The Etiquetteist: Can I change my shoes in the parking lot? And if not, why?!

A golfer takes their bag of their car.

Wondering if you should change your kicks in the parking lot? Read up and know what to do.

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A reader writes: I’m new to golf and was told I should never change my shoes in the parking lot. Seems silly. Is that really a rule?

Dear Reader:

At many of the courses the Etiquetteist frequents, you could probably change your underwear in the parking lot and get away with it. Popping the trunk and swapping your shoes as you sit on the rear bumper? That’s standard practice, like bashing a banana ball off the first tee. No one’s going to give you grief about it.

But those are public courses. And, to butcher a quote from Bobby Jones, there is public golf and there is private golf, and they are not at all the same.

At most private clubs, the parking lot is for parking. Using it as a locker room is a no-no, the sort of faux pas that is apt to earn you a dirty look or a stern rebuke from a club employee or member. Worse yet, if you’re a guest, the club might send your host a reprimanding letter, which is unpleasant for them, and unhappy news for you, as you are now less likely to be a guest again. We can’t all enjoy the same impunity as Lee Trevino, who famously changed his shoes in the parking lot of Augusta National at the 1989 Masters … and still got invited back the following year.

A golfer hits a short putt.
The Etiquetteist: Is it poor form to hit a conceded putt?
By: Josh Sens

More recently, when Covid hit, many private clubs relaxed their policies around parking-lot shoe changing. But now that lockdowns have lifted, the old footwear rules have taken hold again. The stiffer-lipped the club, the stricter the enforcement tends to be.

Silly rules, you say? Maybe so. But abiding by them is respectful. It’s also easy, especially these days when you can drive to the course in the same soft-spikes you plan to play in. Even then, though, it’s worth bringing an extra pair of kicks, as many private courses forbid golf shoes in the dining room and other parts of the clubhouse. What’s more, there’s something civil and relaxing about the pre- and post-round locker-room rituals. Come in. Take a load off. Take your shoes off. You might even bring an extra change of clothes and — here’s a radical idea — shower, too.

Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.