It's our sport's most divisive topic, so Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin want your vote! Have a peek at the quintet of suggestions they’re putting forward for raising standards at the club and course

Has golf etiquette gone to the dogs? Find a corner of the clubhouse and you’ll probably find someone grumbling about pitch marks, unraked bunkers, or why it took too long to get round.

It wasn’t long ago that etiquette had its own section in the Rules of Golf and prospective members could be grilled on golf’s traditional standards in a pre-joining interview.

Much of that has gone now and new and established members can be left to fend for themselves in the occasionally tricky world of on- and off-course behaviour.

Well, no more. At NCG, we are starting a new campaign to formalise what counts as good golf etiquette.

Today, we present to you our first five-point manifesto – our declaration of policies on how we should all conduct ourselves.

We talked about some of these at length in a recent episode of the From the Clubhouse podcast. But if you haven’t got an hour to listen to Tom and me pontificate, here are some of our key findings…

Care of the course

This is number one for a reason and it’s a three-line whip. A red line you can’t cross. Golf course etiquette includes replacing your divots, repairing your pitch marks, raking the bunkers – offenders can expect a maximum sentence.

Greenkeepers have a torrid time. They’re battling nature – a difficult task at the best of times and even worse now with this odd weather (yes, it really was 17 degrees in mid-November). What they don’t need is another headache because you can’t be bothered to spend a few seconds carrying out a bit of husbandry.

We’re going to go further, though. Anyone who takes a chunk out of a green just because they’ve missed a putt is straight out. Pack up your locker and get the hell out of the car park.

And be careful with your trolleys. Do you really reckon it’s a good idea to push one right through the middle of a temporary green, or in between the putting surface and a bunker? Thinking about where you walk would really improve the conditions of lots of courses in some of our wetter patches.

Causing distractions

Talking during swings, jangling your keys, standing right behind a player on the tee, fidgeting when they’re getting ready to take a shot, walking across putting lines, respecting line of sight, standing on a through line. Try not to do any of these things. It isn’t hard, is it?

Of course, plenty of this stuff is really subjective. What annoys you might not bother your playing partner one iota.

But if you can all find common ground you can avoid the pointless recriminations and a potentially ugly scene.

Jordan Spieth


Far be it from us to disagree with a King – Arnold Palmer wasn’t a massive fan of carrying a cell with your clubs – but banning phones these days is a step too far.

We’re probably going to record all our scores on them sooner rather than later and it’s getting more and more ridiculous to forbid them from the moment you step onto the property, as a couple of our more traditional clubs still do. It’s trying to push water up a hill.

That said, there does need to be a measure of respect. There’s really no excuse for a mobile ringing during a round or pinging with the noise of 1,000 notifications. Just put it on silent!

If you urgently need to make a call, just show a little bit of common sense. Do it away from the rest of your group and make it quick.

And just because you’re having a bad day in the middle, try to resist the temptation to whip out your iPhone and start surfing Twitter and replying to emails.

Pace of play

Let’s just accept that lots of people grumble about other people being slow and slow play in general. What can we do about it? Trying to play Ready Golf would be a start. But how many of you do that?

Spray a few balls down a fairway and it can be like Riverdance watching players shuffle between each of them in turn.

Then someone has lost one, they haven’t hit a provisional, and they’re on the march back to the tee.

See what’s wrong with this picture? Would it just be better to bring back the honour? At least you can proceed from tee to green without second guessing who’s going to go next.

Now let’s get on to brass tacks. Let the faster group through. None of this, single person has no standing, or “you’ve got nowhere to go” rubbish. Smaller groups are generally quicker than bigger ones.

So why not just say, fourballs give way to three and so on? Would it really wound your pride?

Oh, and one other thing. Don’t mark your scorecards on the putting green. Just do it on the next tee.

Should you always look your best?

For the last time, what we wear has no impact on you and nor should it. Case closed. You’re really going to lecture today’s players after donning those diamond patterned sweaters for decades? Get over it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and we’ll be going through much more in the coming weeks. But what do you think? What’s important to you and what are your etiquette bugbears? Tweet me and let me know.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

Tom Irwin

Tom is a lifetime golfer, now over 30 years playing the game. 2023 marks 10 years in golf publishing and he is still holding down a + handicap at Alwoodley in Leeds. He has played over 600 golf courses, and has been a member of at least four including his first love Louth, in Lincolnshire. Tom likes unbranded clothing, natural fibres, and pencil bags. Seacroft in Lincolnshire is where it starts and ends.

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The NCG Top 100s Tour is heading to Europe for a multi-day event at PGA Catalunya. Prices start at £799 per golfer.


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