Friday, May 7, 2021

Golf Etiquette

All Things Golf
Todd Elliott

That stuffy sounding term, golf etiquette, is a hotly debated topic among golfers across the land from sea to shining sea, mainly because what we know as “etiquette” changes over time in all walks of life. Some will think that’s good and some bad depending on what changes. Usually, people believe in what they have grown accustomed to — and when it comes to what forms of conduct are acceptable, the majority rules.

For example, during a round of golf together, three players in a foursome enjoy talking the entire round—even during another player’s swing. All well and good, except for the one member of the foursome who doesn’t like any noise when he is setting up a shot and taking a swing. In these situations the majority usually rules, so the one golfer who doesn’t like talking during play had better learn to accept it or find another game. If the exact opposite situation occurs, the one golfer who chatters on during play needs to learn when to be quiet or find another group.

But as stated earlier, things aren’t always the way they have been. At Montana’s Big Sky Resort, where Hideaway Beach Club’s Assistant Golf Professional Mark Wehrman is the PGA Head Golf Professional during the summer months, the club’s new golf carts come equipped with USB ports, making it possible for the golf shop to sell portable speakers that will connect to any golfer’s phone through Bluetooth. So starting this year at Big Sky Resort golfers will be able to listen to music more conveniently while they are playing. This is where golf is trending, not the traditional “hush, no noise while I hit” frame of mind. Is the traditional golf etiquette correct? Or is the “Happy Gilmore” etiquette more in keeping with the way golf should be played? That is a matter of personal preference, but the norms are changing.

As a leader in managing a golf operation, my sense is that the correct golf etiquette is the one that is accepted by the members, those who pay dues or greens fees. If the reactions of Mr. and Mrs. “No-one-can-speak-move-or-sneeze-while-I-hit” make others not want to play golf, then this attitude is simply not acceptable. On the other hand, if the majority of the membership/patrons/golfers like the traditional style of etiquette, that etiquette will be preached to the masses by the club—and with the suggestion that it be followed by all players.

On a personal level, I think not moving, talking, stepping on another golfers intend line, playing out of turn, etc., are all overrated, and should not apply in casual golf. However, if we are talking about club championships, or other major club events then, yes, some traditional etiquette should apply. It is important to note here that the reason I believe traditional golf etiquette is overrated for more casual club events (or casual golf in general) is pace of play, because the more that traditional golf etiquette is followed, the slower golfers will play. For example, some PGA tour players are marking a ball on the green when they are in another player’s “through line,” meaning they are marking even if they are on the other side of the hole of another player’s line of putt, just in case the player hits his ball by the hole if they miss. This adds time to the round on tour, which is already taking five hours for three golfers…Ugh!

The next generation of golfers, and much of the generation that are playing now, have no time for all these common rules of etiquette. Time is valuable, and they don’t have all day. If a golfer is used to traditional golf etiquette this type of rush, rush, rush, is not easily accepted. But as a PGA professional who is trying to grow the game my main concern is keeping what may well be outdated etiquette standards from chasing prospective golfers away. Of course, different scenarios exist from club to club, and golf course to golf course. All I ask of readers is that they be aware of traditional points of etiquette, and seek to find a golf group who agrees with the standard of conduct during play that fits their same beliefs on the subject, because disagreements concerning etiquette can be a major problem. With all that being said, taking care of the course is not a debatable etiquette topic. We must always focus on repairing ball marks, filling divots, raking bunkers, etc., even if it slows our play.

I hope this article inspires you to find out more on this evolving subject by going to these helpful links from the R&A and the PGA of America:

Todd Elliott is the Head Golf Professional at Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island, Florida. Todd is a PGA and CMAA member. Todd is Titleist Performance Institute Level 3 Golf Certified. To contact Todd email him at, or on Twitter @elliottgolfpro.

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