22 Golf Etiquette Rules You Need to Know

Nobody wants to be known for poor golf etiquette. Follow these rules to be a great playing partner

, GolfLink Editor
Updated November 16, 2023
Golfer on his cell phone mid-round
    Golfer on his cell phone mid-round
    getty image license

Trying to memorize every golf etiquette rule can seem daunting, but once you understand that all those etiquette rules support three common goals, golf etiquette becomes common sense. Every rule of golf etiquette, big or small, supports an effort to achieve one of the following goals:

  1. Allow your playing partners to play free of distractions or obstacles and in a safe environment;
  2. Maintain proper pace of play;
  3. Take care of the golf course.

With these objectives in mind and a little bit of self-awareness, your golf etiquette is off to a great start. To really solidify your status as a great playing partner, here are 22 important golf etiquette rules that every golfer should follow.

1. Be Quiet

If another golfer is teeing up their ball or selecting their line of play, it’s time to wrap up any conversations immediately. From the time a playing partner addresses the ball until their shot is in the air, remain silent.


2. Give Space

Don’t crowd a fellow golfer by standing too close to them or leaving your golf bag in their personal space.

3. Be Aware of Your Shadows

If your shadow, or the shadow of your golf bag, is in a playing partner’s vision for their upcoming shot, move to eliminate the distraction.

4. Rake Your Bunkers

Any time you play from a bunker, use the rake provided to rake over any impressions from your footsteps and swing.

Sand Bunker with message that needs to be raked

How to Rake Sand Bunkers

5. Dress Appropriately

The definition of proper golf attire can vary depending on your gender, the course, and the time of year you’re playing golf. At the very least, be sure to avoid denim, clothing with holes, and beachwear. Collared shirts are always a safe bet.

Three golfers smiling on course

Proper Golf Attire Guidelines: Get the Dress Code Straight

6. Yell “FORE!” When Necessary

If you see a ball, whether it’s yours or a playing partner’s, that is potentially headed towards anybody else on the golf course, be sure to yell “fore” to warn them of the potential danger.


7. Be Ready to Play

When you’re on the first tee, decide the order of play among your group however you want. On all following holes, the person who made the lowest score on the previous hole has the honor to tee off first. Don’t wait until it’s your turn to play to get your ball, tee, and glove ready.

8. Track Your Partners' Shots

Having an extra set of eyes on where exactly their ball lands helps your pace of play and can even help scores by eliminating lost ball penalties. You’ll be very thankful when your partners return the favor.

9. When in Doubt, Hit a Provisional!

This might seem like an unnecessary use of time, but it will actually help speed up your round. Plus, it can bring good karma. Anecdotally, I'm 75% more likely to find my first ball if I hit a provisional. 


10. Take Care of the Course

If you take a divot anywhere on the golf course, including the tee box, use the divot mix provided on the tee or on your golf cart to fill the divot. If no divot mix is available, retrieve the chunk of turf to fill the divot.

If you hit the green with a full shot, your ball probably left a mark on the green. Before you do anything else on the green, locate your divot and repair it with a divot tool or a golf tee, and if you notice any other divots, repair those as well.

11. Never Walk Through Somebody’s Line

To be courteous to your playing partners, you must be conscious of their line, which is the line between their ball and the hole. Instead of walking through someone else's line, walk behind their ball or around the other side of the hole, watching out for other players' lines in the meantime.


12. Flagstick Awareness

Once all players are on the green, the player set to putt last (the player closest to the hole) is responsible for pulling flagstick (assuming everybody in the group prefers it to be removed). The first player to hole their putt is responsible for replacing the flagstick once the group is finished on the green.

13. Don't Drive Through Wet Areas

It's common for golf course staff to warn you of any wet areas on the course that you should avoid with your cart, but you should always be on the lookout for yourself, and steer clear of wet areas.

14. Follow the 90 Degree Rules When Applicable

The 90 degree rule means you use the cart path until you can take a 90-degree turn to your ball, rather than cutting corners and driving through the fairway and rough. The course staff will alert you when the 90 degree rule is in play, and you can preserve course conditions by obliging.

90 degree rule sign

Golf’s 90-Degree Rule Explained in Simple Terms

15. Keep Your Cart on the Paths, Fairway, or Rough

Never drive a golf cart through tall fescue or native areas. This can cause unnecessary damage to the course. Never drive a golf cart on a tee box, putting green or fringe, collar, or green bank, or in or around bunkers.

16. Keep Your Bag Off Greens, Tee Boxes, Bunkers, & Fescue

Just like a golf cart, your golf bag can damage the course. Instead, set your bag in the rough that surrounds tee boxes, bunkers, greens, fescue, and native areas.

17. Position Cart or Bag Between Green and Next Tee

To allow for a quick exit and to minimize any wait time by the group behind you, park your cart, or your golf bag if you’re walking, between the green and the next tee box.. This eliminates any unnecessary back-tracking and helps pace of play.


18. Be Still While Partners Play

Club clatter can be just as distracting as side chatter to a golfer standing over their shot. Be still from the time they address the ball until it's in the air.

19. Minimize Practice Swings

One or two practice swings are plenty. Visualize your shot, and hit it.

golfer prepares to hit a shot

Golf Pre-Shot Routines to Set You Up for Success

20. Limit Search Time For Lost Balls

The Rules of Golf allow three minutes to search for a lost ball. If you can’t find your ball within the allotted three minutes, proceed under the lost ball penalty and move along.

Golfers and fans search for a lost golf ball

Lost Ball in Golf: Stroke and Distance Rule & Procedures

21. Know When to Pick Up

The World Handicap System enforces a maximum score of net double-bogey on any hole. That means once you’ve exceeded par, plus any handicap strokes you get on a hole, plus two, it’s time to pick up and move on to the next hole.


22. Be Efficient at the Turn

If you must stop for a bathroom break, beverage, or snack at the turn, be efficient. It’s a quick pit stop, not an elaborate halftime break.

More Fun for Everyone

It’s impossible to list every golf etiquette rule, but by being conscious of eliminating distractions from your playing partners, taking care of the golf course, and keeping the pace of play moving, you’ll be well on your way to great golf course etiquette.