Golf is a game of many rules, some more confusing and surprising than others.
When you’re on the course, especially as a beginner but even as a seasoned player, remembering and applying these rules can be a chore.
But there’s another handbook of rules that can only be learnt from years of playing. The ‘unwritten rules of golf’.
These rules won’t get you disqualified from a tournament or kicked off the course, but they might earn you a few looks from course veterans.
There are so many things to remember when playing golf, including your swing, the weather conditions, the lay of the course, and what your score is, let alone trying to figure out the unspoken intricacies of a 600-year-old game.
So if you’re unsure of the unwritten rules of golf, keep reading and we’ll fill you in on some of the most important ones!
1. Let Faster Players Play Through.
Are you a fast or slow player? Maybe you play quickly, but your golf buddies like to take it slow? Maybe you’re playing in a group of 4 and there’s a pair waiting behind the tee box for you all to finsish?
If you’re playing a slow game and there’s a smaller group behind you, you should let them play through.
This rule isn’t just a rule created out of politeness – it’s so everyone can have the best experinece on the course.
Think about it – would you want to be stuck behind a big group taking their time in between shots?
The unwritten rules of golf are there for a reason. To ensure that everyone has the same great experience on the golf course.
So if you’re taking a lot of time on a particular hole and there’s a backlog of golfers behind you, let them play through, you’ll all have a better experience because of it.
2. Quiet On The Tee
Just like the previous rule, this one is for everyone’s benefit.
Have you ever played with someone who seems more interested in the social benefits of golf than the game itself? It’s not a problem to chat with your golf buddies, have a few laughs, and give each other tips or feedback on their swing.
It’s some of the best, most social aspects of golf that lead people to believe that golf isn’t a sport.
But wherever you stand on that debate, someone talking over your swing can definitely put you off.
If you want to ensure that everyone in your party is playing the best golf they can and having a great game, stay quiet on the tee, and don’t go down the fairway hooting and hollering, as you could put someone else off their game on another hole.
Ever wondered how who tees off first? Traditionally, the golfer with the lowest handicap tees off first, but what if you’re just playing a casual round with friends?
In that case, it doesn’t particularly matter on the first tee. Some choose youngest first, some oldest, some like to throw a tee into the air, and whoever it points at when it lands goes first.
But on the second hole, the unwritten rules of golf take over. Some call it ‘honor’, some call it ‘grace’, but all it means is that whoever got the lowest score on the last hole tees off first.
This is just a formality, but you can also use it to your advantage.
Say you had to make a few recovery shots on the last hole and your scorecard is suffering. You can watch your golf buddies take their shots first and make your plan of action depending on how they played.
Planning your game is invaluable and could be the differnece between a game you never speak of again and breaking 100 for the first time.
Just remember, if you play better than your buddies on the next hole, it will be their chance to watch what you do on the next!
4. Ready Golf
While not quite one of the unwritten rules of golf, knowing how to play ready golf properly and safely when you need to can be invaluable, and more often than not you’ll slip into playing it without even realizing.
Ready golf is where whoever is ready to take their shot first takes it, rather than whoever is farthest from the hole.
Playing ready golf is a great way to up your pace of play if you need to, and means you can get through more holes much quicker than usual.
You should still take the same amount of time with your swing though! The benefits of playing ready golf shouldn’t cost your technique. Remember your swing thoughts and all the lessons you’ve learned about your swing, remember to take the lay of the green before you putt, don’t just wildly aim for the green in the hope that speed is on your side.
If you are playing ready golf, be aware of what the golfers around you are doing. As a rule, don’t walk in front of them as they take their swing, and always keep an eye on where their ball is headed if you do happen to find yourself further down the fairway than them.
Golf absolutely can be a dangerous sport, especially if you’re playing ready golf. It should be a problem solver, not a problem creator.
5. Take Your Ball Out of the Hole
This is more of a courtesy than one of the unwritten rules of golf, but that doesn’t make it any less important than the other rules on this list.
There’s nothing better than finally sinking that putt and hearing the ball fall in the hole. If someone else’s ball is already waiting in the hole, you’re not going to hear that sound. Or even worse, your ball might bounce back out.
The unwritten rules of golf are unwritten for a reason, they should be common sense, and this is perhaps the most obvious rule on the list.
I’m sure you wouldn’t want the unpredictability of a ball with a hole already in it when you putt, so make sure you take yours as soon as you pot it.
6. Quick Putts
This is something that every golfer has done before when putting just doesn’t seem to be going your way.
Ever hit an extra 3 or 4 putts than you ever thought you would have to? Sometimes putting just doesn’t go our way. There are plenty of different techniques you can use to remedy this, like AimPoint, or a variety of other putting aids, but there’s always a chance that it still doesn’t work.
If that’s the case and you’re putting around the hole over and over again, don’t rush. Take a breath, relax, but don’t stop.
Even the pros get bogged down in the putts on a bad day. Take Haotong Li’s first hole at the 2022 Open Championship as a good example of what to do when it all goes wrong.
This being one of the more commonly known unwritten rules of golf, the majority of golfers will understand what you’re doing – trust me, we’ve all been there.
This only really applies to a casual game and might be frowned upon by some tournament hosts or golfers, but it’s usually best to just get your ball out of the way and make sure you pick it up after you eventually sink it!
7. Don’t Offer Lessons Without Being Asked
Some of the unwritten rules of golf are better off unspoken. Unfortunately, some golfers have been known to take it upon themselves to be the ersatz golf coach out on the links.
Whatever expertise you have is definitely important and I’m sure that the majority of amateur golfers would be happy to hear it, but at the end of the day, unsolicited advice rarely goes down well.
If someone is getting frustrated after a few slices in a row, or they’re having a hard time getting the ball off the ground with their driver, it’s totally fine to offer them a tip or two to remind them of they could be doing wrong.
What many golfers will take offense to is the unsolicited lesson.
Sometimes it’s better to lead by example. Playing a great round of golf could be all the knowledge you need to impart. That’s why these are unspoken and unwritten rules of golf.
So there are some of the unwritten rules of golf. Some we’re hoping you will have already known, but there are bound to be more that golfers all around the world have learnt from their time on the course.
The important thing is to make sure you’re on the same page as your fellow golfers. You don’t want to be the only one playing ready golf when everyone else is taking their time, and you don’t want to be the one arguing that you should get to play while the rest of your buddies are letting another group play through.
Golf is an evolving game, and different situations call for different responses. The number of unwritten rules of golf will always be changing. Just make sure you aren’t making anyone else’s game worse because of the way you’re playing, and you’ll be alright.