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8 key commandments to being a good guest at a golf club

August 9, 2019

You know the old caddie wisdom, “Show up, keep up, shut up”? My long, successful career as a freeloader — er, golf journalist — has taught me that being a well-liked guest is only a bit more complicated than being a well-regarded looper. Here are the key lessons I’ve learned over the years.

Be like a caddie

Show up on time, which means early enough to warm up but not prior to the grounds crew’s arrival. Keep up with your host’s playing pace, not rushing nor (especially) slowing him or her down. Shut up if you have anything negative to say about the course, the conditions, whatever.

Say something nice

Without obvious toadying, mix in the occasional kind remark about the course and your host’s game — everyone likes a compliment now and then. Every three holes is a good rule of thumb.


Today’s not the day to stress about your score. Make plain that you’re enjoying yourself.

Respect the course

You should always fix divots and pitch marks, rake the bunkers well, and so on, but especially so today, as it shows your appreciation.


Save the club-throwing, cursing and overall childishness for another day. Otherwise, you’re not just embarrassing yourself but also your host.

Lose the alligator arms

Many hosts won’t or can’t let you reimburse the green fee, but you should certainly offer to tip the caddies, if you used any. Regardless, get your shoes shined and tip well, and support the pro shop with the purchase of a memento.

Express your gratitude

That’s more than a firm handshake after caps are doffed on the 18th green. It’s also a thoughtful note sent ASAP. Bonus points: Send an actual letter rather than an e-mail!


…if you’re also a member of a private club. Which I would…if I were. Absolutely. No question about it.