Following the Unwritten Rules of Golf

In a sport of tradition and manners, rules are important to keep golf games running smoothly and ensure that fair play occurs. Without question, rule books are available and someone in the pro shop could answer any official rule of the game. But what about the unwritten rules, the ones that experienced golfers all know to follow but which have not been recorded? How do you know those rules?

With a little digging, the following unofficial rules have been discovered, and learning them should not only improve your game, but will also increase the camaraderie between yourself and fellow players as you rise to the level of someone who understands the intricacies of the game.

Do not talk. While this might be obvious to most golfers, some simply do not pick up on this, and instead, chat through other players’ set ups and swings. Some chatter may be acceptable between holes or in the golf cart, but when others are prepping and taking shots, be quiet. This little piece of common sense advice will endear you to the other members of your group, while failing to follow it might keep you from getting any future invitations to play.

Hold still when others are hitting. Again, this may seem like another obvious tip, but is one that can make a big difference. Good shots require high concentration, and when you do something that is distracting to other players trying to take their shots, including rustling around in your bag or walking around in the near vicinity, it can break their concentration and ruin their shot.

Respect others’ putting lines. As your fellow golfers read the green to set up their putt, the last thing they want is someone stepping where they are planning to hit and changing anything about the surface of the green. Just as you would hate for someone else to do anything that derailed one of your shots, your golf buddies will not be very happy if they miss a putt because of something you did.

Do not let your shadow cover the hole. Reading greens is difficult business without added complications. When other members of your group are putting, stand well away from the hole and be sure that you monitor the position of the sun so that your shadow is not covering the hole or area around it.

Rake the sand in the bunker. Having to take a shot from a bunker might put you in a bad mood – and rightfully so. However, this is not a good excuse for forgetting your manners and failing to be courteous, especially for any groups that come behind you. Beautiful golf courses can only stay beautiful when they are well maintained, and part of that good maintenance depends on golf patrons taking care of the course. If you hit a shot into the sand, as angry as it might make you, rake the sand afterward and leave that bunker looking better than you found it.

Dress appropriately. Especially if you are playing as a guest of someone at their club, learn the acceptable dress before showing up to play. Many clubs and courses require collared shirts or may ask their members not to wear certain types of clothing. If you are unsure about what is appropriate, ask you host or make a call to the club’s pro shop. They will be happy to tell you and it will save you from the embarrassment you would feel showing up to golf in the wrong attire.

Control your temper. There is a good reason that many people “quit” golf on multiple occasions in their lifetime. Although it is one of the most entertaining sports and pastimes, it can also be one of the most frustrating, and one bad shot can feel like the end of the world. This is no excuse, however, for losing control, showing your anger, or throwing a child-style temper tantrum. As bad as a shot is, it will not warrant the throwing of clubs or your huffing around for the next few holes. Not only is behavior like this rude, but can frustrate you so greatly that subsequent holes and shots are also a disaster.

Turn off your phone. A ringing phone in the middle of someone’s backswing is one of the most distracting things for any golfer. If possible, leave your phone in your car or locker where it can ring without disturbing anyone. If your phone must absolutely be with you for some reason, turn the ringer off. Be careful, however, not to keep your phone somewhere where the noise of its vibration will be enhanced. Putting a vibrating phone in your cart’s cup holder or in a pocket where it rattles against golf balls will produce a terrible noise that will annoy your fellow golfers even more than hearing a ringtone might.

If you are ever in doubt of what behavior is acceptable, watch the other golfers around you. Follow their etiquette and channel their behavior the next time you go golfing.