The Etiquetteist: Is it rude to blow off a post-round handshake?

What’s the status of the post-round handshake in 2022?

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In the spring of 2020, when Dr. Anthony Fauci declared the handshake dead, golfers reacted with mixed emotion. Some mourned the loss of the post-round gesture, which they held as a standard of civility. Others were relieved to be done with a formality that they’d long considered (take your pick) awkward, gratuitous, potentially gross or some combination of the above.

At the risk of stirring up more conflicted feelings, we believe it’s fair to ask: What’s the status of the post-round handshake in 2022? Should it be revived? Left in its grave?

Is it rude to blow it off entirely?

Setting aside questions about epidemiology, The Etiquetteist sought counsel from Jules Martinez Hirst. She’s an avid golfer. She’s also an etiquette consultant and the co-author of The Power of Civility (Thrive Publishing; 2011), a practical guide to avoiding faux pas in all realms of life.

Henrik Stenson and Tommy Fleetwood at the Ryder Cup.
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Like many golfers in recent times, Hirst and her playing partners have moved away from the handshake on the 18th green. They tap putters instead.

Personally, Hirst says she doesn’t miss the handshake; she feels that any number of alternatives can adequately fill in for it.

But she knows that many golfers have returned to pressing the flesh after their rounds

It’s become a growing gray area in the game.

And with etiquette, the answers aren’t always black and white.

One thing is a constant, though, Hirst says: “You always need to take your audience into consideration.”

In short, read the room. Or, rather, read the course. Pay attention to body language. Are any of your partners keeping their distance when your group gathers on a tee box? Are they wearing a mask when they order a hotdog at the turn?

Small, unspoken moments can reveal a lot about how comfortable someone feels with physical contact. Picking up on these cues is especially important when you’re playing with strangers (if you’re playing with friends, odds are you know where they stand). Let them be your guide when your round concludes, and you’re trying to decide whether to stick out your hand.

Respect is a two-way street. Your playing partners owe you as much as you owe them.

And if it’s clear that your playing partners want to shake? Are you obliged?

Not at all, Hirst says. Respect is a two-way street. Your playing partners owe you as much as you owe them. And Covid, she notes, still gives you an out. Just be sure to offer some other civil gesture. A fist-bump with eye contact. A cap-tip with a cordial word.

All of these considerations can get more complicated when you’re playing with your boss, a client or a potential business partner. What if they want to shake hands and you don’t?

At that point, Hirst says, do a quick cost-benefit analysis. How important is the relationship? How deeply will they be offended if you don’t extend your hand? 
It might be best for you to suck it up.

No one says it’s simple. The answer isn’t always obvious. But so be it.

If you were incapable of handling uncertainty, you wouldn’t be in love with this dang game.

josh sens

Josh Sens Contributor

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.