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10 Unwritten Rules of Golf Etiquette



There is certain etiquette all golfers are taught when first learning to play the game, such as not to step in another person’s line on the green, and not to talk while another person is hitting. Those are the basics, but not what I’m talking about here. There are underlying rules of etiquette; ones that you may never even know existed.

You see, the mind of a golfer is very fragile, and often irrational. It’s understandable, since there’s a constant battle going on inside of it — juggling swing thoughts, demons, highs and lows. At any point a golfer’s patience can snap, and the last thing he or she needs is a push from a playing partner.

When you’re in a group with another golfer, your job is to be respectful, helpful, enjoyable, and sometimes just stay out of the way. You don’t want to unknowingly aggravate a player in your group (unless you’re playing match play, maybe), but that’s another discussion entirely.

Here’s a list of 10 unwritten, unspoken rules of golf etiquette.

Don’t talk to someone else’s golf ball

I know, you’re only being polite. But when golfers spray a shot and it’s heading for the water, you can bet they know it’s heading for the water. They don’t need you yelling at it or begging for it to stay dry. If they want to instruct their golf ball to behave a certain way, leave it up to them.

The last thing you want is for them to say GO as their ball flies toward a fairway bunker, while you’re telling it to SIT… only to see it land in the sand. Awkward.

Your pleads to another’s golf ball can also come across as insincere, or even disrespectful. For example, if the ball is clearly hooking left into the trees, and you yell “spit it!” you’re basically saying that the golfer just hit a shot that needs to get extremely lucky. Surely the player doesn’t need to hear your confirmation that he or she just hit a terrible shot.

It’s their golf ball; they paid for it, they hit it and they know best where it’s going. When in doubt, silence is always the best approach.

If you say “nice shot,” make sure it was a nice shot

“Nice shot” is undoubtedly the most overused compliment in golf, so make sure to at least use it correctly.

Imagine you’re a scratch golfer and your ball is in the fairway about a 100 yards out, your favorite number. The pin is tucked back-right, but you’re eyeing it up and looking to attack in hopes of making birdie. You end up tugging it, and didn’t catch it cleanly either, so you let your hand off the club in disappointment. The ball lands on the front left portion of the green for an outside chance at birdie, and you’re heated. You slam the club back in your bag, upset at the missed opportunity, and another player in the group gives you a half-hearted nice shot.

Now, not only did the compliment go unappreciated, but the scratch golfer may now be thinking, “Are their standards so low of my golf game that they think that’s a nice shot?”

And this goes for any level of golfer. No one wants to hear nice shot when it was below their standards. The point is, compliment a player on hitting a good one, but make sure the player actually agrees with you.

Show some love

On the flip side, if your playing partner is faced with a difficult shot — maybe they need to hit a towering shot over a tree to a green guarded by water — and they pull it off, make sure to say something more than “nice shot.” Especially if you’re the one who said “nice shot” when that same player hit a semi-chunk from 100 yards on the hole before.

Since the mind of a golfer is fragile, it doesn’t hurt to stroke their ego a bit when they hit an amazing shot. The golf clap was invented for this reason.

Don’t ask someone what they had on the hole as soon as they hole out

While it may not seem like a big deal, keeping score can be a lot of pressure. It’s easy to miscount, forget to mark down the scores from a previous hole, or simply mark down the wrong score. Such mistakes can easily lead to a dispute if handled improperly.

Nothing is more irritating to most golfers than having to announce to the group they made a double bogey as soon as their golf ball touches the bottom of the cup, though. If you just saw them three-putt, or you know they hit a ball out of bounds on the hole, don’t ask “What’d you have there?” as soon as they hole out.

Since they’re probably either angry or upset, give them a few minutes to collect themselves before having to confirm they had a terrible hole. And think before you say “nice par,” forgetting about the ball they dunked in the water, because then they have to correct you and say “actually it was a bogey.” It just reaffirms the heartbreak.

No talking during a no-hitter

If you’re a baseball fan, you know that you should never talk to a pitcher who’s throwing a perfect game or no-hitter, as to not disrupt him while he’s “in the zone.”

The same goes for golfers, but it’s even worse. For golfers, zones are particularly fragile, and any mention of performance, swing thoughts or score can be destructive.

So if a golfer just hit the first six fairways of the day, don’t ask something like, “How are you hitting all of these fairways today?” Chances are, they’ll snipe the next tee shot way left. And if they’re clearly playing better than their handicap suggests, they’re either sandbagging, or know exactly how well they’re playing that day. Don’t disturb them by saying, “Hey, you’re playing pretty well today, eh? Is this the best you’ve ever shot?” If it turns out they screw up their potential best round ever, you can bet they’ll be blaming you and your question when the round is over.

Also, don’t ever say this: “Hey, do you know you only need a bogey to break 80. Have you ever broken 80 before?” No they haven’t broken 80 before, and they won’t today because now it’s in their head.

Don’t hit, or even look at someone else’s golf ball

Want to see a golfer completely lose the plot? Walk over to their golf ball, bend over to look at it, then address it with a golf club.

Anyone who has had someone accidentally hit their golf ball knows there’s nothing that makes a golfer angrier. If your golf ball happens to be in the vicinity of someone else’s ball — or if there’s even a chance of it — be extra, extra careful that you’re hitting the correct one. I’ve seen disputes over golf balls turn into fisticuffs.

And, whatever you do, DO NOT hit someone’s golf ball, realize it’s theirs, and then drop the ball back in a worse lie than where you found it. Not even your worst enemy deserves that.

Tell someone if they’re teed up in front of the tee markers

Don’t wait until after they’ve hit the shot to tell them their ball was in front of the tee markers. If you noticed it, that means you noticed before they hit the ball, or else you wouldn’t have been able to tell. Don’t put another golfer in that awkward position, because there’s only two ways of dealing with it:

  1. They take the stroke and re-tee, in which case they’re fuming because you could have saved them the stroke.
  2. You agree to let it go, but then the player feels bad and can’t concentrate the rest of the round knowing it wasn’t completely by the rules.

Golf is a game of sportsmanship, and you should never want another player to incur a penalty. Even if you’re playing against them, calling penalties that you could have saved from happening is a sure way to make enemies in the game.

Wait until the clubhouse to pay

I know it hurts when you’ve lost a money match, and you want to get the payment over as soon as possible, but on the 18th green in front of an audience is NOT the right time to do so.

You need to be sensitive to the fact that some people are uncomfortable advertising that they gamble on the golf course, and others are even more uncomfortable with people knowing they won. Wait until you’re in a more private setting to settle your bets. If they want to then brag to their friends or fellow members, that’s their right.

Take your ball out of the hole before someone else putts

There’s something poetic about the sound of the golf ball rolling around in the bottom of the cup. It’s confirmation that you’ve successfully completed your goal of making the putt, and your award for finishing the hole.

There are only 18 opportunities to hear that sound during a round, so don’t rob your playing partner of any of them.

Plus, you don’t want your playing partner thinking about your golf ball that’s sitting in the bottom of the cup, rather than concentrating on what he or she needs to do on the green. Maybe you’re just trying to speed up play or not get in the way of the other player, but it’s never wrong to just hurry up and grab your ball out of the hole.

Seek instruction, but make sure it’s timed correctly

There’s not a golfer on the planet who will refuse to give advice to a player seeking assistance with their game. Even on the PGA Tour, where golfers compete against each other for seven-figure paychecks, players give each other pointers when asked.

That being said, right after someone hits a shot that spins violently off the front of the green is NOT the correct time to ask, “How do you get the ball to spin back like that?” If the ball spins off the green, I can guarantee they weren’t trying to do that. And if they duck hook a ball into someone’s backyard, that simply isn’t the right time to ask, “How do you make the ball draw like that?”

There’s a time and place for instruction; just make sure it’s not when your playing partner is ready to snap their club in half.

Inspired by Assistant PGA Professional Steven Westphal

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Andrew Tursky is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX. He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.



  1. Mmmmm

    Jul 27, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    The fact that you called it “Rules of” Etiquette tells me you should quit this game and get off the golf course and leave us alone, because you don’t understand golf in any way whatsoever

  2. Scooter

    Jul 24, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    I’ve played with folks who miss a putt and immediately rake the ball back to re-try or drop another ball to re-try … before I’ve hit my first putt … very uncool

  3. Suncoast 9

    Jul 23, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    1. Pull that short tee out of the ground after teeing off on a par three or short par four.
    2. If someone says nice shot when you know it wasn’t, just smile and say thank you.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 24, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Hey, I like that short tee left there. I use it if it’s on the correct side of the tee box.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 24, 2016 at 7:31 pm

        In front or in back of the markers… it’s gotta fit the club’s distance. Why let a silly thing like a tee marker interfere? I have actually moved them before… if I can’t get a level stance. Folks, do you know who places the tee markers?! Some hard-working 2nd string greenskeeper grunt who has never played a round of golf in his life. He mowed the tee and was told to place the tee markers in a new position. Bless his heart… what does he know.

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 24, 2016 at 7:40 pm

          Ah, my bad. We all thought the PGA and the USGA came in to our little public course and professionally placed those tee markers. I used to think that, too.

    • Jack

      Aug 2, 2016 at 5:15 am

      I got annoyed at a guy that kept saying nice shot when I hit it OB. I told him about it and he stopped. Communication is the proper etiquette. But what bugs me most is the unsolicited swing advice. It’s like WTH, you really think I’m going to get better immediately? Especially when it’s coming from a high handicapper who has no clue what he’s doing.

  4. Sam

    Jul 23, 2016 at 2:22 am

    First hole of a big tourny i was nervous and chipped on from near the green and 3 putted.My scorer said ‘ your short game is really bad’
    I became mad.

  5. Grizz01

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    And this, is how you get into your opponets head.

  6. Bert

    Jul 22, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Not sure your opening comment is correct; seems like new players to the game know very little about anything except what they may see on TV.

    “There is certain etiquette all golfers are taught when first learning to play the game, such as not to step in another person’s line on the green, and not to talk while another person is hitting. Those are the basics,”

    Who teaches them?

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 9:38 pm

      Always remember to shout, “Get in the hole!” or “Mashed potatoes.” when a member of your group hits.

  7. Nils Nelson

    Jul 22, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Regardless of your on-course experience, read THE GOLFER’S CODE, by David Gould. (Thank you for speaking up, Mr. Montesano.)

  8. Joey5Picks

    Jul 22, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Regarding #9: Was playing with friends once. On a par 3 friend #1 hits his tee shot and as soon as it’s in the air friend #2 says “Nice shot!”. The ball flies the green and goes into the junk. Friend #2 immediately says “oh, never mind.”

    Don’t say “nice shot” until the ball comes to rest.

  9. acemandrake

    Jul 22, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    “Maybe you’re just trying to speed up play or not get in the way of the other player, but it’s wrong to just hurry up and grab your ball out of the hole.”

    ??? Am I reading this correctly? Didn’t he say to take our ball out of the hole before the next player putts?

    What’s wrong with me?

    • Brian

      Jul 22, 2016 at 10:40 pm

      Nah, you read it the same way I did. I believe it’s a typo.

  10. Double Mocha Man

    Jul 22, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    #7. I like to keep my own score. I do it by tracking how many over par I am… on rare occasion how many under. I dislike it when someone else insists on keeping my score. A while back I resorted to telling outright lies to “Mr. Scorekeeper”. I’d say, “Par.” He’d say, “I had you for a bogey.” Well, if you’re counting my strokes why friggin’ ask me?!

    • KK

      Jul 22, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      That’s kind of the rule of golf, bro. It appears your own naivete is the root cause of your problem. Read up.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 22, 2016 at 9:06 pm

        KK… Tell me again what’s naive about keeping my own score.

        • Uncleyianni

          Jul 23, 2016 at 6:44 am

          You both keep score to be there to fix each other’s mistakes. As a kind of back up for each other.

        • Dad

          Jul 23, 2016 at 4:50 pm

          Makes it easier to cheat. Even though I’m SURE you’re a great guy, there’s a reason partners keep score in golf

  11. Bob Castelline

    Jul 22, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    #11 — No such thing at “ready golf” when you’re on the tee
    You gotta hate the guy who strides arrogantly up to the tee ahead of you, despite the fact that he just made double to your par. “Ready golf,” he says as you stand there dumbfounded, driver in hand, ready to play.

    Ready golf is not for the tee, dude.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Ready golf is for the tee if you’re not ready. Also, first one to the 19th hole buys… ready drinks.

      • Bob Castelline

        Jul 22, 2016 at 4:54 pm

        OK, right. But I just said, “as you stand there dumbfounded, driver in hand, ready to play.” Definitely agree on the 19th hole rule.

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 22, 2016 at 5:00 pm

          Since you said you were ready, I understand. I owe you a gin & tonic. In the groups I play with we only give tee honors to a guy if he just made birdie or better… then we’ll suck it up and wait.

          • Double Mocha Man

            Jul 22, 2016 at 5:37 pm

            If I’m playing in a strange group I’ll usually wait to see how they play it, or I ask or I just score the lowest so I have the honors anyway. 😉

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 5:02 pm

      Agreed. If you want tee honors get your butt up on the tee.

    • Bob Castelline

      Jul 22, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      Perhaps you missed the part where I wrote, “Driver in hand, ready to play.”

      FWIW, I don’t do any of that crap you just described. So no, you’re not right. Consider getting your psychic gyro calibrated.

      • ooffa

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:39 pm

        Hey Smiz, Bob is lying. He does all those things. You Rock Smiz.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:48 pm

        Smizter… I’m with Bob. I think he was a half step late to the tee box ’cause he was kind enough to put the flag back in the hole.

        And go easy on Ferguson… I grew up there as a kid. One black in my graduating class of over 300. Sneaked onto many a private country club there… Norwood Hills, Normandie, Glen Echo.

      • Brian

        Jul 23, 2016 at 1:23 am

        You are the absolute worst person on the Internet.

        • Brian

          Jul 25, 2016 at 1:11 pm

          You’ll call it a cesspool, but you won’t look into extenuating circumstances that create the “cesspool.” You’re more than happy to point out the bad, but not willing to understand how it became the way it did. Systemic racism, under-employment and/or abject poverty due to systemic racism, fathers not being fathers, mothers not being mothers, and on and on and on.

          Honestly, you could point to just about any low-income area in the U.S. and find similar traits. It’s not just Ferguson, (I’ll go ahead and say it, because it seems like everyone’s afraid to) it’s not just black people, but as long as you enjoy continuing to paint that picture, it’ll never change. We could all, myself included, use a nice step back and exercise some empathy every now and again.

    • KK

      Jul 22, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      Golf is too long as is and is killing the game. No one has the time for wait for you to prance on up to the tee.

  12. Patricknorm

    Jul 22, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    I play a lot of tournaments and for those who do, you know making a four footer for par ( or even a tricky 3 footer) is a skill. Most non tournament matches I play, I putt out. Occasionally I’ll play with a group who has the habit of ” giving me” those 3-4 footers. I’ll politely explain that this is the only opportunity outside of a tournament to have to make them.
    Also, I hate when players stand behind you when you putt to see your line. This happens occasionally even in tournaments and even then I have to request that I not be able to see them in my backswing. Of course when I play with better players this is never an issue.
    I’m only a 7 handicap but it’s never easy scoring unless I putt well. I’ll admit to some minor anal retentive behaviour on this issue. Good article .

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      I love the guys who give themselves 6 foot gimmes. They swipe at them backhanded or while walking. I called a buddy on that once and challenged him to putt out every hole. He didn’t make anything under 4 feet. Next round I relented and let him go back to giving himself putts. He was much happier once again.

  13. Scooter McGavin

    Jul 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Ugh. Such pretentious, whiny crap. Stop asking everyone to walk on eggshells around you because of your “fragile” ego. Be an adult for Christ’s sake.

    • Justin

      Jul 22, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      Completely agree! These rules are fine if you play on the PGA tour, but they are part of the reason why some people stay away from golf. If you play with anyone who does any of these things and you don’t like it, just don’t play with them anymore! It’s really that simple!! If you can’t handle me talking to your ball and you think it’s affecting your game, that’s on you. I shouldn’t have to change the way I play so you can play better. I’m a good golfer who grew up in a “country club” and know all the proper etiquette that some do not. Just because they didn’t grow up in the same environment as I did doesn’t make them bad people. Here is the short list of etiquette that I think about covers it:

      1. If the group behind you is on your ass, and the group in front of you is a hole ahead, let the group behind you through. Also, if you are a foursome and a twosome is behind you, look for an opportunity to let them through.

      2. Be conscious of where you are on the green while someone else is putting. As a general rule, mark your ball and take a look at the line of your putt until the first person to go addresses their putt. At that point, walk slowly off the green out of their vision. DO NOT walk back over to your ball until it is your turn to putt.

      3. To improve the pace of play, do not watch other people hit their shots while standing right next to them. Drop them off at their ball and drive or walk over to yours so you can save time preparing while they are executing. If your ball is very near theirs then this doesn’t apply. If your ball is 20 or 30 yards directly in front of them, know how far they are away from the pin and “estimate” what club you will use to save time. Nothing worse than slow play!

      4. Don’t rush to be the first one to tee up on every hole… you seem like an asshole. And no, you don’t have to play by who has honors, you can simply play ready golf. But, for the people who intentionally rush ahead of you to tee up… you know who you are… stop it jackass!!

      5. Know who you are playing with. If you are playing for business reasons, please act more professional regardless of what you may think the situation calls for. If you are out with buddies enjoying a six pack, please don’t be so uptight. In fact, you may actually play better during the round with buddies if you just try to have fun and lower your expectations.

      • Bob Castelline

        Jul 22, 2016 at 4:39 pm

        Oh, so YOU get to decide what’s proper etiquette and what’s not.

        Got it. Thanks.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 22, 2016 at 4:56 pm

        #3. No can do. I can’t walk over (up) to my drive ’cause I’m 40 yards ahead of ’em. It’s dangerous to be standing in front of these guys. 🙂

  14. Ian

    Jul 22, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Your playing partner (not you’re playing partner). I read somewhere that a baby seal dies every time you use it incorrectly – just saying.

  15. Snoopy

    Jul 22, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    #1(b) – Don’t give unsolicited advice. The next shot after a ball OB right is not the time someone is going to learn to hit a 300 yard draw. If I make double on the first two holes, I’m probably in no mood to let you “show me something…”, and ironically, if my game is that far off, I’m probably not going to be able to implement new ideas properly anyways. I can still just enjoy my round even if I’m not playing well. If I’m not paying you for your advice, keep it to yourself. At least wait until we’re off the course.

  16. Double Mocha Man

    Jul 22, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    I’ve learned to refrain from saying “Nice shot!” too early. Off the tee you hear the solid sound of a ball hit in the center of the clubface and you see your friend’s ball soaring down the center of the fairway. As soon as you utter the “Nice shot” words the ball initiates a 90 degree slice to the right into the weeds.

  17. Modog

    Jul 22, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    When I was a 14 Handy, dude told me I was even par on 17 tee. Knees shook so bad that I was lucky to bogie the last 2 holes. Thanks a lot.

    • talljohn777

      Jul 22, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      The odds of a 14 handicapper being even through 16 are well in-excess of 37,000 to 1, which is what the odds would be if you were just 10 under your handicap through 18 and this would put you in excess of 14 under your handicap. Making the probability of your supposed feat two to three times higher or closer to 100,000 to 1. Sorry, but I call BS.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:06 pm

        Gotta love a master forensic golfer. If I had just made 12 more putts today I would have been under par…

      • Golfdoc95

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:10 pm

        He was playing the back nine only…lol

      • Bob Castelline

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:14 pm

        I’m a 7 handicap. I shot 5-over 40 on the front and 4-under 32 on the back of my home course earlier this year. What are those odds, Columbo?

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 22, 2016 at 5:39 pm

          I think that round will fit into the bell shaped curve.

      • mc3jack

        Jul 22, 2016 at 9:42 pm

        It happens. I shot two-under with a triple on my card when I was a 10 hcp. No joke, no gimmes, 6500 yd course. It was the ‘dream round’ everybody hopes for on the first tee. I was ‘losing balls’ because they kept landing in the dishes where the yardage markers were. Freak putts, etc. Sucked when the single who joined us asked me, “What’s your handicap?” on 15 tee, a tricky drive. I told him, “Having to play with you.”

    • ooffa

      Jul 22, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      If I was betting you I would have told you on the 10th tee.

  18. Peter

    Jul 22, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    If I’m part of a gallery, I’ll clap in acknowledgement of a good shot. If I’m competing, I’d say good shot or even great shot, but I’d NEVER clap.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      On occasion I’ll give a hearty clap for someones’s really good shot. I think we all want the same feeling the pros get on the course… even if I’m just a gallery of one.

      On that note, I played this morning and found myself in a fairway trap with a 7 iron in my hands. Had to request a group of about 15 junior golfers on the course taking a lesson to move a bit to the left so there would be no chance of hitting them. Picked that ball off the sand perfectly and landed on the green. What a treat when they all started applauding! That doesn’t happen everyday. Looking back on it I should have signed a few autographs.

      • Bob Castelline

        Jul 22, 2016 at 4:51 pm

        Earlier this year, I hit a blind shot to a short par 5 in an effort to reach in two. Hit it great. The ball was screaming right at the green before it went over the hill and out of sight.

        Right about the time the ball would have come to a rest, this huge roar crescendoes from an unseen crowd. My buddy and I were like, “What? Whoa!”

        As we got over the hill, we could see there was a wedding going on just across the pond from the green. I found out later (from a dude who was bored out of his mind and actually saw the shot) that the preacher said “you may kiss the bride” at the exact time my ball was rolling to a stop on the green, 6 feet away for eagle!

        Coolest feeling I ever had on a course, even though it was totally fake.

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 22, 2016 at 5:08 pm

          In my case it woulda been, “You may kiss the birdie, because you’ll never be sleeping with the eagle.”

          • Bob Castelline

            Jul 22, 2016 at 5:17 pm

            I made the putt and thought it would be funny to turn and tip my hat.

            Nobody was clapping. They were trampling each other trying to get to the bar.

  19. Matt

    Jul 22, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Is it wrong that I don’t like people picking up my clubs on the green? If they are left behind that is fine but when you have a handful of clubs and pick up my clubs and they hit against each other or pick up my club with your club, etc. Don’t like it.

    • Bob Castelline

      Jul 22, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      I don’t think you’re wrong. I suppose if I grab the flag and my playing partner is polite and picks up my wedge on the way off the green, that’s OK. But I totally agree — pick it up with your hand, and for God’s sake, don’t put it in my bag.

  20. SpellingBean

    Jul 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    #20 – Piss out of the view of all golfers and surrounding houses e.g. go in the bushes or wait. Nothing kills your game worse that seeing hose.

    • Busterpar

      Jul 24, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Hard to do in this day of houses crowding every fairway and only 1 outhouse/kybo per 9 on a course. When you get old and feeble and are on Flomax like lots of us you’ll understand my point a tad better. I really feel for the women in outings on hot days, they must be miserable.

  21. Kelly

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Really liked the article. I think etiquette is something not discussed enough.

    I do wonder about #10; I’m guilty of this quite often. I usually will say thing like “Get down” to a ball heading toward the bush/water or “Get up” to a putt looking short. I actually think this is good sportsmanship because it indicates to your playing partner that you want good things to happen in his game — I’m on his side, even if we’re competing. I certainly don’t mind when people do it to me. Do I feel guilty when bad things happen as a result of my “instructions”? Well, oddly, yes. I sometimes even apologize saying, “Sorry about that; I thought it was short.” But if we’re really being rational, we both know that my comment had nothing to do with the outcome.

    I very much agree with all the others, except #5, which is a bit silly. I’ve actually never hit someone else’s ball, but when it happens, it’s pretty clear that it was a mistake, so it’s not really an etiquette issue.

    #11 (or #1), be aware of the pace of play. Your playing partners don’t want to have to make up for your slow play. I hate when there are people waiting behind you, and a playing partner is making no effort to keep up or play a bit faster. The result is that the rest of the foursome has to play extra quickly to make up the time.

    • Kelly

      Jul 22, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      Oh, oh, oh…here’s another one. 🙂 Watch your freaking ball! It drives me crazy (I hope my wife is reading this) when people hit their ball into the rough or trees, and have completely no idea about its line. I know sometimes crap happens and you don’t always do this, but that should be the exception, not the rule. If your ball hits the trees, you should know pretty close to exactly where it went in. Take a moment and mark a line.

      On the flip side, watch your playing partners freaking ball because sometimes, number one doesn’t happen. I hate when you hit a ball and either lose it in the sun or just don’t pick it up in the air and your partner doesn’t have a clue because they weren’t watching. Sure, sometimes you have your attention elsewhere, but for most part, it’s your job as a playing partner to help track other player’s shots. At least, that’s the way I see it.

  22. Donald Quiote

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Rule #16 Never say good putt before the ball stops rolling or hits the bottom of the cup.

    • Rancho Bob

      Jul 22, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Is “Good lag” appropriate after a missed two foot putt?

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:22 pm

        Not if you want to keep all of your teeth.

    • mc3jack

      Jul 22, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      I Looooooove doing this to guys in match play. If it falls, cool. If it doesn’t…hahahahahahaaaaa

  23. Max

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Golfers I hope to never get paired with in my life: Andrew Tursky

  24. JustTrying2BAwesome

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    #10 – Is this really bad etiquette? I do this all the time, as have a few others I’ve played with. I feel like a jerk now, I had no idea.

    Especially on the greens. If my ball needs to go a little to get there, I want as many people as I can get yelling at it. Maybe it’ll listen one of these days.

    • Max

      Jul 22, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      Yeah, I don’t understand #10. This is not an etiquette thing but more of a personal thing with the author and golfers like him. I have played golf for 25 years and am an etiquette snob and this one has never even crossed my mind. More often than not, talking to someone else’s ball is actually polite and show’s that you are paying attention to their game and not just self-absorbed in your own world. It also shows that you are watching their ball and can help find it if in the woods or water. I’d way rather have that than someone who is either too much in their own world that they don’t notice what’s happening in yours or people that are so serious that they barely acknowledge that you are playing along beside them.

      • Mr. Wedge

        Jul 22, 2016 at 1:36 pm

        I guess it may vary from person to person then, because I agree 100% with the author on this one (although personally I’m still guilty of it sometimes). Most of the time it’s insincere.

        What pisses me off the most is the confirmation of your bad shot. You dump one in the water and someone goes, that one’s wet. All I can think in my head is “yeah no sh*t, you ***hole. I know that b/c I hit the F’in thing”.

        • Jack

          Aug 2, 2016 at 5:17 am

          So what you’re saying is that you’re redirecting your frustration at someone who just saw your bad shot happen. You must be a joy to play with!

    • Double Mocha Man

      Nov 15, 2016 at 11:06 am

      You have friends?

  25. Chris

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    #11 first to hole out gets the flag – dont walk back to your cart grumbling about your 7
    #12 if you’re away on the green, don’t expect someone closer to putt so you can get the line b/c they’re “the better putter” (yes this actually happened)
    #13 if your playing partner helped you look for a ball on 3, you help him look for his on 12

    • larrybud

      Jul 22, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Yes to #11 and 13. Never had someone ask me to putt first!

    • Mr. Wedge

      Jul 22, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      #14 If they miss a putt, give them a moment to finish it out (if they want to of course). Nothing worse then wanting to clean it up quickly but by the time you reach your ball someone else is already lined up and making their putt.

      • Steve

        Jul 22, 2016 at 11:50 pm

        So just go up and hit your putt and don’t worry about them. It’s their fault if you distract them during your putt – you have the honors still… They’ll learn real quick.

    • Scooter

      Jul 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      #12 Same goes for the teebox. If you birdied the previous hole, be ready to hit first on the next hole. I’ve seen birdie-men that become slower than death on the next tee and eventually tell somebody “go ahead and hit … I’m not ready” … I always tell them “no way, bad karma pro” just to put the pressure back on them.

  26. Cornwall1888

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    90% of these are very petty are we really this sensitive?

    Sorry if you’ve had a bad hole I’m going to ask you what you scored prett quick so I don’t forget

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      How about if you just count everyone’s shots. It’s not that hard. Or let them keep their own score.

  27. Nicholas

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Added rule:

    Don’t touch or remove my clubs from my bag without my consent.

    *I have no problem letting people handle my clubs but make sure you ask first. No need to rummage through when I’m not looking to check them out.

    • Nicholas

      Jul 22, 2016 at 11:59 am

      Negative. They usually like to take a practice swing with them. Happens often lately. Very odd.

  28. Gr

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:41 am

    #11. Don’t walk on somebody’s putting line
    #12. Always make the effort to pat down any spike marks around the cup, after your putt out, even if they aren’t yours

  29. jim

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:39 am

    is it in bad taste to hit the range before a round if you know for a fact the guys you are playing with will not have time to hit the range??

    • Steve

      Jul 22, 2016 at 11:45 am


    • Nicholas

      Jul 22, 2016 at 11:54 am

      Nope, not your fault for making the effort to get to the course early enough to warm up.

      • Nicholas

        Jul 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm

        I am on his side. I’m giving him ‘kudos’ because he’s making the effort to hit the range before the round.

    • Joey5Picks

      Jul 22, 2016 at 7:42 pm

      Nope. Want to warm up? Arrive earlier.

  30. Jafar

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:11 am

    #7 Players are just gonna have to suck it up because in a tournament I don’t have time or patience to coddle someone after they mucked their hole out.

    If they’re that sensitive they should find another sport or face reality.

    That being said I’m also kinda guilty of 9 and 10. So I’ll refrain from that now on thanks to this article.

  31. Ronald Montesano

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

    1. I’ve played in a tournament with a guy on two occasions. Dude tells me “I had you for XX after the front nine” each time and I told him this year, “I don’t want to know, so keep quiet.” Th first time, i let it get to me; this year, I closed like a boss.

    2. Tell a guy to replace his ball marker when he has moved it out of the way. I did this from the gallery at a major amateur event, as the eventual champion was about to putt out from the mistaken spot, with no one saying a word. Talk about all eyes on me! Fortunately, I was correct and the champ sought me out to thank me.

  32. Tom

    Jul 22, 2016 at 10:55 am

    #2 I leave mine in the cup for the next hoe out and pick up the pin.

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Opinion & Analysis

A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy



New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?



Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?



You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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19th Hole