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Ten Basics of Rules and Etiquette for Your First Round of Golf

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Golfer teeing the ball
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Playing your first round of golf can be intimidating. Will you know how to act on a golf course? Will you be unsure of yourself and the rules? Here's a quick primer - 10 basics of rules of etiquette - that can help make your first round of golf go easier.

In addition to the 10 basics below, if you're a beginner you might also find helpful our Golf Etiquette Primer, Golf Beginners FAQ and Golf Rules at a Glance features.

1. Equipment
Taking the right equipment to the course involves both rules and etiquette. The rules place a limit of 14 clubs in each golfer's bag. There is no minimum number of clubs you must have, but borrowing clubs from your partners is not a good idea. Borrowing clubs during a round is permissable under certain circumstances, but it is against the rules in most. So it's best for a beginner to simply make sure he or she has all the clubs they need, up to the maximum of 14.

Even if you're not playing strictly by the rules your first time out (and don't worry about that, just have fun), you don't want to be badgering your playing partners to borrow equipment. You should have your own bag and your own clubs, and starting with a cheap bag and used clubs (or other less-expensive clubs) is perfectly fine.

Make sure you have in your golf bag plenty of tees and, most importantly, plenty of golf balls. After all, if it's your first time out, you'll probably be losing a lot of balls! And take a ballmark repair tool with you (more on course care below). These are small tools that can be found for a couple bucks at most pro shops. You will need one to repair ballmarks on the greens.

See also:
Beginners FAQ: Do I have to have a full set of clubs to start playing?

2. Make a Tee Time, then Make the Tee Time
For most rounds of golf you play, you'll want to reserve a tee time. You can get a tee time by calling the golf course the day before (or earlier, depending on a course's policy) you want to play and requesting a specific time.

Once your group has reserved a tee time, say, 10:14 a.m., it's really nice to actually make the tee time. Plan to get to the golf course at least 30 minutes early, just to be safe (many golfers arrive up to an hour early for a good warm up). If a tee time is missed, your group might lose its spot and have to wait around for another opening, which can take hours on a busy day. So while tee times are not always required, it's a good idea to have one.

And if you do get to the course early, spend the time wisely by hitting a few balls on the driving range, and putting on the practice putting green.

See also: Warm up to a better score

3. Dress the Part
Many golf courses have dress codes. Find out what the dress code is at the course you're playing and dress appropriately. A pair of khaki shorts or slacks and a collared golf shirt will almost always meet the requirements, but it's a good idea to check beforehand.

Golf shoes are usually not required, and golf gloves are always up to the golfer, but both are good things to have and use.

Note that not all golf courses have a dress code; call ahead of time to check. Generally, the more expensive a course is to play, the more likely it is to have a dress code.

A note about gratuities: Yes, you might have to tip at some - certainly not all - golf courses. At municipal courses tipping is almost never an issue. If playing a private, semiprivate or upscale public course, bring some extra bills to tip the "cart jockeys" (the guys or gals who might greet you on arrival with a golf cart, or carry your clubs to and from your car) and the beverage cart drivers (the guys or gals who sell drinks around some courses from a well-stocked golf cart). The amount of your tip goes up in direct proportion to the green fee.

See also:
Beginners FAQ: Do golf courses have dress codes?
Beginners FAQ: Do I need to wear a golf glove?
Beginners FAQ: Are golf shoes required to play golf?
Who, and how much, should I tip at a golf course?

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