Cheat Sheet

Golf Rules & Etiquette For Dummies

From Golf Rules & Etiquette For Dummies by John Steinbreder

Before you hit the course to play a round of golf, for fun or for business, or to attend a golf tournament as a spectator, make sure you're familiar with the basic rules of golf etiquette expected by players and fans of the game. If you hit an errant golf shot, know the common practices for playing and scoring penalty shots.

Golf Etiquette Basics

Grasping all the relevant do's and don'ts of golf takes time. So you're comfortable on any golf course and with any player, use this list as a good start for the rules of golf etiquette.

Do:

  • Play at a reasonable pace.

  • Repair ball marks, replace divots, and rake bunkers.

  • Pay attention to the rules as they are laid out and administered by the R&A and the USGA.

  • Have the player who is farthest away from the pin hit first on each shot.

  • Let the winner of the previous hole tee off first at the next tee.

  • Take a caddie whenever possible.

  • Turn in every score for handicap purposes.

  • Respect the rules and regulations of the course you are playing.

Don't:

  • Move or talk while someone in your group is hitting the ball (or about to hit).

  • Ask your opponent what club he hit.

  • Walk across the line of another player's putt on the green.

  • Hit your shots until the group in front of you is well out of range.

  • Ever play when lightning is in the area.

  • Be like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack. (Whenever you go out to play, remember that understated is best.)

  • Hold up other players.

Do's and Don'ts for Golf Spectators

Golf etiquette isn't limited to just players. If you're attending a golf tournament (professional or amateur), be aware that fans are expected to behave in certain ways so they don't disturb the players or other spectators.

You'll never go wrong if you adhere to these simple golf etiquette standards:

Do:

  • Be quiet when play is going on.

  • Keep your movements to a minimum when players are about to hit.

  • Wait for all players to putt out before leaving the green area for the next tee.

  • Follow the etiquette guidelines set down by the club and association hosting the event.

  • Cheer a good shot, but only in an appropriate and moderate fashion.

  • Wear sneakers or spikeless golf shoes on the course, to help with wear and tear.

Don't:

  • Run around a golf course while a tournament is being played.

  • Talk on a cell phone.

  • Take pictures during competition rounds. Always check with tournament organizers to see what the rules are.

  • Ask for autographs from golfers who are still out on the course playing.

  • Holler "You da man!" after a player has hit a shot.

  • Applaud or otherwise ridicule a bad shot by one of the players.

How to Score Common Golf Penalty Shots

A stray shot in golf is frustrating, but it happens to the best golfers. Where the ball is hit makes a difference in how it is played and scored. Take a look at these common golf penalty shots and how to deal with them:

Penalty How to Score
Out-of-bounds 1-stroke penalty plus distance. Replay the ball from where it was just played (or tee up again if it was your first shot).
Unplayable lies 1-stroke penalty. Drop the ball within two club lengths of the original spot, no nearer to the hole. Or drop the ball as far back as you want, as long as you keep the original unplayable lie point between you and the hole. You may also return to the spot from which you played your original shot if you prefer.
Water hazard (yellow stakes) 1-stroke penalty. Play the ball as near as possible to the place from which the original shot was hit. Or drop a ball behind the water, as long as you keep the point at which the original ball crossed the edge of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped. There is no limit to how far behind the water hazard you can go with the ball.
Lateral water hazard (red stakes) 1- stroke penalty. Drop a ball outside the lateral hazard within two club lengths of where the ball went in, but not nearer to the hole. Or keep a point on the opposite edge of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.

Business Golf Outing Do's and Don'ts

Golf outings are an increasingly popular way of conducting business while having fun. Unfortunately, sometimes people invited to these outings don't know the rules for conducting themselves on the course. To avoid an embarrassing situation — or even on that could harm potential business — be aware of these business golf outing rules:

Do:

  • Respect the course you are playing and leave it in as good shape as you found it — or better.

  • Act like a guest and adhere to all rules and regulations of the venue.

  • Buy something from the pro shop as a gesture of support for the pro.

  • Thank the staff and whoever else has taken care of you that day.

  • Keep bad language and a fierce temper in check.

  • Write a thank-you note to your host.

Don't:

  • Use an out-of-date handicap, especially if yours is higher than it should be.

  • Play slowly. Outing golf can take forever as it is, so do what you can to speed things along.

  • Show up late.

  • Drink too much.

  • Keep playing if you are out of a hole.

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