The Etiquetteist: If you’re late for your tee time, when can a course give away your slot?

golfer looking at watch

Busy courses are like airlines: They have schedules to meet and other customers to oblige.

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Paul from Oakland writes:

I showed up at 11:55 for a noon tee time, and the course had given away my spot. I was beyond p—d! What’s up with that?

Dear Paul,

The Etiquetteist understands your frustration, but they call it a tee time because they give you a time to show up on the tee.

If you lag, a course is well within its rights to give away your slot. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it will.

This depends in part on how you define late. Many properties have clearly stated policies that call for you to check in a certain amount of time before your reservation (15 minutes is a common window). Turn up any later and, technically, you’re a no-show. Your tee time is no longer guaranteed.

An angry golfer throws a club.
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In the future, if you know you’re running late, your best bet is to call ahead and advise the shop, a common courtesy that might earn you some latitude in return. In your case, the course might have offered to hold your slot and shuttle you out to the group at whatever hole they were on.

We’re guessing you had this issue at a jam-packed operation. When tee sheets are empty, no biggie. It’s easy for the shop to make accommodations. But when business is thrumming, as it is at so many courses these days, all bets are off, even if you’ve paid a deposit on your tee time, which a growing number of courses now require.

Busy courses are like airlines: They have schedules to meet and other customers to oblige. They don’t hold up proceedings for a single straggler. Nor should they. If you aren’t there to board at the appointed time, they’ll take someone off the standby list. The best you can hope for is that they’ll fit you in as soon as another opening arises — golf’s version of the next available flight.

What makes golf different from air travel is that it’s far more lenient. No one’s asking you to get there two hour’s in advance. Finding a tee time can be difficult these days. Arriving on time isn’t. Sorry, Paul, but this one’s on you. 

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.