Golfing is a social game. It is way more fun when played with others. For most, finding golfing partners is easy. For others, it might be challenging to find someone to play with.
A golfer looking for someone to play with may wonder if they can bring a non-golfing friend on the course to watch them play. Often significant others or close friends would like to enjoy being out on the course, even if they never picked up a golf club before. However, the etiquette for bringing a non-golfer along for 18 differs by course.
In the article below, we will outline what you need to know about bringing a non-paying friend to the golf course. Why most courses don’t allow it and when you can bring a spectator to watch you play? We have a lot to cover so let’s get started.
Can You Bring A Non-Paying Friend To a Public Course?
Unfortunately, public courses do not typically allow a spectator to join a round without paying and playing. To make matters worse, they also rarely will allow two individuals to play out of the same bag. This means if a non-playing friend would like to join for a round, they will usually be on the hook for a bag rental fee as well as a greens fee which are not cheap. This may seem unfair, but golf courses have good reasons to prevent this practice. Keep reading below and we will outline the main reasons why golf courses make you pay to be on the course.
Why Don’t Public Courses Allow Spectators to Ride Along?
The main reason why public courses do not allow non-paying spectators is the loss of income and potential liability. Public courses will try to fill up every available tee time for the day and cannot give away free spots. Allowing this type of behavior could attract more non-paying spectators which are bad for business.
Secondly, ride-along players will almost certainly try to play on the course. Non-golfers out for their first time undoubtedly will be intrigued by the game. They will pick up a club and give it a try. This can lead to amateur lessons on the course that could slow down the pace of play, not to mention that the non-golfer is now in fact golfing. From the golf courses’ perspective, if you play 1 hole vs 18, you should be paying the course for that right.
Lastly, non-golfers are not versed in the etiquette and safety of the golf course. It may not be natural for non-golfers to recognize that it is not OK to drive the cart on the green or throw the pin down when removing it from the cup. If a non-golfer tries to golf, they could end up hitting stray balls or harming the fairway or greens with large divots.
Along with these hazards comes liability issues for the course. Paid golfers acknowledge the dangers of the game when signing up to play. Non-paying spectators, by default, would not be signing off on any liabilities since they did not pay. It is in the best interest of the course for all individuals on the course to sign off on the dangers of being at their establishment.
Are There Exceptions When Public Courses Allow Spectators to Ride Along?
In some rare cases, public courses will allow non-golfers to tag along. The best example of this is older individuals, who can no longer play a full round, teaching a younger player such as a grandchild. Courses usually will allow this type of arrangement. Another time this may be acceptable is when the requestor is a frequent player of the course. Course management is much more willing to accommodate a customer that regularly plays at the course to keep their business.
Do Private Courses Allow Non-Paying Spectators On The Course?
Private courses will vary on this rule, unlike their public course counterpart. It is common for spouses or children, who do not golf, to tag along for a round. This arrangement is typically reserved for non-peak hours on the course to not interfere with members trying to golf.
It is also common for private clubs to allow members to take out their children at non-peak playing hours. Private clubs have an incentive for younger players to engage with the game. Learning at a young age is the best way to drive new members down the road.
‘Happy hour’ rounds are another instance where you will find spectators tagging along for some golf. Playing members may invite social members to tag along for a drink while they get in a couple of holes. This arrangement can also drive social members of a private club to upgrade to a full resident membership that includes golf greens fees as they grow to love the game.
When Do Private Clubs Not Allow Ride Along Spectators?
Private clubs will typically not allow non-golfing spectators to join during peak hours or if they are nonmembers. Obviously, there are exception for every rule, but this is typical at most private golf clubs. Private clubs need to serve their golfing membership and to allow nongolfers access to the course would lead to consternation amongst membership.
The unfortunate reality is that most public courses do not allow non-paying ride along during a round. This policy prevents giving away free golf as well as protects them from unwanted litigation. Private clubs are much more lenient since members pay a premium to be a part of the club. However, even with this leniency, inviting non-golfing members to join your round is reserved for special times on the course.
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