8 mistakes to avoid when you are a client of a golf club


Don’t be “that guy” when playing as someone’s guest (or ever).

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Being invited to participate in a private club is a privilege.

But, as Spiderman might say, with great rewards 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. Violations of dress code

No jeans. No t-shirts. No headache, right? But that’s just to start. Some clubs forbid shorts. Others have minimum length requirements on shirts and socks. In summary: familiarize yourself with the dress code in advance and follow its rules, even if you find them finicky. This will save you and your host embarrassment. And saves you from having to make expensive last minute pro shop clothing purchases.

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2. Shoe Swap Violations

It just happened: the car park is not Foot Locker, and some clubs don’t like it when you confuse the two. To be safe, wait to swap your shoes until you reach the locker room.

3. Cell Phone Violations

Texting discreetly might not be the same as taking calls from your broker. But chances are both are considered bad form. Why risk it? Turn off the cell phone and put it away. No one needs to hear from you for the next few hours, just like no one wants to see a live stream of your game.

4. Maintenance Violations

The golden rule of golf is not to leave the course worse than you found it. Fix the ball marks. Fill the divots. Not doing one or the other is a good way to attract ill will to yourself. Something similar applies after playing from a bunker: smooth the sand, put the rake back where it’s supposed to be, and clean your shoes before stepping on the green.

5. Pace of play violations

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

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6. Early Arrival Violations

The story goes that President George HW Bush once showed up at Augusta National as a guest to wait at the door until his host arrived. POTUS didn’t like that. You might not like it either. Hard nuggets. In some clubs, this is the rule. Even in more relaxed clubs it pays to know when your host is planning to arrive and try not to beat them there unless they have made arrangements for you. Arriving early is not always a no-no. But the club is not your day spa. Don’t show up at sunrise for an afternoon tee time expecting to relax.

7. Tipping Violations

There is a special rung in hell for golfers who are stiff caddies, locker room attendants, and other staff. But excessive tipping may not make you an angel either. In some clubs this is considered awkward, so ask discreetly about rates and customs before you start handing out C-notes. Oh, and covering the shopping cart costs for your host is a neat way to go.

8. Gratitude Breaches

There are more ways to thank your host than with a warm handshake on the 18th green. A follow-up note is nice. And a gift is even better, whether it’s brought to class or sent in the mail soon after.

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A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes to all GOLF platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Have Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.