The 9 most egregious etiquette mistakes, ranked!

An angry golfer throws a club.

Throwing a golf club? That's both embarrassing and dangerous.

Getty Images

Breaking an etiquette rule is not a crime, but it can subject you to recrimination. How serious a dressing down do you deserve? That depends on the nature of your trespass. Here’s a ranking of nine notable violations, listed least to most severe.

9. Playing out of turn

This is so benign it should almost be encouraged in the name of pace of play. The exception is stepping in front of a birdie on the tee, in which case, the guilt you feel should lead to a self-sabotaging bogey and loss of hole.

8. Dress code violations

No cargo shorts. No denim. No caps worn backwards. This game has a zillion attire-related rules, many of them rooted in customs so antique and irrational there’s no point trying to make sense of them. Not that you should knowingly flout them. That’s just childish. But if you slip up unintentionally, big deal. The punishment should be no worse than having to buy a belt or being asked politely to tuck in your shirt.

7. Walking in someone’s line

As a practical matter, this is minor. It’s not likely that you’re messing up the trueness of the roll. But it’s still unseemly conduct. It shows that you’re a wild card, capable of worse, or at least so caught up in your own world as to be bad company.

6. Giving unsolicited swing tips

You know how much you like it when your significant other offers unsolicited criticism? Exactly. May you come down with the shanks, Mr. Self-Appointed Pro.

5. Not fixing pitch marks or replacing divots

If you can’t leave the course in as good or better condition as what you found it in, you should simply leave the course.

4. Hitting into someone accidentally

The first rule of medicine is the first rule of golf: do no harm. It can happen but it shouldn’t. Fifty lashes with a swing noodle for you.

3. Not raking bunkers

It’s really such an easy task, and skipping it not only hurts your fellow players, but it makes you look like a jerk. Embrace the art form of a well-raked bunker.

2. Throwing clubs or smashing objects other than golf balls

Embarrassing and dangerous. Next time you par a par-3, you’ll have shot your age.

1. Hitting into someone intentionally

This is no longer in our jurisdiction, as we have now moved from etiquette violations to assault.

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.

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