Have you been invited to a golf tournament? Are you worried about what to wear, what to do, how to behave? Don’t panic; we are here to help. Here is our guide to golf spectator etiquette.
If you are going to a golf tournament for the first time, then be aware that this is very different from spectating at most sports. One significant difference to many sports is that you are not going to be sitting down. You will walk a lot, possibly right around an 18-hole golf course, and that is a long way. And it isn’t all flat; you are going to be going up and down and over some fairly rough ground.
Basic golf etiquette
Golf takes etiquette very seriously for both players and spectators. Whereas it may be okay to rock up to a football game wearing whatever you like and making a lot of noise, you will want to make sure that you fit in well.
It may seem the etiquette around golf tournaments are very complicated, but if you follow some basic common sense and follow what the seasoned spectators are doing, you will be okay.
The rules are about basic politeness to the players, like keeping quiet and keeping off the fairways while play is in progress. We’ll go through these in a moment, but the important thing is to remember that they are strictly enforced. Obey them. If you do not, you will attract a lot of the wrong sort of attention and might even be asked to leave.
The most important rules are there to ensure that spectators do not distract the players. As you will know, if you play golf, it is a game that requires a lot of concentration before you play a shot. This is as true of tournament players, whether professional or amateur, as it is of you.
Golf Spectator Etiquette
Remember these rules, and you will not go far wrong.
- Don’t make a noise while play is going on.
- Never call out a player’s name or distract them in any other way (by asking for an autograph or a selfie, for example).
- Don’t move about when players are about to take a shot.
- Wait for all the players in the tournament to putt before moving on to the next tee (if you are new to spectating, you can take your cue from other spectators).
- Don’t take or make cell phone calls while spectating. The best idea is to turn your cell phone off completely. (Cell phones are banned from many tournaments)
- Applaud politely when a player makes a good shot, but never applaud, ridicule or laugh if a player makes a bad shot.
- Spectators must never touch a ball during play. If a player misses a shot and the ball goes outside the ropes and lands by your feet, leave it there. Please.
- Do not take pictures. Whether with your camera or your smartphone, taking pictures is usually frowned upon and banned in major tournaments except for the practice rounds.
- If you have children, you can bring them along to most major golf tournaments, and it is even encouraged as most golf enthusiasts want to see the next generation getting the golf bug. If they are too young to understand the ‘no moving’ and ‘being quiet’ rules, then they are probably best left at home until next year.
- Following the players. Of course, you will want to follow your favorite player around the course, and they will welcome your support. To ensure you do not distract them stay at least 25 yards behind the golfers and keep to the rough and cart paths (that is, away from the fairways, greens and tee boxes). If you are new to spectating, follow the crowd, and you will not go far wrong.
What, and what not, to wear.
Many tournaments will have specific rules, so it is always worth checking beforehand. The golfing attitude is that you are a guest, and you will be expected to adhere to your hosts’ standards, including how you dress. The rules are often strictly enforced, so you can be turned away for wearing, or carrying, the wrong thing.
A rookie mistake, especially for ladies, is to think, “fantastic, I am going to a high-end, smart event. I have to dress up to the nines.” Wrong. You can look cool and chic, but you will be outside at a sporting event, so you need to dress appropriately. Sporty, quite conservative clothes are most commonly worn, and this should guide your choices. This 3-minute video can set you up with an appropriate and good-looking outfit.
You will be walking on some rough terrain, over grass, sand, or even water, as you follow the players around. So high heels are pretty much out, as are strappy sandals of flip-flops. Wedge sandals are a good choice, as are smart loafers.
It’s a serious no to wearing golf spikes as a spectator. They are for the players only. The reason is obvious, hundreds of spectators in spiked shoes are going to tear up the course. This is another reason for avoiding high heels, although they are also uncomfortable and inappropriate for the golf environment.
You will be in the open air, come rain or sun or wind, so take that into account. You may not always be able to duck into the shade or dodge a rain shower. Sunscreen, a sunhat, a light raincoat, and a sweater may be necessary. You can bring an umbrella, but there will likely be some restrictions on where and when you can open it. A fold-up poncho or rain jacket is a better idea (plus a rain hat).
For men, the same sort of guidelines apply. Think about wearing smart shorts or chinos and a golf shirt or button-down collared shirt (collared shirts are preferred and are the dress code at some places). No big logos or slogans, please, and no eye-watering bright colors or patterns. (It’s etiquette to wear neutral rather than loud colors and steer away from too much pattern).
Once you have sorted out what to wear, think about what you are going to carry. Some tournaments have strict rules on this, so check it out before the day. A folding chair can be useful, but coolers for drinks are usually out. A good general rule is that less is better.
Enjoy your day
Your visit to a golf tournament should be one of your memorable social events of the year. So there is no need to worry. Just follow our tips, watch what the seasoned spectators are doing and follow their lead. Have fun.