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Golf etiquette

crw_74771Golf is one of the few games played without an umpire - although professional and high level amateur events use Rules Officials. Most courses have their own pedantic policies on top of the abundant rules of play. But, without a referee, the game relies entirely on players’ comprehension of the rules and good sportsmanship. Private golf clubs often adhere most rigorously to regulations, whereas golf resorts are a little more laid-back in their procedures. However, the following guidelines apply everywhere:


  1. Sportsmanship – golf is about courtesy, general decorum and observing dress codes.
  2. Clothing – collared shirts with short or long sleeves; smart pants or shorts (some clubs don’t allow shorts) with belts; skirts are allowed for women who can also wear sleeveless collared shirts; golf shoes with soft spikes; baseball caps or visors; plaid and bright colors are now in vogue and there is also a trend towards collarless undershirts during cold weather.
  3. Safety – be aware of only hitting the ball when other players are out of range and call out “fore” if someone is potentially in the way.
  4.  Sidebar


    Chris Foley is Director of Golf at Wildewood Woodcreek Golf Club in Columbia, South Carolina. He has been a head golf professional in the States for over 15 years. “Honesty and integrity are the spirit of the game,” Foley says. And he feels that this differentiates golf from all other pastimes: “In no other sport is greater emphasis placed on the conduct of its participants. The rules and etiquette are what makes the game unique and separates golf from other sports.” Chris is going to be Chichaku’s resident golf pro, providing regular tuition tips to get the best performance and enjoyment from the game of golf.
  5. Consideration for others – don’t move, talk or distract other players; no electronic devices; don’t stand right behind the ball or hole; tee up only when previous player has finished.
  6. Putting – offer to tend the flag if other players have a long putt; don’t stand in other players’ lines or cast a shadow over their play; stay on green until group has finished; always replace the flag before leaving the green.
  7. Scoring – keep your own vigilantly or designate a marker to check and record everyone’s scores after each hole.
  8. Pace – don’t hold up others, keep play flowing by keeping up with group in front; if you lag behind let the next group through and only resume play when they are out of range.
  9. Ready to play – be ready for every shot; leave bags near putting green so you are able to clear the area as soon as everyone has holed their ball.
  10. Lost balls – always play a provisional ball if you think yours might be lost; don’t waste too much time looking for lost balls; wave the next group through if you have trouble locating a ball.
  11. Priority – groups playing 18 have priority over 9 holes.
  12. Bunkers – clear footprints and ball/club marks with rakes provided.
  13. Divots – repair marks made by clubs, feet or balls as you go around the course or practice areas.
  14. Golf carts – observe the course notices about using the paths and entering the fairway.


The USGA (US Golf Association) has helpfully produced “Golf Etiquette 101” to clarify conduct concerns and ensure that play is safe, well paced and fair. They also offer a video guide . And there are hundreds of other books and websites devoted to the subject. There are also many more rules relating both to the game and to conduct, some specific to a certain country, others pertaining to a particular club or course. Don’t be put off by the copious literature though: a good golf instructor and a few friends who already play the game will help most newcomers get to grips with both the rules and their swing. And, despite the strict etiquette, drinking and eating are acceptable both on the course and at the legendary 19th hole.