Should you tip golf-bag attendants before or after your round? And how much?!

wallet with money

Tipping isn’t about you. It’s about the other person.

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Doug from New York asks: When is the appropriate time to tip the bag attendants? On arrival? On departure? Both?

Dear Doug,

Most golf-etiquette questions have a Caddyshack connection. In this case, I’m thinking of the scene where Rodney Dangerfield’s Al Czervik breezes up to Bushwood in a gaudy red Rolls-Royce and hops out, flashing bills.

“Here, kid,” he says to the valet. “Park my car. Get my bag and” — pausing to give an appraising look before pressing more dough into the young man’s palm— “put on some weight, will ya?”

Point is, if Rodney can do it, you can, too. There’s no rule against tipping upfront. But there’s no expectation for it, either. Handing out gratuities upon arrival is the outlier move, a generous gesture that, like all tipping, is best handled discreetly. We all know real-life Czerviks who brandish their billfolds in look-at-me mode. They aren’t so much sharing their wealth as they are seeking attention, just as they are with the cars they drive.

How to tip at a golf course.
The Etiquetteist: 7 things to know when tipping at the course
By: Josh Sens

If your heart is in the right place — as it clearly is, or you wouldn’t be asking the question — you know that tipping isn’t about you. It’s about the other person. You want to make sure that no one on staff is getting stiffed.

In that regard, you can rest easy.

Most clubs allow tipping for outside services. Sometimes, the percentages are weighted by seniority. But everyone winds up receiving a share. Everyone also knows that tipping customarily happens at departure, not arrival, so there are no pressing expectations. You won’t get the stink-eye if you don’t tip the employee who greets and helps you when you pull up. They’ll get theirs later.

As for the appropriate gratuity? Figure you should part with at least $5/bag, so $10 in all if you’re also picking up your partner’s sticks.

Of course, no attendant will be miffed if you slip them a few bucks upfront, too. Just don’t comment on their weight.

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.