Golf Etiquette: Gentlemen’s Guide from Tee to Green

Jordan Spieth tipping his cap

If you have been golfing before, chances are you’ve played with a “bad” partner. Maybe they talk in your backswing or move around in your vision while putting… either way, it’s annoying and simply unenjoyable. Most of my friends are not what you would call “golfers,” so I understand if they violate any of these rules in my gentlemen’s/ladies’ guide for golf, because I know it’s out of ignorance. Here I give you common courtesy tips from tee to green, so you have great etiquette that’s respected by your playing partner(s) (or client in a business setting).


The Tee Box

Rory McIlroy teeing off

First, I’ll just point out a rule: always tee up behind the markers (blue rectangle in above picture). As you can see, the playing partner is behind Rory McIlroy. This way, he’s out of sight and will not be a visible distraction. Watch any professional tee off, and you’ll notice no one moves. This includes the playing partners, caddies, and the spectators. Also, no one will be talking… remaining silent is vital during someone’s routine and golf swing. The only exception to this is when the Ryder Cup comes along… Ian Poulter and Bubba Watson fire up the crowd for the tee shot (MUST WATCH).

Key Takeaways on the Tee

  1. Stand out of sight from the person teeing off
  2. Do not talk during routine or swing
  3. Do not move during swing

The Fairway (or Rough)

Jordan Spieth hits a flush iron shot

The tee box and fairway have the same applications… don’t talk or move, stay out of the person’s view. One thing I see more in the fairway than the tee box is people searching for their next club to use. I don’t get bothered by this but I know a lot of people do. When you’re thumbing through your different clubs, trying to find the right one, you’re just creating a lot of noise from your clubs clanging against each other. I would first mentally figure out what club you will use. For example, if I’m standing in the fairway waiting for my playing partner to hit (naturally, since I pounded my drive), I’ll be thinking to myself, “163… full 8 or knockdown 7… there is a little wind at my back… solid 8 should work.” Once he/she hits, I’ll then grab my 8 iron, visualize my shot, and swing away. As I mentioned earlier, the same rules apply from the tee to the fairway (or rough).

fairway divot

See this grass divot? Never walk away from your shot leaving it like this. Always replace the divot back to where you took your shot. This should always be done, for both good and bad shots!

Key Takeaways in the Fairway (or Rough)

  1. Same rules as tee box
  2. Don’t jingle your clubs around during your playing partner’s routine or swing
  3. Replace fairway divots before walking away

The Bunker

Gentlemen raking a bunker

Unfortunately, we will all hit balls in the bunker (a.k.a. the sand, the beach, the sand trap). One of the toughest areas on the golf course to hit the ball out of, but once the ball is out, we need to clean up our mess. The golden rule for raking the bunker is, “leave the bunker in the same condition you would want to hit your ball out of.” You wouldn’t want to hit your ball out of a footprint or divot, it would make it incredibly difficult, so rake it nicely for whoever is in there next. Notice how this gentlemen is raking from the center of the bunker towards his exit point. This will allow you to rake over your footprints without causing new ones to remain. As you take your final step out of the bunker, make sure to rake over your footprints to the lip where the bunker meets the grass. Once you’re done with the rake, leave it outside of the bunker, a couple yards from the lip of the bunker. Never leave the rake in the bunker, unless that’s how the course prefers it. If you keep these points in mind next time you’re in the bunker, you’ll certainly be considered a gentleman or lady.


Key Takeaways from the Bunker

  1. Golden rule: leave the bunker in the condition you’d want to find it in
  2. Rake from the furthest point from the lip to the exit point. This way, you’ll work your way backwards, raking over divots and footprints, without creating new ones
  3. Leave rake outside of the bunker, never leave it in the bunker, unless explicitly stated

The Green

Tiger Woods fist pump after burying huge putt

If you bury a deep putt, by all means throw in a Tiger-esque fist pump… well deserved. Anyways, on the green is where people need to be the most careful. The same rules apply from the tee and fairway (or rough) on the green: don’t talk and move while playing partner is putting, stay out of sight (preferably standing behind your playing partner). It’s the most delicate part of the golf course and where the most gentlemen’s/ladies’ rules remain, so pay attention!

Casting a Shadow on Player Partner’s Ball/ Putting Line

Casting a shadow (especially a moving shadow) is extremely distracting. This rule applies to every area of the golf course. Please be mindful of your shadow and make sure it’s not distracting to your playing partner. Stand in a position where your shadow is far out of their way.

The Putting Line

The putting line is an imaginary line a golfer determines that the ball will travel on based on the amount of break in the green and the speed the golfer will hit the putt. In the above image, you can see an imaginary line drawn on the green that best estimates the path the ball will travel on. As I mentioned before, the green is the most delicate part of the golf course. You cannot run or jump on the green, because this will cause damage and leave immense imprints on the green. Even walking sometimes causes imprints, depending on how soft the green is that day; this is why you cannot step on your playing partners putting line. You can cause an imprint on the green that can cause the ball to go off its intended line. You must use your best judgement and common sense where your partner will be hitting his/her putt. This is a standard etiquette rule, so if you violate this it’ll look really bad. Don’t step in your playing partner’s putting line.

Fixing Divots

When you hit your approach shot on the green, your ball will leave a divot. Using your tool, fix the divot by sliding the tool at a 45-degree angle on the end of the divot (above image). Then, push the tool upwards and towards the center of the divot. Repeat this two-step process at least 4 times around the circle of the divot. Once you’ve fixed the divot, with bottom of your putter, tap down on the divot so it’s flat with the green. Congrats, you fixed a divot! If you have real good course etiquette, while youre waiting to hit your putt, fix other divots you see on the green. This is what true gentlemen/ladies do.

The Pin

I will forever love you if you pick up the pin after you putt out. The Golf God will be shaking his head, watching all these golfers carelessly leave the pin on the ground after they putt-out. What do I mean by putting-out? You made your putt in the hole and you finished. The rule of thumb for picking up the pin is whoever putts-out first grabs the pin. I have played with SO MANY people who will putt-out first, second, and third, and STILL leave the pin for the last person. NO!!! Just no. If you’re the first person who putts-out, please grab the pin. This gentlemen’s/ladies’ rule is always forgotten about, so please remember!

Moving/Replacing a Ball Mark

Ball marks are used to mark where your ball is on the green. If you putt and your ball hits another ball on the green, it’s a penalty, so this is why ball marks are used. Sometimes your ball mark is in the putting line of your playing partner, so you’ll have to move it. You do this by using the length of your putter head, placing one side next to your ball mark. Find a point (i.e.: tree or bunker lip), point your putter at it, and move the ball marker to the other side of the putter head. Now you have a fixed direction and distance for you to return your ball mark after your playing partner putts. Now, as the person who is putting, it’s good etiquette to remind your playing partner to move back his ball mark. In an official match, if you putt from the changed position, it’s a penalty, so always remember to move back your ball mark to its original place.

Key Takeaways from the Green

  1. Same rules as the tee box and fairways
  2. Do not cast a shadow on your playing partner’s ball/putting line
  3. Do not step on player partner’s putting line
  4. Fix your/other divots on the green
  5. Pick up the pin after you putt out (especially if you’re the first one)
  6. Move/replace your ball mark correctly

If you keep these takeaways in mind, your golf etiquette will be superb. You will instantly be more liked and impress your playing partners. Having good golf etiquette goes a long way, as I mentioned in my last article, it may even help you get a new job. Follow this guide and you will certainly become a gentlemen/lady in the game of golf.

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