playing through golf etiquette

Five fails we’re all guilty of when playing through

Do you fall foul of this etiquette dilemma? We set out all the ways golfers mess up the simple act of letting other groups through

That escalated quickly. I recounted an awkward playing through experience on the course and loads of you got involved and dispensed your pearls of wisdom on the best ways to keep traffic moving.

On the From the Clubhouse podcast, Tom Irwin and I discussed some of our strangest moments with this golf etiquette conundrum and recounted the various ways playing through goes wrong and what you can do to put it right.

We’re all guilty of some of these but, be honest, can any of you claim the quintet? These are just our top 5 and we’re not claiming they’re a definitive list. If you’ve fallen foul in some other ways with this tricky golf etiquette topic – it probably won’t be difficult – then why not tweet us and let us know what they are?

And so let our countdown of idiocy begin…

from the clubhouse podcast

Our five biggest fails when it comes to playing through

Demanding that players step aside

“This came up at Goat Hill Park where some traditional golfers encountered some non-traditional golfers,” said Tom. “They sort of screeched up on their buggy and asked to play through which was met with very confused faces from the people in front. It’s not what you do, right? They’ve broken a very particular rule of playing through.”

“An ask is OK,” I said. “It’s where it turns into a demand. I’ve been told about people turning up in a buggy and saying, ‘we’re in a buggy so we’re playing through’. It wasn’t a request and there was an expectation the other group would just step aside.

“That’s just rude. If you’re clearly the faster group and approach someone and say, ‘would you mind?, then it’s a pretty hard group that say, ‘no, we’re just going to keep things as we are’.

“But if you trundle in all self-entitled you shouldn’t be surprised if you get a bit of a backlash.”

golf etiquette

‘If we can’t see you, you don’t exist’

“The situation when you’re deliberately being ignored is hilarious,” said Tom. “There’s lots of times you’ve been the group behind, you’ve finished the hole, and there is the scenario where the group in front are still hitting their tee shots and they just don’t say anything. They quietly put their headcover back on and pull their trolley away.”

I said: “No one will even look at you anymore. They just pretend you’re not there and when you’ve got a green that’s right next to a tee this weird miming act goes on where you’re looking over at them and they’re just staring point black ahead.”

Playing on when you’ve waved a group through

I said: “I’m very traditional about this. When you wave someone through, you just stand to the side and get out of the way. Then once they’ve finished the hole then it’s time for you to resume.

“I get perplexed by this idea that we’ve waved someone through but now we’re just going to continue for a little while as if nothing’s happened.”

“Don’t lurk in resentful fashion,” Tom added. “Once you’ve done it, you have to stand out of the way. You can’t just nurdle your ball ever closer to the green and huddle around the people you just let through.

“That happens a lot. I’m letting you through, but I’m not really and it’s pretty obvious I don’t really want to. So I’m going to fester over here and [get] a bit too close to your personal space.”

golf etiquette playing through

The old ‘single players have no standing’ trick

“You won’t find this in the Rules of Golf anymore,” I said. “I think as a single player, firstly, you’ve just got to realise you’re not going to get through everyone – particularly if you’re playing at a key time.

“It’s pointless being a single and trying to run round the golf course in two-and-a-half hours if you’re teeing off at 9am. If you’re that desperate for a quick round, get out there with the early birds. Otherwise, you’re just going to have to accept you’re going to run into some groups.

“That said, I’m always looking to get the person who’s faster through at the earliest convenience – because I feel like I’m rushing otherwise – and so if you’re in a group and don’t want to be pressed just let them through.”

“It just goes back to the point I was making that we’re all desperate not to do it,” added Tom. “The point [people make] about having nowhere to go just drives you mad.

“There’s nothing worse than being quick [a single or twoball] and being stuck behind people, who are saying ‘it’s just fourballs one after the other’. OK, well if you let me through then I could be able to see for myself. I’m not entirely sure why we all behave like this.”

You’ve played through. That doesn’t mean you can stay through

“What about if you go through and then you start going slowly for whatever reason?” said Tom. “Should you then allow the group behind through – like the lead changing hands in an F1 race?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “If they’re the faster playing group then that’s what you should do. You’ve not been let through in perpetuity. The faster group is the one that prevails.”

What do you think? Do you successfully negotiate playing groups through or are you guilty of this golf etiquette fail? Let me know with a tweet.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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