Swinging Off Course: Golf’s 7 Deadly Sins to Avoid

Just as important as the rules of golf is the etiquette around the game.

Golf is, after all, a gentleman’s game. You could argue that golfers are supposed to respect the course, their fellow players and the game above all else. Unfortunately, not every golfer follows this ethos.

Too often, social media videos glorify what goes wrong on a golf course. Bad shots. Club throwing. Harassing wildlife. Hitting golf balls into nature on purpose. Golf course fights go viral and everybody watching has a good laugh, but it’s not funny to the people who were involved. Someone could get hurt.

We’ve rounded up what we believe to be golf’s seven deadly sins. These are the things you should always do (rake your bunkers) or never do (get into a fight) on a golf course. Let’s keep the game fun, and safe, for everyone.

Leaving your ball marks and divots unfixed

We believe in the notion that you should leave the course in better shape than you found it. That means any sort of scars you leave behind should be fixed. Ideally you fix a few others, too. Nobody wants to hit a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway and find their ball in a deep, untended divot. Every golfer should follow the course’s protocol for filling in divots. Either replace the divot or fill it with the sand provided on your cart (or from the bag you should be carrying on your pull cart).

It’s arguably even more important to fix ball marks on the green. Not everybody ends up in the fairway, but everyone eventually reaches the green. Dozens of unrepaired ball marks not only looks bad but slows up pace of play if a golfer has to fix three craters before they can putt.

It takes a sense of pride and dedication to take care of golf courses. You’ll likely be back next week, so if you don’t take ownership of improving playing conditions, who will?

Showing up late for a tee time

Although showing up late for a tee time won’t get you disqualified unless you’re a tournament, being on time is still an important part of a golfer’s job. Showing up late ultimately affects everyone. Your group will be out of sorts waiting for you. If the starter tries to wait for you, it could delay tee times for the rest of the day. If you’re so late that a staffer has to drive you onto the course to find your group, that ultimately impacts the course operation and will bother the golfers you pass through on the course.

Do yourself a favor: show up early to hit some balls, stretch, putt or whatever else you need to do to get your mind ready for golf. It will give you the best chance to play well and ultimately enjoy the day.

Neglecting to rake bunkers

To me, raking bunkers is more important than fixing divots or ball marks on greens. Why? Because I’m already mad that my ball has chosen to visit this sandy wasteland. Seeing a disgustingly bad lie will only send me down a deeper hole of ‘woe is me.’ That negative thinking virtually guarantees a bad attempted recovery shot. Nobody wants to step into a bunker to see their ball in a crater or footprint left by a previous golfer. Please, please, please, give your best effort at a decent rake job. Your course superintendent and fellow players will thank you.

Damaging a green or tee box

There’s nothing worse than walking up to a green and seeing a swipe mark near the cup. Everybody gets frustrated on the greens at some point, but nobody should be so upset that they’re slamming or swinging their putter in disgust and damaging the putting surface. It’s a bad look. That kind of ugly behavior can not only get you thrown out of your club but your foursome, too.

Chopping up a tee box is slightly – very slightly – more forgivable because they’re probably already quite a few divots from us “hackers.” But you still shouldn’t do it, or you should at least clean up after yourself if you do.

It should go without saying that driving a golf cart on greens or tees is another major no-no, but I guess I’ll mention it just to cover all the bases.

Playing slowly

Many believe slow play is the curse of the entire industry. It doesn’t seem hard to walk up to a ball, take one practice swing and then fire. The problem is all golfers are human, and humans all have their own – how shall I put this nicely – “way.” Some people just take longer to process information and feel comfortable before they swing. It’s painful to watch six or seven waggles. Even if you stink – and there are plenty of days when I do – at least do it as fast as possible. Don’t read putts for longer than necessary. Pick up after you miss your double-bogey putt. Keep it moving.

Fighting with another golfer

Getting into a fight – whether it’s verbally or physically – on a golf course is embarrassing. Don’t do it.

It’s hard to believe that golf has an anger issue, but it does. We can’t go a month without another fight making the rounds on social media. Golf is supposed to be an escape from life’s pressures and stress. Unfortunately, the chaos of today’s world seems to be bleeding into the game. Golfers who are frustrated at home or work are more likely to blow their top over an ill-timed comment, bad shot or unfortunate incident.

Next time you feel like you’re going to lose your mind, and toss a punch or fling a club, take a deep breath, close your eyes and reset your mind. Whatever happened isn’t worth hurting someone or getting hurt yourself. You could end up in court, a hospital or worse.


We all know that golfer…the guy who gives himself 3-footers, who moves balls into better lies or just outright lies about what score he made on a given hole. I don’t believe cheating is rampant in golf, but maybe I’m naive because most of my golf is social and carefree, not competitive in nature.

I don’t care what rules you follow (or don’t) in your everyday foursome. Just make sure you’re not cheating compared to the expectations of your playing partners. The game’s no. 1 rule is to play the ball as it lies, but if your foursome allows rolling the ball into a better spot, then I’m fine with it. At least everyone is on a level playing field.

Personally, I won’t use mulligans and almost never play winter rules. Good breaks, and bad, are part of the ebb and flow of a round of golf. How you handle each reveals a lot about your character.

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