Golf can be intimidating - there are complex rules to follow and etiquette customs that don’t always make sense to the casual player (weekend golfer). The last thing you want to do is to get paired with more experienced players and feel uncomfortable instead of enjoying your round.
We think we can help. We have come up with 8 do’s and don’ts to help you navigate the nuances of playing 18 on the weekend. You don’t need to feel nervous when playing with strangers.
Follow our ideas below and look at these experiences as opportunities to make new golfing buddies. The golf course is a great place to make friends that last for years. Get the most out of the time you spend walking the fairways.
What Is A Weekend Golfer?
We like to call them weekend warriors. You have a full time job and you like to use your weekend or spare time to play a few holes.
You have no plans to turn pro and battle Tiger & Rory. You enjoy getting outside to walk a quick 18, visit a local driving range, or try a par 3 course. You love the game, but don’t take it too seriously.
Does this sound like you? If so, you’re a weekend golfer. Golf is the perfect way to unplug and relax. It’s also a great way to take your mind off the stress in your day-to-day life.
Sounds good, right? Regardless if you’re already a weekend golfer or want to become one, we can help improve your next round.
8 Do's And Don'ts For Weekend Golfers
Anything worth doing is worth doing right! Check out these 8 Do’s and Don’ts for your life as a weekend golfer.
1. Do - Use The Right Equipment
This makes sense, but what does it mean to use the “right” equipment? How do you pick the correct clubs? The correct equipment comes down to two factors. Your budget and how you play the game.
New golf clubs can be very expensive and you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to enjoy your weekend golf. Consider buying used clubs or borrowing a couple from more experienced friends.
Build your set over time. Buy one new club every season or summer. If possible, find a demo day in your area and try out different clubs before you buy.
How do you play? Do you always play 18 holes or simply walk 9 in the evening? Do you prefer to visit the driving range or play a par 3 course versus visiting the local country club? The answers to these questions will help you make the right equipment decision.
If you're a casual player who’s just looking to have a good time and get some exercise, you probably don’t need a full set of 14 clubs.
Procure a nice set of 5-7 clubs and a lightweight golf bag that can hold everything you need to have a good time. We would recommend a Sunday golf bag.
2. Don't - Forget Golf Etiquette
Most golf etiquette is common sense, but some of it’s tricky. Golf etiquette can sometimes make the game feel “stuffy”, but it’s really just about respecting your playing partners and taking care of the course.
Let’s start by respecting your fellow weekend golfer. Pretty simple stuff. Don’t talk when someone else is hitting. Don’t stand directly behind them when they are swinging. Don’t walk in their putting line on the green.
Make sure you leave the course in better condition than you found it. Fix divots on the green; if possible, fix others besides your own. Refill divots in the fairway with sand (if provided) or replace the grass. Don’t slam clubs or otherwise disturb the turf.
All weekend golfers can take these actions. The last critical item to consider is your pace of play. You never want to hold up the group behind you.
Make sure you’re ready to play when it’s your turn and if you’re having a particularly tough hole, pick up your ball and move on. Weekend golfers love to play, but hate to wait!
3. Do - Keep Score Properly
This is less important if you're playing a casual round by yourself, but when playing with other weekend golfers you want to keep an accurate scorecard. Especially, if you have decided to play a match.
You don’t want to be known as the player who “shaves strokes” or “pencil whips” your opponents. To put it simple, count every stroke. Even if you whiff the ball, it counts as a stroke.
The tricky part of keeping an accurate scorecard is when penalty strokes are involved. If you’re a casual weekend golfer you may not be totally comfortable with all of the rules of golf (see #7 below).
The main thing is to be open with your playing partners. Let them know when your ball is lost or in a water hazard and add a penalty stroke.
The other benefit of keeping an accurate score is that you can measure your improvement. Even weekend golfers want to improve over time.
4. Don't - Take Mulligans And Gimme Putts Excessively
A mulligan (aka “breakfast ball”) is when you hit a poor shot and then hit another one and don’t count the first one. Of course, in golf tournaments you would never get a mulligan, but many weekend golfers do allow one on the 1st tee.
This will depend on the course (some don’t allow it) and your playing partners, but generally speaking a mulligan on the first tee in a casual round is acceptable. After that, count every shot! The one exception would be if you’re playing by yourself, it’s fine to hit the occasional practice shot.
The gimme putt is a little more nuanced. Not wasting time on really short (2 feet or under) putt is a great way to speed up play.
The golden rule - you shouldn’t give yourself a gimme. Typically, one your playing partners would say “that’s good” or “pick it up”.
Mulligans and gimmes definitely vary depending on who you’re playing with - if you’re playing with a new group, observe their behavior before doing either.
5. Do - Practice At Home
You're a weekend golfer. By definition this means you don’t have tons of time during the week to practice. That doesn’t mean you can’t improve. Practice your game at home.
Many of us are currently working from home. Do you have 15 minutes between conference calls? Roll some putts on your carpet or invest in a practice putting green.
Always have a club in the house and when you have a few moments work on your grip and take some full swings. Just holding the club during the week will help your next weekend golf round go better.
Looking for additional ways to improve your game? Many of these can be done from the comfort of your home.
6. Don't - Avoid Situations That May Get You A Penalty/Penalty Stroke
This is a provocative concept, but something important for you to consider. Professional golfers can truly control their golf ball, but another key difference between them and the weekend golfer is course management. They understand when to go for it and when to layup.
Learning to make the correct risk vs. reward decision on the course is important for all weekend golfers. It's true, you don’t want to hit a ball out of bounds or in a lake, but there are times that the risk is worth it.
How do you decide when to hit a driver off the tee versus 3-wood or hybrid? When do you try to hit it over that fairway bunker versus aiming to the right or left?
Making the correct decision has a direct impact on your scorecard. The simplest way to weigh risk vs. reward is to answer this question: if you pull off the harder shot, will it give you a significantly better chance of saving a stroke on the hole?
If the answer is Yes, go for it. If the answer is No, the smart weekend golfer lays up and avoids the penalty stroke.
7. Do - Learn And Follow Golf Rules
As you grow in the game of golf it’s important that you learn and follow the golf rules. You don’t have to be a certified golf official, but knowing the basics is critical.
When do you get free relief (a free drop) versus when do you receive a penalty stroke? The legal way to take a drop and how to handle if your ball goes out of bounds are important rules to understand.
Part of this leads us back to #2 and #3 above. You want to keep an accurate scorecard and respect your playing partners. The last thing you want is for your fellow weekend golfers to think you’re trying to skirt the rules.
If you’re unsure during a round, simply discuss with your group. Get agreement before taking action.
The USGA (United States Golf Association) has great information on the rules of golf.
You can find workshops, search for any golf rule, or order a “player’s rules book” that’s small enough to fit in your bag. We would also recommend you download the “USGA Rules of Golf” app.
8. Don’t - Forget To Show Respect To Other Players
Golf is unique. It’s a competition that you play with other players, but not against other players. Sure, you’re trying to beat your buddies, but your true foe is the course. It’s this nuance that leads to the importance of respecting your fellow weekend golfers.
There’s no reason to root against them. If they hit a great shot, cheer for them and give them a fist-bump. You never see a quarterback give the linebacker a high five after a sack, but that’s what makes golf different.
You can battle your buddy for 18 holes and lose in heartbreaking fashion, but five minutes later you’re sharing a pitcher of beer on the deck of the 19th hole. Respect the other players and make lifelong friends in the process.
As we discussed in #7 above, it’s important for you to learn the rules, but don’t ever try to use them to catch your playing partner in a penalty. Assume positive intent.
If they make an illegal drop, let them re-drop instead of trying to give them a penalty stroke. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of karma!
Own The Weekend
There’s nothing wrong with being a weekend warrior - you can enjoy the game of golf for years by only investing a handful of hours each month. Have fun with it, make new golfing buddies, and enjoy the ride.
You don’t have to make the professional tour to have a successful golf “career”. Get some exercise, take in some fresh air, and try to get a little bit better each time you visit the course.