Rule One of the Rules of Golf is all about etiquette, but what is it?  Etiquette is the basic rights that apply to you and your fellow golfers, whether playing or watching. Here is Golfalot's guide to the un-written rules of golf to help you get the most from your game and that of others.

Playing Golf - Before You Start

  1. Be ready to play your shot when it is your turn. Have your club, ball, gloves and tee ready to go - it will speed the game up.
  2. Turn mobile phones off - most golf courses do not allow them on the course or in the clubhouse anyway.
  3. Stand still and stay quiet when others are playing and make sure your shadow is not across their line of vision.
  4. Wait until the group in front is out of range before playing. 
  5. Stand facing the person playing, but behind the line of the ball - you are not in the way and it is the safest place to be.
  6. Check the local rules on the back of the scorecard or winter rules with the club pro before teeing-off. They may be useful later on.
  7. Keep golf trolleys and buggys off tees and greens.
  8. In strokeplay competitions, the teeing off order on each hole is determined by the best score on the previous hole. The person with best score has the 'honour' and goes first followed by the 2nd best score and so on. In matchplay, the person or pair who win a hole have the honour on the next tee.

Fellow Golfers

Golf is all about companionship and getting on with the people you are playing with. Follow these etiquette steps and you'll always have someone to tee it up with.

  1. You hit a shocker, it happens - keep the toys in the pram. Do not swear, test the flight capabilities of your club or appeal loudly to mystical bodies. Your partners are trying to enjoy their day, even if you aren't. Losing your cool means losing the game.
  2. Do not scream and do a lap of honour if you play a career shot - others may be concentrating on doing the same near by.
  3. If your group falls more than one hole behind the group in front and there is another group behind, you must let them play through. Two-ball groups have priority on the course over all others. If you are holding them up then let them through - someone will return the favour to you one day.
  4. If you are looking for a lost ball you have 5 minutes to find it. If there is a group behind, wave them through while you are looking rather than hold them up.
  5. If you are holding up a group playing in an official club match or competition and you are not, you should let them through regardless of the situation in front.
  6. If you are being held up, do not hit your ball into the group in front to speed them up, even if they deserve it. Lawyers are doing well enough these days without defending your next personal liability case.
  7. If playing in a fourball better ball game it is usual to change the order of teeing off between you and your partner at the 10th tee.
  8. When playing foursomes, the non-playing partner should walk ahead in anticipation of the playing partner's shot. It is meant to be a quick game so get moving!
  9. After your round, shake hands with your partners, "Well played, Better luck next time, etc..", and take off your hat as you do so. It's what golf is all about.

Watching Golf

Watching the pro's at tournaments is great fun, but remember their round is just as important as yours when you play so observe the following etiquette for watching golf and be amazed at what they can do.

  1. Do not take any device with a camera to tournaments during the actual days of competition. If your trigger finger cannot survive a day without a lens, some tournaments have cameras at the practice ground for you to take pictures of the players. Alternatively take your camera along on a practice day as they are usually tolerated then.
  2. Turn your mobile phone off - you are out watching golf and nothing should interrupt something as enjoyable as that!
  3. Do not make any noise when players are setting up to play or making a stroke.
  4. Appreciate good play not bad play. If they yip it from two feet then sympathise rather than celebrate.
  5. Think of the people watching behind you. Kneel down if you are at the front and keep an umbrella low if you are using one.
  6. Wait until all the players have completed a hole before moving to the next tee to watch them hit. Tiger will still be there when you arrive.

Playing Golf - On The Course

  1. After the tee shots, the player furthest from the hole plays first.
  2. Put your divots back, repair pitch marks on the green and rake bunkers after you have extracted yourself from them.
  3. On the green, avoid standing on another player's line of putt.
  4. When approaching a green, see where the next tee is and leave your clubs on that side of the green while you putt.
  5. In matchplay, conceding putts usually happens when the ball is 'within the leather'. That means the distance between the hole and the ball is less that the distance between the putter head and the bottom of the grip. Mind you, if it is a crucial putt then it is OK to see if they can handle the pressure!
  6. Mark your score card on the next tee whilst it is not your turn to play, not on the green. The score won't change (unfortunately!).
  7. If you think you have lost your golf ball, play a second 'provisional' ball from the same spot to save you walking back if you do lose the first one. It doesn't cost anything.
  8. If you hit a ball into the rough, pick a spot on line with that point where you last saw the ball and walk directly to it. Hopefully you will find it more easily and it will also speed up your game.
  9. If you accidentally hit your ball in the direction of another person, warn them by shouting 'Fore!' Hold your arm up as another warning, particularly if you are shouting against the wind or lack the vocal capacity of a foghorn.