark your ball with either a plastic marker or dark coin, then place your putter down at a 90-degree angle and move the mark from the heel of the club to the toe. Reverse the procedure when it's your turn to putt.

• The player farthest from the hole should always putt first.

• Do not stand where you might distract a fellow player and do not move or talk.


• Wait for all golfers to reach the green before removing the flagstick.

• Be careful not to damage the hole's edges when removing and replacing the flag.

• Place the flag carefully on the fringe to avoid damaging the green.

• When a player asks to keep the pin in the hole, hold the flag at arm's length in a way that it won't flutter in the wind. Make sure your shadow does not cover the hole or target line of the putt.

• The person closest to the hole generally holds the flag.


• Displays of frustration are natural, but yelling, screaming and throwing clubs are unacceptable and sometimes dangerous.

• Offer to buy refreshments at the turn. Whoever buys at that point should not be expected to buy at the end of the round.

• When play is complete, shake hands with your partners and thank them for their company.

Sources: The Golf Expert, PGA, USGA

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