The golden rules of golf course etiquette

Do unto others as you have them to do unto you.

It's a concept that seems to be losing ground lately in real life and on the golf course. We've all found ourselves on the course thinking, "Why would a person do that?"

That's how most golfers reacted when they saw the recent video of President Donald Trump caught on video driving his golf cart on the green at Trump Bedminster, just a couple weeks before the start of the U.S. Women's Open. Granted, he did own the course, so I guess he can do whatever he wants.

But still.

Politics aside, though, our staff came up with a list of "golden rules" for golf course etiquette. These aren't just a courtesy to think about when playing (like shaking hands on the 18th green) but are absolute no-no's that not only make you look bad but can ruin the experience for other people on the course.

1. Don't drive the golf cart where you shouldn't

At most courses, you're not even allowed to drive within 20 or 30 yards of the green, much less on the green. Disabled golfers are sometimes allowed to drive their personal single rider golf cars on the greens, but that's it.

Even if you own the course like Trump, the weight is bad for the greens, and the rest of the players (who might be paying dues or green fees to said course), still have to putt on it.

And while we're at, please take care driving the golf cart in general. Don't screech the brakes, don't drive by as someone is hitting and putting and try not to damage the golf course in general. Don't drive fast or make sharp turns on wet grass. In other words, use common sense.

2. Rake the bunkers

"Bunkers were surprisingly full of sand but none were raked and they were full of prints." - Ian13

Okay, I understand bunkers are supposed to be a hazard, but the rakes are out there for a reason. I've always wondered how those folks who don't rake bunkers feel when their ball winds up in a footprint. My guess is that they just move the ball or don't even bother playing the shot.

3. Don't throw cigarette butts or spit out sunflower seeds on the greens

Cigarette butts on the greens are just plain disgusting. There's no joy in picking up something that's been in someone else's mouth. Sunflower seeds aren't always so obvious. More than once, I've had one throw a putt off line because I didn't see it, costing me a Nassau.

"However being stuck behind three society day fourballs from the 3rd hole onwards ruined a good golf experience. They lacked course knowledge and etiquette, failing to rake bunkers and leaving cigarette butts on the tee boxes. - t1221588611

4. Don't give unsolicited swing advice

Nobody likes to struggle on the golf course, but even worse is when your fellow 12-handicapper tells you what you're doing wrong and how to fix it on the fourth tee box. Truth is, most tour pros paired with an amateur in pro-ams won't suggest anything unless you ask for it, so take a cue from them. It's better to remain silent unless someone asks.

5. Be courteous with the cart girl

I've actually been in situations where I've had to apologize to the cart girl for the rude behavior of someone in my group. You know who I'm talking about: the middle-aged man who flirts aggressively with the attractive cart girl, gives her a large tip and somehow expects her to give her phone number to him. A little playful banter is fine, but you have to know where to draw the line. Guys, treat these gals like they are your daughters.

6. Don't be late for your tee time

"The starter held people back to wait for some people who were late for their tee time meaning that everybody was going out late. Until we hear that the course has improved we won't be coming back." - lizrobinson

If you're that guy, you have no idea how much this grates on the rest of your group as they go to the first tee wondering when you're going to arrive. It makes it difficult to put together a money game, and there's really no excuse for it. You should try to arrive at least 20 minutes ahead of time, but really you should give yourself more time than that in case traffic is bad or there's some other unforeseeable obstacle.

7. Fix your ball marks and repair your divots

"My biggest issue isn't with course maintenance by the staff. It 's the golfers. Not repairing ball marks. Slamming clubs on the greens. Very disrespectful!!. Worst I've seen anywhere. People, clean up your act!" - jmmac31

I'm surprised how many people don't do this. You see the evidence of the players in front of you on greens, which is why superintendents ask you to fix your ball mark and one other. I also often find myself going behind players in my group to fill in divots on the fairway as they drive off after leaving a crater in the fairway. It's not that difficult, and it makes the course playable for everyone.

Also, make sure you repair your ball marks properly. Repairing a ball mark should be a badge of honor for hitting the green with your last shot.

Video: How to properly repair a ball mark

8. Keep still and quiet while others are hitting

I've certainly been guilty of this myself, more in the sense that I didn't realize someone else was hitting when I was talking or moving. That's usually followed by an apology, but you have to be aware of what everyone else is doing. For those who are aware that someone else is hitting and continue to move and/or talk, shame on you. Remember, this a golden rule; do unto others, etc. Although with that said, I don't mind if others talk while I'm hitting; just don't move.

9. Don't mess with the wildlife

For many of us, a golf course is the closest we ever come to wildlife on a regular basis. Just leave the critters alone, even the snakes and especially the alligators. Be mindful of any squirrels that might dart across the cart path in front of you. A friend of mine ran one over once and couldn't focus the rest the rest of round.

As for gators, do we really need to explain that one? Getting bit by an alligator would ruin the round for everyone.

10. Don't take too long at the turn

Pace of play affects everyone on the golf course, and one place you can really slow folks up at is at the turn. If you're going to get some food, then make sure you order quick items to go. Better yet, if there's a phone on the ninth tee to place your order in advance, use it. You might be even be able to call the grill on your cell phone prior to making the turn. If you do take too long, though, be sure to waive the group behind you through to the next tee.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
5 Comments
Commented on

Not sure who this gentleman is on the video about repairing ball marks but he is NOT instructing properly. He suggests you LIFT and push the grass over the ball mark, but that breaks the grass ROOTS and will kill the grass. The proper way is to gently push/pull the grass around the ball mark STRETCHING the grass to cover the mark. This keeps the roots intact. Only time to lift is when there is a large chunk still attached and you can replace it over the mark and stretch the rest to cover any remaining open areas.

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Commented on

Politics aside...as you say.  The notion that you limit "no cigarette butts" to the greens (and tees) is preposterous.  Smokers should not be throwing cigarette butts anywhere.  Where do smokers get off thinking that disposing of a cigarette butt on a golf course, street, sidewalk or anywhere else is anything except littering.  Its a disgrace....cannot see why you gave this any kind of qualifier.

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Shocking that a journalist would find a subject matter like this to take a shot at our President.  and then dedicate Item #1 to him.  In case you had not noticed, for the greens crew to spray certain treatments on green requires an equipment  with 4 wheels towing a tank full of liquid.  The green will survive one cart on a green, and he is the owner of the course and I am sure he had a reason....likely to see how long it would take some lefty journalist to make fake news out of it and report it as yet another lame example of the anti-Trump hysteria residing in the liberal media.

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It is my opinion that as a member of the club he should be suspended for this bad behavior and I sent an email to the club to this effect. As I said it is terrible that for ANYONE to so blatantly take such action on the course and show disregard for the etiquette of the game. Sets a bad example for not only the youth, but shows complete disregard for the other members. I belong to three courses in Western NY and I can tell you although we have allot of knuckleheads that do not repair ball-marks or divots. Not one of them would dare to drive on a green in any circumstance.

Oh BTW he is my president and I know he is not infallible but he should be suspended for thirty days and issue an apology to golfer everywhere.

Commented on

Just be like Arnie-leave the course in better shape than you found it!

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The golden rules of golf course etiquette