5 unwritten golf-etiquette rules that need to be retired immediately

golfer in parking lot

No one has qualms with you handling your clubs in the parking lot. Same should be true of your shoes.

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Golf is rich in history and tradition. It’s also rife with silly customs. 

As a guardian of on-course niceties, the Etiquetteist is proud to defend time-honored codes of conduct — but only within reason. 

At some point, even he must draw a line in the meticulously raked bunker sand

In the service of common sense, here are 5 unwritten rules that are simply too stuffy, archaic or nonsensical to be held over golfers’ heads. 

golfer looks for lost ball
The Etiquetteist: How long should you assist in your partner’s lost-ball search?
By: Josh Sens

1. Drinks on you when you make an ace 

It’s a crowning achievement, a cherry on the top of your amateur career. As your reward, every Tom, Dick and Nobody in the clubhouse gets to order top-shelf spirits, and you get a tab with a comma in it. The custom here should be the other way around. 

2. No walking in your partner’s ‘through line’ 

Weekend golfers have many grandiose habits. The same deluded hacker who waits 20 minutes for a green to clear before topping his 3-wood from 350 yards is also apt to ask you not to walk in his “through line” — the line on the opposite side of the cup from where he’s putting. This would be funny if it weren’t so sad. First, unless you’re wearing metal spikes and carrying Shane Lowry on your shoulders, your footprints aren’t going to make the slightest scuff. Second, your playing mate is liable to leave his putt three feet short anyway. 

3. No changing shoes in the parking lot 

Pay no mind to those harrumphing Judge Smails-types who decry this harmless practice as déclassé. They’ve lost perspective. If, on the other hand, you start clipping your toenails, you’ve probably taken it a step too far. 

cam smith reads a putt
The Etiquetteist: Is walking in your partner’s line really that big of a deal?
By: Josh Sens

4. Hats off to shake hands on the 18th green 

With your putter in one hand and the flagstick in the other, you fumble around to remove your cap, dropping the other objects on the green in the process. And for what? So that the guy you played with can run his paw across his sweaty hat-less brow and give you a clammy shake? Removing your headwear also prevents you from offering the classiest gesture of them all: the hat tip. 

5. No phones  

As much as it might be appealing to ditch your phone for five hours, it’s rarely practical in our digital-mad world. So, as long as you’re not barking at your broker or holding up play, phones should be as acceptable as rangefinders, both on the course and in the clubhouse. But they should also be used in the same way — only when you really need them.   

Josh Sens

Golf.com 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.