PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club


12 etiquette mistakes you don't even realize you're making

June 29, 2023

Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd

It can be difficult to keep track of golf’s many rules. We’re not talking about the 25 official Rules of Golf, but rather the unwritten code of etiquette. Repeatedly committing an etiquette sin is a social no-no that can risk your standing in your weekend game.

Sure, you know the basics, such as not talking in someone’s backswing and not walking in someone’s line, but there are subtler rules, too, that need to be considered as well. To help make you a more tolerable golfer, we’ve highlighted 12 annoying etiquette mistakes you might not even realize you’re making.

1. Starting your routine too late

Your buddy just finished out, so now it’s time for you to give your 8-footer the full 360-degree treatment, analyzing it from every angle. Wrong. You should have been doing that while everyone else was putting, and when it’s your turn, all that’s left is to give it a final look and go.

2. Asking for the flagstick back in

It’s your right under the new rules to leave the flagstick in, but don’t burden all your playing partners with your stubborn ways. Feel free to leave it in if you’re putting first, but once the flag has been pulled, it’s a done deal. It’s out.

3. Not grabbing the flagstick

Unless you’re in a group full of flagstick-in folks (here’s why they should always pull it, by the way), it’s your responsibility to pull the flag here and there. You don’t need to grab it on every hole, but offering is good etiquette and shows you’re engaged with the group. No one likes to have to step away from their putt to go pull the stick because you mindlessly wandered by.

4. Practicing long putts on a crowded putting green

Yes, distance control is important, but don’t risk your reputation by trying a little too hard to dial in your speed before the round. If the practice putting green is jammed, stick to 25-footers or less. Try for anything more, and your ball will likely veer into the folks politely sticking to their 10-footers.

5. Taking up a hole on a small putting green


Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo

This is only an issue on a small or crowded practice green. When the demand for holes is high, avoid posting up shop at one hole with various drills. If you need to work on your stroke and there isn’t much space, head toward the edge of the green and putt to a tee.

6. Starting to walk during a backswing

A common mistake of the over-eager golfer. Though you’re standing still when the player takes it back, you just can’t help yourself, and you step toward your ball when they’re approaching impact. If you’re in the player’s field of vision, there is little more distracting than this false start.

7. Leaving rakes in bunkers

When you ditch the rake in the sand after you hit, you force the next person to make unnecessary footprints to track it down. Instead, leave it on the edge of the bunker, ideally away from the common line of play to avoid it getting in the way.


Erik Isakson

8. Not minding your shadow

This one puts your partner in an awkward situation. Unless they crave confrontation, they’re not going to tell you to move, but having your shadow hovering over their ball can be distracting.

9. Walking between a player and their ball

Your partner is crouched down a few feet behind their ball to read their putt, only to have you saunter through those few feet between them and their ball. Not only is it annoying, it’s a bit disrespectful.

10. Not placing your bag in line with the next green

You’ve holed your birdie putt and are excited to claim your honors on the next tee. The only problem is your bag is on the opposite side of the green, leaving your partners waiting as you try to make up the lost time from poor planning. Once is forgivable, but multiple offenses will not only annoy your playing partners, they’ll leave the trailing group with hands-on-hips as they watch you zig-zag across the green.

11. Standing in through lines

Some golfers care more about this than others, but it’s safe practice to avoid loitering in the line behind the hole from where others are putting. This is especially true if you’re an early-walker, eager to get back to your ball. Out of sight is a good policy on the greens to avoid annoying any fidgety partners.

12. Cutting it too close

You’re technically not late, but scurrying to the first tee just a couple minutes before your tee time can leave your group in limbo. Should they head out without you or let the group behind them go off? And worse, if you’re playing at a busy public course, they may pair your partners with a single as they look to fill out every group.