Let me state for the record that I myself have been guilty of all of the following golf transgressions at one time or another. And while there’s no point in dwelling on any of these offenses, there is something to be said about creating this list – so others (especially new golfers) can have a reference…a beginner’s guide to golf etiquette, if you will.
By no means a complete list, here are 10 things you should really refrain from doing on the golf course…
- Stepping in someone’s line. Perhaps among the first etiquette rules you learn in golf, stepping in someone’s line might not seem like a big a deal, but it’s less about the imprint your foot makes on the green and more about the respect you have for the others playing with you – doing it just shows you don’t care. Look, I (more than most) agree golf is just a game, but you still need to play the game right.
- Hitting into the group ahead of you. I’ve almost started fights because of hitting into the group in front of me – it is among the ultimate disrespects on the course. Even if the group ahead is holding up everyone on the course, no one wants to take a golf ball off the back of the head. Courses should employ rangers to deal with slow groups and if no rangers are around, you should ask (very politely) to play-through. Which brings me to…
- Not letting faster groups play through. A golfer/foursome needs to be aware of their speed of play pretty much at all times. Look behind you once-in-a-while – if the group back there is waiting with their hands on their hips and looking in your direction, you’re probably moving too slowly. It happens. Maybe just one member of your foursome is slowing you down – the point is you need to recognize this, swallow your pride and politely suggest they play through.
- Not replacing your divots. Again, this may seem somewhat harmless, but it’s not to the course. Take an extra 10 seconds to put your divot back or use the bottle of sand/seed mix on the side of your cart (if applicable) to fill in the hole. Trust me, the greenskeeper will thank you and the course will look nicer in the long run.
- Gouging the green. You miss your 2-footer for par (or quadruple bogey) and whack the ball away in anger – except you swing too low and take a chunk out of the green next to the hole. Worse, you purposely slam your putter into the green after a botched putt. Pathetically, I’ve done this a couple times over the years and it’s the epitome of being a poor sport…And nobody likes a poor sport. Like many on this list, it’s all about respecting the course and your fellow golfers.
- Giving swing advice. Nowadays, even if someone asks me, I typically refrain from offering any advice (unless they are a complete newbie). But unprovoked swing advice is the ultimate annoyance out on the course. If you find yourself getting ready to offer-up advice to someone struggling, please think twice. Unless you’re a certified PGA pro, you probably shouldn’t even go there. Don’t be “that guy.”
- Playing from the wrong tee box. Trust me – there is nothing worse than watching Shanks, Hook, Skull and Slice flub all their drives off the championship tees…especially if you’re playing behind them and it’s the first hole. Man that’s a sinking feeling, isn’t it? You know your skill level and you should know which tee-box you belong on. My rule of thumb: If you can’t consistently break 90, you should always be on the forward (white) tees. Only if the course is empty can you attempt playing farther back. But beware – not only is the course longer, but more hazards come into play from back there. I’ve played the tips before and at my skill-level (18 handicap), the closer I can get the better…
- Throwing your clubs. Among the more embarrassing acts on this list, club throwing is an art form for some golfers. Sure, maybe it aids in letting off a little steam, but really it’s just plain unnecessary. Chronic club-throwers are no fun to play with as many of them are also guilty of doing most of the other things on this list too. Besides being dangerous, it also makes you look like a fool.
- Getting drunk. Beyond the obvious embarrassment of being the boisterous drunk group that other golfers can hear from all over the course, there’s real danger involved in getting wasted on the links. After all, you are hitting a hard projectile well over 100 MPH. Plus, there are motorized vehicles involved. Drunkenness is probably among the top reasons why around 1,000 Americans are injured in golf cart-related accidents…PER MONTH. Look, I understand golf and beer go together, but I implore you – please imbibe in moderation (or at least wait to do most of your drinking in the 19th-hole).
- Taking your game too seriously. You might not have expected this one to be here, but it’s possibly among the most important things on this list. Look, everyone is disappointed after a bad shot or a poor round – but you can’t let it get to you. In the end, the fact that you got out and played at all should always overshadow the number on your scorecard. Throwing clubs, cussing at yourself, gouging greens, raising your blood pressure – all for what? Golf is a game, you should have fun playing it.