Rules & Etiquette

Rules & Etiquette

The game of golf is unique in the sports world because there are no umpires, referees, or linesman watching to ensure the rules and courtesies are being followed by every player. Each golfer is her own referee and scorekeeper. We assess our own penalties, which makes that out of bounds ball twice as painful. It becomes our responsibility to know and follow the rules and etiquette of the game. The two elements of self-policing and etiquette make golf very different from other athletic events.

This can be quite a challenge especially for those that are also learning the mechanics such as the golf swing or how to putt. However, learning the etiquette is just as important for enjoying the game as learning the skills and rules. Common courtesies like who tees off first, where to place your bag when putting, and when to be quiet are an integral part of play. Only through understanding and concern for others can we be alert to all the situations that unfold on the course which affect ours and others enjoyment of the game.

The complete rules of golf can be found at The USGA web site has complete online listings of the Rules & Decisions as well as an online Rules Quiz and Rules FAQ.

The LPGA Amateur Golf Association also provides Pace of Play Guidelines that can be found on the LPGA Amateur Golf Association website.

The following is basic golf etiquette. Because etiquette is based on player's safety and consideration for others, situations not mentioned here can be handled well if both of these aspects are kept in mind.

Before you Play

  • Arrive early for your tee time so you have ample time to check-in and get ready.
  • Each player must have her own set of clubs and a bag. Most facilities rent clubs.

General 'On the Course' Etiquette

  • Be quiet and still while others are hitting.
  • Do not stand directly behind players that are hitting. Stand off to the side instead.
  • Be sure that your equipment and your cart are out of the way when others are hitting.
  • Do not expect your partners to execute perfect shots every time. Position yourself such that you are out of the way of potential errant shots.
  • Be aware of and follow all Pace of Play Guidelines.

On the Tee and in the Fairway

  • Do not hit into the group ahead of you. If you are unsure as to whether the group ahead of you is out of range, it's better to wait.
  • If your shot is straying near other golfers, yell 'fore' early and loudly so that the players in danger have a chance to react and protect themselves. If you are uncertain whether your ball is going to land near other golfers, play it safe and yell 'fore' anyway.
  • If you hit your ball into another fairway, do not disrupt the play of the group on that hole. If you need to wait to hit out of another fairway, others in your group should go ahead and hit while you are waiting.
  • Always replace your divots. Some nicer courses prefer that you fill divots with seed that they provide on each golf cart. 

In Bunkers

  • Enter the bunker such that you will have to walk across the least amount of sand to play your shot. Enter the bunker from the low side.
  • Avoid walking down the deep slope of bunkers so that you do not shift large amounts of sand.
  • Always rake the bunker when you are done. Fill and smooth out footprints and stroke marks. Leave the rake outside the bunker where it is least likely to affect play, unless otherwise requested by the course.
  • For large bunkers, be sure the rakes are left spaced so that those that come after you won't have to walk far to find a rake.

On and Around the Green

  • Do not bring golf bags or pull-carts onto the green.
  • Avoid stepping on other people's putting 'line'. The 'line' is the likely path the ball will take on its way to the hole. This is not always a straight line, since greens have contour.
  • Do not leave scrape marks or drag your spikes on the green. The rules do not permit players that come after you to repair these marks if it might assist in their subsequent play of the hole.
  • Repair ball marks on the green. Do so with a ball mark repair tool by inserting the ball mark around the edges of the mark and pulling your hand toward the center of the mark. Then tap it down flat with the bottom of your putter. Do not pull your hand away such that the center of the mark lifts up. This dislodges the roots of the grass and kills it. Try to repair your ball mark plus one other on every green.
  • When tending the flagstick, stand on the side of the hole away from where the curve of the green will take the putt. Be sure that your shadow is not over the line of the putt or the hole. On windy days, grasp the flag to keep it from flapping.

Golf Cart Etiquette

  • Know cart rules before you play. Depending on the conditions and the weather, a course may not allow power carts on the fairway or may be enforcing the 90 degree rule. The 90 degree rule means that you should drive on the cart path until you are even with your ball. You should then drive straight out to your ball, hit, and then drive straight back to the cart path.
  • Do not park your cart such that other vehicles cannot pass it.
  • Golf carts should always be kept at least 30 feet, often further as marked by the course, from the greens.
For members, more extensive etiquette guidelines are available in your New Member Orientation Handbook.