The Etiquetteist: 8 mistakes to avoid when you’re a golf-club guest

Don't be "that guy" when playing as someone's guest (or ever).

Getty Images

Getting invited to peg it at private club is a privilege.

But, as Spiderman might say, with great perks comes great responsibility. Or at least an obligation to be on your best behavior.

Here are 8 common mistakes golfers make when playing as guests.

1. Dress Code Violations

No jeans. No t-shirts. No brainer, right? But that’s just for starters. Some clubs outlaw shorts. Others have minimum-length requirements on shirts and socks. Bottom line: acquaint yourself in advance with the dress code and abide by its strictures, no matter how finicky you find them. It will spare you and your host embarrassment. And save you from having to make any pricy last-minute purchases of pro shop apparel.

winged foot
Survey: This is the most golfers are willing to pay to join private clubs
By: Zephyr Melton

2. Shoe Swap Violations

This just in: the parking lot is not Foot Locker, and some clubs don’t like it when you conflate the two. To be safe, wait to swap your shoes until you reach the locker room.

3. Cell Phone Violations

Texting discretely might not be the same as taking calls from your broker. But there’s a good chance that both are seen as bad form. Why risk it? Switch the cell phone off and stash it. No one needs to hear from you for the next few hours, just as no one wants to see a live stream of your round.

4. Maintenance Violations

The golden rule of golf is not to leave the course in worse condition than you found it. Fix ball marks. Fill divots. Failure to do either is a good way to earn yourself ill will. Something similar applies after you play from a bunker: smooth the sand, place the rake back where it’s meant to be and tap your shoes clean before you trample across the green.

5. Pace of Play Violations

Someone has to be the slowest player in the group. Don’t let it be you.

muni mondays
This top private course gave its public neighbor a spectacular lift
By: Josh Sens

6. Early Arrival Violations

Story goes that President George H.W. Bush once showed up at Augusta National as a guest only to be kept waiting at the gate until his host arrived. POTUS didn’t like that. You might not like it either. Tough nuggets. At some clubs, that’s the rule. Even at clubs that are more relaxed, it’s worth finding out when your host plans to arrive and trying not to beat them there, unless they’ve made arrangements for you. Arriving early isn’t always no-no. But the club is not your day spa. Don’t show up a sunrise for an afternoon tee time expecting just to lounge around.

7. Tipping Violations

There’s a special rung in hell for golfers who stiff caddies, locker room attendants and other staffers. But over-tipping might not make you an angel either. At some clubs, it’s considered awkward, so make a discrete inquiry about rates and customs before you start doling out the C-notes. Oh, and covering caddie fees for your host is a classy way to go.

8. Gratitude Violations

There are other ways to thank your host than with a hearty handshake on the 18th green. A follow-up note is nice. And gift is even better, either brought to the course or mailed shortly after.

generic profile image

Josh Sens

Golf.com Photographer

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.