This One's On Me

Reddit Golf Content of the Week: When should someone else have to pay for your round?

October 13, 2023


Late at night, when normal human beings are sleeping, one writer spends literal hours on Reddit Golf, a treasure trove of humor, whining, equipment scores, outright lies and occasionally some great advice. It also led him, once upon a time, to Bucket Hat Guy. Each Friday, he will bring the site's best content to you, so that you can live a normal life.

Here's a thing that happens to golf writers on occasion: Someone local finds your email, shoots you a note, and invites you to play golf at their private club. Nice! But now imagine you're all ready to take them up on it, but you realize the person said nothing about money. If you accept the invitation, should you expect them to pay the greens fees for you? Is the invite payment enough, since it's a private club, and the onus is on you to pay for yourself? Should they pay, but you buy drinks after?

That's just one hypothetical situation someone could run into, and earlier this month on r/Golf, user splsteinbeck offered his own draconian take: always pay for yourself. Here's what he said:

"I don’t know where all these degenerate justifications come from on this forum but they’re bleeding over into people I know so let’s just make this clear.

Pay for your own golf.

Did someone invite you to a private club? Pay for your own golf. Did someone invite you to a public course? Pay for your own golf. Is your friend richer than you are when you go golf? Pay for your own golf. Did they check in at the pro shop and pay for you? Pay them back for your own golf. Is Mercury in retrograde and it feels like you shouldn’t have to pay? Pay for your own golf.

If you said “here’s the cash” or “what’s your Venmo” and they refuse then let it go. Asking “do you want me to pay you?” Is not trying to pay for your own golf. You have to make a clear direct attempt to pay them back right away. Don’t be a barnacle on your golf groups ass and pay for your own golf.

If you can’t afford to go golf somewhere then suggest a more affordable location or just don’t go. I know you all in your head think that the person paying for you doesn’t care and is fine with paying for you but let me tell you 1000% that is not the case. It is also gross and unfair of you to do that to people. Have some self respect and insist on paying. You’re making what is supposed to be a fun bonding experience awkward and uncomfortable for everyone. Stop. Pay for your own golf."


I don't know if I totally agree with him, but I love the energy and moral clarity here. The post also had 2401 upvotes, indicating that there's a lot of agreement out there—although you have to be careful with that kind of thing, because sometimes a community like r/Golf upvotes posts like these just because they're controversial/amusing. In fact, in the top comments there was a good deal of pushback. A few examples:


"When invited out by a member.. The etiquette is to ask if there is a guest fee. 9/10 out of 10 the member will say “it’s covered.” You then let the member cover it. You can offer to help on with tips where you can for drinks/locker room. They more than likely won’t even take your payment method for drinks/dinner - all charged to the account.

You send a gift afterwards. Cigars, bottle of bourbon, wine, ect.

This is a bad take with way to much strange emotion behind it."


"Back when I actually worked at a golf course I had plenty of members be mad that their guests paid, so the 1000% is an exaggeration.

If I’m invited to a private club I make sure I have enough cash to cover the round and caddy if there is one. If I’m invited to a public course I don’t even ask I just pay unless they outright tell me not to."


"Salesman invites you to play golf?

Let them pay!!"


"OP, maybe you should just Venmo request whoever didn’t pay you back here."


"If I get OP for Secret Santa this year, I'm definitely not treating them to a round at my local course!"


"If my buddies and I are going play and I say “I got it” that means they don’t have to pay me back… because they’re my friends, I want to pay and I’m fucking grown and can do what I want. I’ve had friends pay for my rounds with no intention of anyone paying them back. happens all the time.

Just say you’re a terrible judge of character and hang around with degenerates."

Okay, let's take a breath. After getting swept up in the rhetoric of the original post, the comments have brought me back down to earth, and I think with the benefit of time I'm back to thinking the original post is just a bit reactionary. Obviously he's right that between friends, invitations should operate on a "pay for yourself" basis. If I get a text from a pal saying "want to play golf Sunday?", there's no part of me that sees this as him offering to cover me. That would be a ridiculous assumption, and probably a friendship-ender.

On the other hand, there are obviously some invitations that carry a different implication, and at least merit asking the question.

Which gets to the heart of my conclusion here. In all these cases, you know what would solve the problem? COMMUNICATION! TALKING TO YOUR FELLOW HUMAN!

If I get an invite to play a private course, and I'm considering it but it's not worth a ton of money to me, I'll write back, "what's the fee?" And if the response indicates that it's covered, then great! And if the response gives me a price, then I have a decision to make. (There's a corollary here, which is that if you're the one inviting the other person to play, include the price if there is one, or make it obvious that it's your treat.) Either way, I've got all the information and don't have to worry about getting caught flat-footed. In short, there's no catch-all rule for paying your own way on the golf course, but there is a catch-all solution: Just ask, dude.