All golfers should do these 10 things during every round they play

Today marks the July 4th holiday in the United States. July 4th not only gives Americans a chance to celebrate Independence Day with friends and family but also means that the entire country has entered the heart of summer.

That also means that everyone of any age, gender, race, and skill level can now play golf anywhere, from Seattle to Boston to Miami and everywhere in between. That’s the beauty of this sport. You can play with anyone, anywhere, especially in the summer months.

But to make it a more enjoyable experience for all—and to improve one’s score—every golfer should follow these 10 rules during each round they play:

10. Play with a clean ball

How often have you heard “Mud Ball!?!” muttered by PGA Tour pros? Probably a lot. That’s because mud, dirt, and grass all stain the golf ball quickly, all of which have an impact on the flight and roll of the ball.

So, you should begin your round with a clean golf ball, free of stains, dents, or cracks that may have been caused by a tree, cart path, or even a flag stick.

Trust me, it helps—and it makes a difference.

9. Mark your ball on greens, clean

Like rule Number 10, once you get to the green, you should mark your golf ball, clean it, and then line it up appropriately on the line of which you will putt.

A clean golf ball rolls smoother on the greens, and marking your ball allows you to line up your putt on a desirable path.

8. Carry more than one ball marker

Jack Nicklaus, Masters Tournament

Jack Nicklaus at the 2024 Masters.
Photo by Ben Jared/PGA Tour via Getty Images

Jack Nicklaus always carries three pennies in his pocket.

One to mark his golf ball, one for his opponent—if he forgot—and another penny just in case he, or his competitor, lost their ball marker.

You never know when your coin will leave you, so it’s always good to follow Nicklaus’ lead and carry more than one.

7. Have a towel, use it

The first three rules above apply to having a clean golf ball.

But to keep it clean, you must have a towel. Whether it is attached to your golf bag or a small towel that you carry with you to the green, a towel is very important. Not only is a clean ball vital, but clean grooves on the clubface are important, too.

You will not get any spin with your wedges if you have dirty grooves.

Dampening your towel slightly at the beginning of your round will also help keep your balls and clubs clean.

6. Post score, keep an honest handicap

Part of what makes golf great is that everyone can compete, should they keep a fair, honest handicap.

A duffer can compete with a scratch player, or a 6-handicapper can have a viable match with a 22, should all involved keep a fair, honest handicap.

If you do not have an official handicap, you should sign up for one through the USGA’s GHIN service. Then, you can post your scores wherever you play, as each course has a rating and a slope to determine its difficulty. But if you inflate your handicap, you could be seen as a cheater, and nobody wants to be labeled as that.

So post the score you shot, or you will pay the price down the road.

5. Rake bunkers, fix ball marks

Not only should you keep your balls and clubs clean, but you should do your best to keep the golf course clean, too.

Use the rakes provided to clean up the sand traps, smoothing the sand back to its level surface. You should also fix the ball marks on the greens so that they do not damage the putting surface or disrupt someone else’s line.

A divot repair tool works, but so does a tee.

Either way, fix your ball marks and rake those traps.

Scottie Scheffler, The Masters

Scottie Scheffler plays from the bunker at the 2024 Masters.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

4. Follow etiquette

Golf course etiquette is so important.

Never step in someone else’s line.

Ensure your shadow does not disrupt another player’s swing, stance, or putt.

Never stand directly behind someone’s swing.

You should also not stand near the hole where someone else is putting it. Give other players space to make their strokes.

But always, always shake your opponent’s hand at the end of your round, no matter the result.

3. Respect course staff, remain cordial

Whoever is working that day knows more about the course than you do, relating to conditions, local rules, or even the pace of play.

Showing disrespect or belligerence does nobody any good.

So always remain cordial at the golf course for everyone’s enjoyment.

2. Don’t dilly-dally

Pace-of-play issues are not limited to the PGA Tour; they are also a problem for amateur golfers.

You do not need to take 30 practice swings before making a stroke. Nor do you need to assess every nook and cranny of each green when reading a putt. Play with a purposeful pace and hit when ready.

1. Have fun

This is a pretty simple but important rule.

Golf is just a game—the best game in the world, in my opinion—but always have fun, even though it can be a frustrating experience at times. You are outside, often playing with your friends and family, enjoying the best of what life has to offer.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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