Tips About Tipping at Golf Courses

Guidelines for golf gratuities: when, who, how much

Tip jar stuffed with paper currency
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Something all veteran golfers know and all beginning golfers learn soon enough is that tipping (as in a gratuity) is sometimes expected — and sometimes required — at higher-end golf courses. (Don't worry: If you are anti-gratuity you'll easily be able to avoid them by only playing courses where they aren't expected.)

What many golfers aren't sure of, however, is the appropriate amount to tip. But first, a couple generalities about golf gratuities:

  • Like all tipping, quality of service has much to do with the amount of the gratuity you offer at a golf course. If you've received great service, a larger tip is appropriate.
  • The green fee of a course influences your tipping. You should expect to tip more, for example, at a $100-per-round course than at a $25-per-round course.

Of course, not everyone tips, even when they should. Some golfers will sprint from their cars to the clubhouse to avoid the "cart jockeys" who greet golfers and take their golf bags. Or park in a far corner of the parking lot, hoping to avoid being seen. Some golfers, following the completion of a round, park their cart far away from the cart return area to avoid another tip.

Key Takeaways

  • Paying gratuities at golf courses is sometimes expected of golfers, but typically only at daily fee, resort or private courses.
  • Gratuities are also only expected if the golf course is located in a country where customers paying tips is generally expected or accepted in other service businesses, too.
  • When tipping is expected at a golf course, expect to tip at bag drop and cart return and, if you are using one, to tip your caddie. Gratuities for food and beverage service are also typical.

At Many (In Some Places Most or All) Courses, Gratuities are Not Necessary

Not all golf courses require tips. Some even forbid it.

Generally speaking, tipping is uncommon or not allowed in many parts of the world, but offering a gratuity is very common in the United States. If you are playing golf in a locale where gratuities are common, or socially acceptable, then tipping at the golf course might be, too; if not, then don't expect to tip at the golf course.

Therefore, it's a good idea if planning a stay at a resort or a visit to a swanky club to call ahead and ask.

And there are plenty of golf courses where tipping isn't expected. For example:

  • Tipping is unusual at municipal courses. Most municipal courses and many daily-fee courses do not require or expect their employees to be tipped.
  • If the course you're playing does not have a strict dress code, you probably won't have to tip.
  • The higher the green fee, the more likely gratuities are expected to be offered by golfers to staff.
  • If a golf course is part of a resort or private club, the more likely gratuities are expected.

If Tipping Is Expected, Who Gets Tipped, and How Much?

Now we turn to dollar-amount guidelines for golf course gratuities. Keep in mind that of all the golf course staff members listed below as potentially requiring a tip, the odds of your having to tip them all in one place, during one round of golf, are very slim. If you are visiting a course where all of these staff members work, you will already be planning to spend a large amount of money.

More likely, the bag drop attendee and cart return staff are the only folks you'll have to tip at a typical golf course, outside of food and drink.

Valet Parking
Valet parking is fairly uncommon at golf courses, but some high-end courses and resorts do offer it. Tip the same as you do at a restaurant or hotel for such a service; if you've never used such a service and don't have a set amount you tip, then $3 is a good baseline amount.

Bag Drop
The golf course equivalent of the airport skycap or hotel bellhop. Bag drop attendees take your clubs from your car and place them on the golf cart at the time of your arrival. Standard tip is $2-$3 per bag, maybe $5 if you want to make sure they assist you after the round.

Tips for the starter aren't necessary unless the starter is doing something special for you. Most starters simply check you in at the first tee, maybe announce that it is your turn to tee off. There really is no service involved ... unless you show up without a tee time and the starter quickly fits you in. Or, if you're staying at a resort for several days, you can check with the starter upon arrival to see about preferred tee times throughout your stay. Such a service from a starter requires a good tip. A group of four golfers might tip a starter $50-$100 for such help. But again, if you already have a tee time and no special service is performed, then no tip is required for the starter.

Cart Return
The guys (or gals) who take your clubs off your cart following the round, clean out the cart to return it to the cart garage. They might also clean your clubs, and should drive you and your clubs to your car. A couple bucks for each; $5 if your clubs are cleaned.

If caddies are being used, then you're at a fancy place and already expecting to spend a lot of money. Tip a caddie 50 percent of the caddie fee. If there's a caddie master — the person who assigns caddies to golfers or groups — you can ensure getting a good caddie by tipping the caddie master 20 percent of the caddie fee.

A forecaddie doesn't carry anyone's golf bag. One forecaddie will be assigned to a group of four. His job is to move ahead of the group to keep track of everyone's shots, and to direct players around the course. A forecaddie should get one tip from the group, $50-$100 total.

Food and Drink
If buying food or drink at a snack bar, look for a tip jar on the counter. Stuff a buck in, or drop in your change. If ordering from a clubhouse restaurant, tip as you would in a typical restaurant.

Beverage Cart
The beverage cart is stocked with snacks and drinks and driven around the golf course throughout the day, allowing golfers to purchase food and drink while on the course. A $1 tip for a $3 purchase is typical.

Remember, these are just guidelines. Adjust your tipping to the circumstances. And the best bet when visiting a golf resort or high-end golf club is to call ahead and ask about the policy on gratuities.

Don't Let All These Money Figures Scare You

Important: Don't be scared off from playing golf by all the money discussed above. The odds of a golfer ever having to chip-in all the gratuities mentioned above are very slim. And, as noted at the beginning, at most courses you won't have to tip at all.