New Golf Etiquette: How Covid-19 Has Changed Golf’s Etiquette Rules

Golf is a game steeped in tradition. One of those traditions is the idea of an unwritten code of conduct amongst players, otherwise known as the rules of etiquette. Experienced golfers will tell you that the unofficial rules of etiquette are almost just as important as the official rules of golf themselves. But with the world in 2020 changing at an unprecedented rate due to the Novel Covid-19 virus, the rules of golf etiquette are having to change as well in order to follow social distancing and non-contact guidelines that are now in place. This article takes a look at some of the most notable rules of golf etiquette and explains the proper way to adhere to them in midst of the pandemic.


1. The Post-Round Handshake


Pre-Covid: One of the earliest and most honored rules of etiquette is for each player in a group to remove their hats and shake the hands of each other player in the group at the conclusion of the 18th hole.


Now: Contact between persons is generally advised against by healthcare professionals due to the ability to transmit the virus through touch, so the proper etiquette now is to implement either an “air fist bump” or just a respectful head nod in each other’s direction without coming too close.


2. Tending the Flagstick


Pre-Covid: Although the rule change in 2019 allowed for flagsticks to remain in the cup while putting without incurring a penalty, many people still preferred removing the flagstick from the cup while putting or having somebody “tend the flag” on longer distance putts.


Now: When golfing nowadays, it’s a strongly advised guideline for no players to touch or remove the flagstick. So, this one is pretty simple nowadays: Don’t touch the flagstick!


3. Raking the Sand Bunkers


Pre-Covid: One of the first rules of golf etiquette that was always taught to new golfers was to remember to properly rake the bunker after hitting a shot out of the sand. This was always done to ensure that players behind you on the course would get the same type of lie that you received (assuming you properly raked the bunker).


Now: If you have played golf in the past few months, you may have noticed that there are no rakes in any of the bunkers anymore. The new rule allows you to move the ball to a more favorable lie if it happens to come to rest in a previous divot or footprint. I for one kind of enjoy this new rule!


4. Grabbing Other Player’s Clubs From The Green


Pre-Covid: It was always a nice gesture to help pick-up another player’s clubs (especially elderly players who have difficulty bending over) that were left on or near the green (i.e., pitching wedge, putter cover, etc.) if you finished the hole while they were still putting out.


Now: Similar to the flagstick rule, unfortunately it is strongly advised against picking up somebody else’s club and handing it to them nowadays. While it remains a nice gesture, the risk of exposure from touching the equipment makes this rule of etiquette obsolete for the foreseeable future.


5. High Fives/Celebrations


Pre-Covid: Imagine a playing partner sinking a 40-foot putt or chipping in from off the green, your first inclination may be to high-five them or some other celebratory gesture to show your excitement.


Now: Much like the post-round handshake being banished, high-fives or other celebratory physical touching is highly discouraged. “Air fives” or fist-pumps are still encouraged. So still get excited, just do it responsibly!




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