Golf Course Cell Phone Etiquette

Not too many years ago most private golf clubs would have “hauled you over the coals” for having the temerity to use your mobile phone anywhere on the premises.

How times have changed! Even the crusty R&A now produces a mobile app for the rules of golf and allows you to use your mobile device as an on-course GPS.

Although I’m personally not the biggest fan of mobile phones I have to admit that if you’re stuck behind an interminably slow fourball having something to read can be extremely useful!

Here are some dos and don’ts for those of you unable to leave your mobile phone alone for a few hours:

Golf course cell phone etiquette

Know the Rules

Most clubs know that the modern golfer is unlikely to want to be separated from their mobile device. With that in mind, they will have constructed some rules to minimize disruption to other golfers. 

Make sure you know what the rules are. Many clubs will now allow you to use your phone in the car park and some even in the clubhouse. I don’t know of any that would allow voice calls on the course however unless it is an emergency. Quite rightly too, if you know you need to have an important conversation then rearrange your game or the conversation!

Silence is Golden

Put your phone into silent mode. There’s no need to disturb fellow players with that annoying Knight Rider theme tune ringtone! The same goes for your musical tastes, other golfers don’t need to be bombarded with your favorite tunes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re into Val Doonican or Van Halen, you can listen to your music after you have finished your round.

Just ask Jordan Spieth. He was disturbed by a cell phone camera while playing a shot during a playoff for the Shell Houston Open which caused him to lose out on a chance to win.

Use Apps Sparingly

There are some great golf apps out there but aside from a GPS or rules app do you really need to be using them on the golf course. If you are using your phone as a GPS then make sure it’s in tournament mode if you are playing in a competition. If you can find out elevation or wind speed from it then you will be disqualified! 

Voice Calls Only In An Emergency

You should only be making voice calls on the course in an emergency. Emergencies don’t include running out of food or beer, however. I suppose I could stretch it to include calling the pro shop to tell them your cart is broken down!

For other etiquette tips check out this article on golf etiquette for beginners.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

Can you text during golf?

If you are driving a cart then I would suggest waiting until you are stationary. You don’t want to end up crashing into a pond! It really comes down to commonsense. Are you going to put someone else off or delay play by doing so? If not, then I don’t personally see the harm.

However, I would suggest leaving your phone alone if you are playing a round that means something to you. Golf is hard enough as it is without your concentration being broken by fiddling with your phone.

Can professionals use their phone?

The Masters famously still has a total embargo on mobile phones for both players and spectators (or should that be patrons). A number of players, however, have admitted to sneaking their phones onto Augusta National.

Former champion Zach Johnson was told off by one of the officials for using his phone on a practice day after damaging one of his clubs. 

Spectators on the PGA and European (now DP World) Tour are able to use mobile phones for taking photographs for personal use. However, the use of the phone for voice calls is supposed to be limited to areas away from play to avoid distracting the players.

It would appear that most events know that they are swimming against the tide and that mobile phones are here to stay.

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