Everything Every Man Needs to Know to Survive His First Round of Golf

Main golf etiquette 101

Everyone is due for a round of golf at some point or another. Either your boss plays, your friends, your colleagues, or your father-in-law to-be. The invite is inevitable. But before you rush to get a set of sticks, some shorts, a pair of shoes, and sign up for a lesson–you’d better have some of the basics covered.

Forget about how terrible you think you’ll play, you’ll look even worse without nailing the etiquette of the game.

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Don’t Move Or Talk While Someone Is Swinging

This is the bread-and-butter of golf rules. It’s distracting to the player, it’s rude, and quite frankly, it’s pretty obvious.

Don’t stand in front of the player; draw an imaginary line perpendicular to the golfer and stand behind that line. You either want to be in a position where they can see you the entire time (like in front of them and off to the side) or where they can’t see you at all (like directly behind them). Also, stop your practice swings and stand perfectly still. 


Repair The Ground

All golfers must follow this rule. Golf is all about the ground you play on, and with so many golfers each day, the course can fall into disrepair quite quickly. Thus, it’s crucial that everyone plays their part and keeps the course in good shape.

When your approach lands on the green, it sometimes creates a hole — called a “divot” — because of all the backspin. Always carry a divot repair tool in your pocket to fix these spots. (Make sure to push the sides of the divot inward, NOT pull the bottom of the divot upward.) If you get out of the bunker, make sure to rake the sand so that it’s flat and smooth. 

And on the fairway or tee box, make sure to fill your divots with the divot mix provided.

Stay Out Of Sightlines

On the putting green, never stand directly behind the imaginary line they want their ball to roll on because it’s distracting. If you’re behind the hole, every time they look to see the target, they’ll see you. 

Also, don’t step on the imaginary line they want their ball to roll on — it’s impolite and can alter way the ball rolls on the green. Instead, walk around it. 

Know Who Carries The Flag

Believe it or not, there’s etiquette regarding the flag that marks the cup on the green. 

Generally speaking, the first person on the green pulls the flag. They’re also responsible to “tending the flag” — that means holding the flag in the cup so someone father away can see where it is. Finally, the first person to get their ball into cup puts the flag back into the cup when everyone holes out. 

Turn Off Your Phone

Having your phone ring while playing golf is a big no-no: it’s distracting and can irritate your playing partner as well as other golfers. 

Instead, put your phone on silent (or airplane mode) and leave it in the bag. You’re out in nature anyway — enjoy the four or five hours of golf without all those outside distractions and pressures. 

Keep Your Own Score

This is a common rookie mistake: forgetting how many shots it took you to finish a hole (especially it was a lot of shots). 

If you’re a beginner, it’s easy to lose track of your score on every hole. Write little lines on your card after every shot so you don’t forget. 

Keep Good Pace

Chances are, if this really is your first time on the links, you’ll play slower than others. That’s fine (we were all beginners at one point), but you have to either suck faster or let others pass. 

If you’re a novice, play with “double par” rules. That means, if you’re at a Par 3, and you’ve hit your sixth shot and it still hasn’t gone in the hole, mark your score as a “6,” pick up the ball, and go the next hole. Also, play “ready golf.” Traditionally, whoever had the best score on the previous hole tees off first; with “ready golf,” however, whoever is ready first tees off. 

Finally, if there are people behind you, politely “wave them up” so they can pass. Golfers are typically a friendly bunch so they’ll appreciate the gesture. 

Mark Your Ball

Often, people play the same golf ball brand, which can create confusion when deciding who’s ball is who. It could also disqualify you from a game (like in Goldfinger). Instead, take a marker and draw a small logo so you can identify your ball. Put a few well-placed dots next to the logo, draw a star, or write a letter. 

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