I didn’t realise this when I started playing, but golf is full of unwritten rules and etiquette. I admit I’ve been met with a few dirty looks when I’ve accidentally broken these on the course and in the clubhouse. This can put quite a few people off playing. But don’t be intimidated, once you familiarise yourself with the etiquette of golf you’ll be playing like a pro in no time. Here’s 10 things you should know:
1. Dress codes do not follow fashion
You might think you look great in double denim, but it’ll never pass on the golf course. Stick to a smart casual standard of dress. A shirt with a collar, tailored shorts or trousers, and invest in a good pair of golf shoes. No flip flops please, there’s a time and a place.
2. Play at the pace of play – Always let quicker matches through
Getting around the course in a good time can be tough. Waiting for fellow players and looking for lost balls can slow even the most competent players down. Be ready to take your shot when it’s your turn, and as a group try and match the pace of the group in front. If you keep having to turn around and apologise to a long line of disgruntled golfers, either up the pace or, preferably, let the quicker matches play through.
3. You have more putts than drives
So perfect your putts first. You might be able to hit a drive that Bubba Watson would be proud of, but if you don’t practise your chips and putts you’ll end up stood in the middle of the green with no idea what to do and a very high score on the horizon.
4. Don’t stand ahead of the player about to hit the ball
Not only is it quite off-putting, but your fellow players may hit an accidental slice every now and then (if you’re playing with anyone like me). Stand a safe distance out of the way. You don’t want to forfeit your round on accounts of a bad concussion.
5. Don’t stand or tread on the line of anyone’s putt
Stepping or treading on the line of a putt can create a spike mark or divot, and an excuse for a bad putt. Be sure to walk around it.
6. No talking when your fellow players are preparing to hit the ball
The only thing that should be loud on a golf course are Ian Poulter’s trousers. So unless you’re warning someone of a fast approaching runaway golf cart, keep it down.
7. Check before you join a club what ‘equality’ means
Playing a round with your wife or girlfriend can be a great way to spend some quality time together (although that depends on how competitive you are). Unfortunately, some golf clubs don’t allow women to play at certain times. These days most clubs are much more relaxed, so try and find a club that is a bit more conscious of gender equality.
8. No mobile phones on the course
This could also apply to the clubhouse depending on where you play. Keep your phone in your locker, or better still, at home. Use your round as an excuse to enjoy a few hours without having to check your e-mail every five minutes. If you cannot bear to be apart from your beloved mobile, turn it off and keep it in the bag.
9. Be aware of rules and traditions
You may fancy yourself as a rebel who plays by his own rules but unlike most other sports, golf doesn’t take too kindly to foul play. Familiarise yourself with the rules and traditions of golf before you play.
10. It is a completely addictive game – and frustratingly difficult
As Arnold Palmer once said, “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” Be patient. It’s a cliché, but practise really does make perfect. Invest a bit of time and you’ll be a competent player in no time. Before you know it you’ll always have a set of clubs in the car “just in case”.