Golf Etiquette

Golf Etiquette

To fully enjoy the game of golf, every golfer, whether an amateur such as my husband Mark or a professional such as Tiger Woods, profits when the game is played with consideration and integrity.  Golf etiquette is the set of rules that govern the behaviors of golfers.  The United States Golf Association (USGA) Rules of Golf for 2012-2015 state, “The game of golf relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and to abide by the Rules. All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be.”

Here are some guidelines to follow while enjoying the sport of golf based on my interview with Dylan Kittle, a San Francisco/Bay Area certified personal coach.

Tee Time

It is highly recommended that you reserve a tee time and honor it.  Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before you are scheduled to begin your round of golf.  Many wise golfers arrive in plenty of time to warm up properly, both mentally and physically.  Before teeing off, make sure you check the scorecard for specific rules that may apply to the golf course you are playing on. 

Golf Attire 

As with football, baseball, tennis and most other sports, players wear uniforms or dress as regulated by the sport.  The general golf attire for men is long pants made with a cotton or polyester blend, khakis or dress shorts, collared shirts and golf shoes (non-metal spikes).  In keeping with the tradition of the sport, men should look their best, tuck in their shirts and wear a belt.  Women attire consists of a polo-style shirt, slacks, capris, crops or shorts (knee length or longer) and golf shoes. 

Purchasing designated golf apparel usually guarantees that you will be “fit” for the course.  Some golf courses, such as municipal courses, allow more casual attire.  Inquire ahead of time with the club management about the specifics of their course’s dress code. I maintain that jeans, T-shirts, tank tops and sandals are inappropriate for the game of golf even though some courses are more relaxed.

One of my personal favorite apparel lines for both men and women is Caddie Golf Apparel started by Jill Nettles-Johnson who is the first African-American female golf apparel designer.  You can visit her website at

Driving on the Course 

Driving a golf cart has become very common to the modern golf game.  For safety purposes and to protect the golf greens, follow the posted cart rules.  Carts should not be driven on the greens or near water hazards and bunkers.  Most golf courses do not allow carts on the fairway of a par 3 hole.  The rules are often modified when the course is wet.  Drivers are then required to follow the 90-degree rule which states that carts driven on the fairway maintain a 90-degree angle from the cart path.

Silence Please

During my interview with Kittle, he states, “Golf is a game of relaxation and one should not be a distraction to others.”  Know when and when not to talk.  Show consideration for others by not talking, making excessive noises or moving when a fellow player is preparing to swing.  The game of golf requires a lot of concentration and many even consider the sport more mental than physical.

Show Decorum while Playing

Throughout history, some professional players have been known to throw a club, act unseemly or use profanity on the course.  As with all sports, good sportsmanship is not always adhered to.  Ones frustrations must be controlled on the course.  If fellow players are known to behave in an unruly manner, consider implementing a “lunch or drink penalty rule” which can imply that players overreacting during the game must buy a meal or beverage for the others at the conclusion of the round.

Maintain and Repair the Course

It is your responsibility to repair divot holes and damage made to the putting green.  Divots are chunks of turf sliced off by the club.  To repair a divot, replace the sod in its original spot or fill the divot with the seed mixture that is provided by the golf course and located on the side of the cart.  Raking a bunker is also an obligation of golfers. The ultimate aim is to leave the course in the condition that you find it.

The Pace of the Game

Consideration must be shown for the golfing parties behind and ahead of you.  Players should play at a good pace.  Do not be in such a hurry that you endanger others.  Wait until the path is clear before you hit.  Shout “fore” if your ball is heading in a direction to jeopardize someone.  Inviting faster groups to “pass through” demonstrates a high degree of consideration for other golfers and is an endorsement of golf etiquette.

The average allotted time of play for a par 4 is 14 minutes and 21 minutes for a par 5.  Golfers should be ready when it is their turn to hit.  Prior to your play, determine which club you will be using and have a strategy in place.  A player has five minutes to perform a search for a lost ball. 


The amount of a tip varies and is proportionally related to the green fees.  The amount of the tip is higher at private and upscale courses.  Caddie tips range from $25 (lower-end course to $100 (18 hole, high-end course).  The average tip for a cart jockey is $10.  Remember to also tip the snack and beverage cart drivers.

There is more information to help you abide by the standards of golf and show a high degree of decorum on the course at __________________________________________________________________________

Tina Hayes is an etiquette expert and the author of “Getting ahead with Etiquette,”available at

Photography Michele Soledad

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Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.