This I Have Learned: Golf Course Manners and What Matters

“The object of golf is not just to win. It is to play like a gentleman [or gentlewoman!], and win.”—Phil Mickelson

It’s October, and the fall and winter golf season in Arizona is back in earnest. Quite the appropriate time to provide a short primer on the niceties of the sport we all love. For this, I sat down with Jane Chanik, PGA, head golf professional, SaddleBrooke One, who provided some must-know recommendations and tips for the reader.

Pace of Play

“Keep up with the group ahead of you. The rule of thumb for time on each hole is: par threes, 11 minutes; par fours, 13 minutes; and for par fives, 15 minutes. Another thought is that 9 holes should be played in two hours and five minutes, then a max of 10 minutes at the turn.

Also, out of respect for others in the group, don’t make noises, chat or play music (unless you have permission to do so!). Be sure to keep your cart close (if you take it onto the fairway). But, if it’s cart path only, be sure to take several clubs with you onto the fairway—to give you options.”

When to Tee Off on Par Threes

We all know how dangerous it can be when you are not quite off of a green and a golfer behind you hits his/her ball. Jane’s advice is to, “Wait until the golfers in front of you have departed the green and have moved their carts on to the next hole, thereby keeping them out of harm’s way.”

On Being Cart and Player Aware

There are different levels of golf expertise, but what about players who move ahead after they hit their balls, when golfers still have to hit their balls?

“As an etiquette, ask those in your foursome if that is acceptable to them. Some golfers prefer not to have the distraction of movement in front of them prior to their taking the shot.”

Looking for a Lost Ball?

You can always hit (and declare) a provisional ball. The definition of a provisional ball is: A “provisional ball,” often shortened just to provisional, is a second golf ball played by a golfer who believes his first ball (the stroke he just played) may be lost (but not in a penalty area or out of bounds).

But, as a reminder, there is a three-minute max rule for looking for a lost ball.

You Inadvertently Hit into the Group In Front of You

Of course, mistakes happen. You should yell “fore,” but then apologize to the group when the opportunity presents itself. Know your capability—the distance you know you can hit. Never hit within 25 yards of anyone!

Giving Lessons on the Course

Resist the temptation to give lessons to those in your group while playing. It slows down play. The driving range is the appropriate place for this. Keep in mind that lessons are always provided by the golf pros of our club; it’s what we do!

Show Your Manners

Profanity is never acceptable on the golf course. So, play like you are playing with your mother, and show your sportsmanship.

At the Driving Range

Also, try to bring your indoor voice to the driving range, which will help to reduce distractions.

Play Ready Golf!

Meaning, hitting as soon as it’s your turn, not just beginning the process at that point.

Taking Care of Our Course

We are all caretakers of our course, so let’s “own the course.” We can do this by:

Fixing ball marks on the greens and by “sanding” your fairway divots (fix yours and two others)

Abiding by course rules

Knowing what is expected of you as a golfer

Making a good experience for others in your group

Being courteous

For a basic overview of golf, read the article “Golf 101: Dos and don’ts for beginners” at

“Baseball reveals character. Golf exposes it.”—Ernie Banks, American professional baseball player