Proper Etiquette for Golf Beginners

Golf is aptly described as “the sport of gentlemen.” There’s no other sport where much decorum and good manners are required for every player. Most beginners tend to fail when it comes to proper golfing etiquette, but everyone makes a rookie mistake every now and then. The important part is learning how to recover from that shortcoming and become a more refined golfer. Here are some rules and etiquette on the golf course that players across all skill levels and handicaps should be keeping in mind.

Dress for the Part

Try to search for photos of great players like Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen, and Jack Nicklaus on the golf course. Aside from iconic poses from their best swing moments, these legendary golfers are always dressing for the part. They also come to the course looking prepared, fresh, and sharp. You won’t see any of them with untucked shirttails or dirty shoes. Everyone on the golf course is expected to dress appropriately. You don’t have to go dressed like you’re heading for the boardroom meeting. The golf dress code is casual – collared shirts, shorts or trousers for both men and women, and a baseball cap. Showing respect for these dress codes makes you appear serious about the game, and respect always begets respect on the golf course.

Come Early

Punctuality is another valued trait in a golfer. There are many reasons why you should come early to the golf course. First, you have time to prepare yourself. You can go over your golf clubs and make practice swings without disturbing the other players. You also have enough time to go over to the practice greens and warm up with a few tees. Golf is and will always be a multiplayer affair. You want to be on the golf course when your companions arrive. You’ll have to discuss or propose gameplay mechanics and stakes. If you are late, you won’t have the time to physically and mentally prepare for the game. Golf happens to be an exercise of both the body and the mind.

Avoid Canceling Games at the Last Minute

Barring a life-and-death situation, it is rude for a player to call in and cancel on the morning of a game itself. As a golfer, whether beginner or pro, you’re expected to stick to your commitments. Golf games are arranged several days in advance. Your fellow players expect that you’ve already taken care of any existing commitments ahead of time to accommodate your appointment to the golf course.

That also applies to lessons with a pro golfer. These people put a premium on their time. They’ve accommodated you for a lesson and you’re to honor that commitment. Canceling at the last minute wastes these professionals’ time and makes them lose valuable income as well.

Learn the Local Rules

Golf’s rules are already standardized. However, Section 8 of the Rules of Golf points out specific situations in which a Committee for a competition or the operator of a local golf course could make modifications to existing rules.

As a player, it is your role to learn about these local golf course rules even before the start of the games. The Committee or the greenskeeper of the golf course will publish the local rules on individual scorecards and bulletin boards. That’s why you must arrive on the golf course as early as you can so you can find out about any existing local rules that could affect your game.

Keep Calm and Have Fun

Golf, like any other sport, is designed to be fun for the player. Understandably, beginners might find the game a little difficult at the beginning. Rookies could feel a lot of frustration when they miss a shot, or when they unintentionally fade a ball. Those feelings are normal but don’t take it out on the golf course. It’s bad form for a golfer, no matter what your skill is, to lose your temper while playing a game.

It’s alright to vent out your frustrations, but you have to do it calmly. Cussing and throwing a tantrum might get you ejected, or even banned, from playing golf at the course you’re in for violating golf course etiquette.

Recovering from a frustrating shot could be a challenge by itself, however. You can start by taking a few deep breaths before you walk to your next tee. You could also motivate yourself by telling yourself you’ll do the next shot better than the first.

Avoid Disturbing Other Players

Every tee requires a lot of concentration. Players have to gauge the distance, the wind conditions, the terrain, and the swing they’ll use to launch the ball. Distractions have no place in the golf course, and disturbing other players from their game has both in-game and social consequences.

You might want to turn your smartphones off during the duration of the game. Alternatively, you could set it to silent mode. You don’t want to hear a phone ring loudly while you’re in the middle of your downswing. You might choke, and choking results in a very bad shot. You don’t want that kind of feeling, nor would you want to subject your fellow players to that.

Another situation where you could be distracting other players is when you get in their line of sight while they are doing their pre-shot routines or when they’re at address. Always stay at a diagonal line from a player’s line, or to their left or right. Before walking on the tee, make sure to note the other players’ ball markers so you don’t inadvertently get into their lines.

Be Considerate When Taking Time to Play the Game

Every golf player will want to take their time at address so they can get that perfect shot. However, taking too much time with your pre-shot routines and address can negatively impact other players’ games. Being considerate of other people’s time is a must when playing games on the course.

Ideally, you should not take more than 40 seconds to set up and launch your shot. You should learn the skill of gauging wind direction, distance, and terrain while walking to set up your next launch. If you know what needs to be done even before you reach the ball, you shouldn’t take that much time to set your shot up.

There may be times when you’re unsure how to address your next shot. You should give way to the player who’s next to make a tee while you take time to figure out your next shot. This helps you relax if you’re nervous as well.

Do Your Part in Taking Care of the Course

Think of golf courses as nature parks, where they say you take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but time.

A good golfer knows his or her part in making sure the features of the course remain immaculate. Unnatural features like ball marks from landing make shots difficult for other players, especially in bunkers. It’s your job to restore the part where you teed back to how it was before you stepped into the terrain.

Most golfers carry tools like specialized knives to fix or remove their own ball marks. They also purchase seed-and-sand mix to repair divots or places where the green receives damage from contact with the club. The seed mix is meant to replant the damaged turf with new grass.

Courses also include rakes in their players’ cart loads or near the bunkers. Use these to restore sand in bunkers to their pristine state. It’s a courtesy from you to the next player that might have their ball land in the same place later on. Make sure to leave the rake where you picked it up too.

Pick Up After Your Fellow Players

It’s not unusual for other players to leave behind equipment when they move on to the next tee. If you see anyone leaving behind a golf club in haste, pick it up and give it to them if you can. If not, you could verbally call out and warn them that they left behind some of their gear. It wouldn’t hurt to make a complement for their previous shot as well, even if you think it wasn’t that good.

The same applies to balls that players thought they’d lost. It’s good etiquette to inform other players if you’ve found a supposedly lost ball. Other players will certainly appreciate the gesture.

Watch the Terrain When Driving Carts

Carts are ubiquitous in the world of golf. Golfers cannot play without these vehicles. However, they can also cause damage on the course if the driver does not care about the terrain. When driving, be conscious of areas that the other vehicles have already driven through. Take a different route to avoid damaging that part of the course any further.

Similarly, you and other players should fan out when driving instead of passing the course in a line. Multiple tracks treading on the same terrain will beat up the path further. There are staff members dedicated to fixing the golf course off-season, but you’d be doing them a great service by not making their jobs a little more complicated.


Gentlemen and ladies always learn to play and abide by the rules. Golfers are no exception. They are required to observe a certain set of golf etiquette rules when playing within the course. These rules are designed to make golf a lot more enjoyable and less stressful for each of the players involved.