7 golf etiquette tips for nervous newbies + a bonus

Golf’s unwritten rules intimidate new players. Here’s how to translate golf etiquette into good manners.

Image of Nervous Newbie Golfer

DEAR GGG: Golf has so many unwritten rules, generally known as “golf etiquette,” that I am intimidated about playing with strangers. What are the good manners that won’t give me away as a newbie — and might even get me an invitation or two for a future round?

A. The good news and the bad news about golf etiquette: It’s just like learning social etiquette. Bad news: Have you tried to lift any of the social etiquette books? Ow! Good news: Once you learn etiquette, it requires little thought as long as you offer grace and a smile.

In the interest of positive imagery — always advised in swing thoughts and etiquette — here are a few key do’s:

  • Meet your fellow players before teeing off. Some golf course starters initiate introductions — it’s a good time to announce what tees you’ll each play from, state a preference for “ready golf” (playing when ready rather than waiting for a player who might be farther out to arrive at her ball), and tell your companions you’re new or terrible or have a hangover.
  • Turn off the cell phone before teeing off, and get really quiet whenever another player is hitting nearby. If they aren’t extending the same courtesy, try taking a few practice swings, looking them into the eye, smiling, then taking a few more practice swings. They might learn something about golf etiquette from you.
  • Pay some attention to the whereabouts of the others’ shots. Nothing will put you deeper into their good graces than quickly finding their ball in the weeds. And when it’s your ball that’s lost, call off the search long before the cows come home.
  • Be generous with the words “good shot.” A little more challenging: Remember to say “thank you” when someone compliments a shot you think was dreadful.
  • Move around the course expeditiously. The label “slow player” translates to “Gee I accidentally deleted your number from my smartphone.”
  • Watch your step on the greens. You probably know about walking around (not on) a player’s putting line. But do you also try not to walk on the area right around the hole if possible? And did you know to stand off a player’s putting line both behind the player and behind the hole? One teacher tells students to remember that when another player is putting, they should see either her face or her butt.
  • Take good care of the course, fixing ball marks, raking bunkers and filling divots. Enough said.

BONUS TIP: Finally, remember the basics from those heavy social etiquette guidebooks and extend them to your golf etiquette. The virtue of generosity and the art of conversation provide a mannerly foundation, whether you’re holding a driver or a fork.

This article first appeared in the June 2011 edition of GottaGoGolf Magazine.


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