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Playing Through in Golf: How to Manage the Stress

Tips for Playing Through

Is there anything more awkward when playing through another group of golfers?

For most golfers, I’d say no, except but the only exception might be the first tee shot of the day with fellow players watching.

Playing through is kind of like the first tee jitters as it causes undue pressure, some errant shots, and sometimes it feels like you’re gaining a mortal enemy on the course. The flip side is just as uncomfortable as you’re letting a group play through and jump ahead of you during the round.

In this post we’ll simplify things so you can have the most fun on the golf course and make the best of a weird situation. We’ll review how to invite a group to jump ahead and best practices if you’re the group that is playing through.

Playing Through 101 – Understanding Proper Etiquette

Before getting into the details, let’s clarify what “playing through” is in golf.

While there’s no formal definition of it, this is a common thing to happen in golf. Playing through is when you and your group move ahead of the others.

It could be because they are dealing with a new member of the group who is slowing them down. Or, they aren’t in a rush and just want to enjoy the day. Or, they’re just really slow and you’re tired of waiting on every shot during the round.

But there are ways to do this correctly and make some enemies on a golf course. What are the rules of playing golf?

Let’s break it into two categories;Let other players play in your group.

Let Other Golfers Play Through

The average time it takes to play golf is one of its worst features. It’s a plague of the game and one of the reasons more people don’t pick up a golf club and give it a shot. So let me first say, we’re Not encouraging anyone to play slowly – a round of 18 holes should notIt will take you longer than four hours.

But if you’re a foursome, have a new golfer in the group, or maybe a senior (or junior) player who’s moving slow, you will need to let others play through at times. So, what’s the best etiquette to invite a group from behind to go through?

These are just a few examples of situations that require you to use your best etiquette and proceed in a seamless manner.

Scenario #1: Close Proximity

After a few holes, you might realize it’s time to let a single or twosome jump ahead. It’s easy to get tired of seeing them get awkwardly close to your group and want to just focus on golf, not the group behind you.

One way to let them jump ahead is if you’re close enough to just invite them through. This is possible because some tee box are close to the previous greens.

For example, let’s say you are about to tee off on a hole and the green from the previous hole is 20-30 yards away. When this happens, it’s easy to simply speak with the group and invite them to play through. Tell them you’re playing a little slower and don’t want to hold them up.

Sometimes, golfers will accept your offer and hit the next shot. Then they move on without ever seeing you again for the remainder of the round. Other times, they might say they aren’t in a hurry and just out to enjoy the day. If this happens, don’t ask again and just play golf.

This is probably the easiest way to let a group play through but entirely depends on the course layout as it’s not always possible. If this option doesn’t work, use the next scenario.

Scenario 2: Waving the group up

This is the second scenario, when the group behind you wants to play through. If this happens, you can let them jump ahead by hitting your shots up to green and then waving them up.

It’s best to keep playing so you keep up the pace of play, instead of waiting on a tee box for them. You want to make sure you’re courteous to the group but also keeping up and not playing slow golf.

Also, if you’re not near other players, you can always yell and let them know you’re welcoming them to play through. Just be careful that yelling won’t interfere with any other golfers on the course.

To avoid them getting hit by a golf ball, they should be in your golf cart. They’ll probably play quickly on that hole and move on to the next, doing their best to not interfere with your pace of play.

How to Play through Other Groups of Golf

The other side of the coin is playing through another group; whether they’re slow or you’re only a single or twosome. If you’ve ever played golf, you know how intimidating it can feel to play through another group and pressure seems to mount.

Usually, it’s so intimidating because 3-4 people are watching your golf swing from close range which can make many players nervous. With an audience, it’s easy to feel pressure to hit a good shot; sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t, that’s just golf.

Plus, you’re like trying to rush to get out of their way so you might not make a great swing or skip your routine. These are the best ways to jump ahead of a slow group.

Scenario #1 – Pick Up and Move Along

If you’re someone that gets nervous about hitting in front of strangers, you can always opt to not hit the shot and drive up the hole. For example, if it’s a tough hole or has water or other hazards, just drive up and drop where your drive would hopefully end up.

Obviously, if you’re playing with other golfers it’s a good idea to make sure you’re all on the same page before skipping a tee shot. If you’re on the green, you can always do gimme putts with anyone else instead of holing them out.

Scenario #2 – Fast Golf

If you’re playing a match with a buddy or don’t worry about hitting in front of others, then hit your normal shot. It’s easy to rush the shot but I suggest taking an extra breath, committing to your target, and playing like normal.

You never know when you might get a chance to make a connection with an audience member and share a great drive, approach or putt.

Scenario #3 – The Worst Strategy

When playing through, the worst strategy is to hit up on the group more than once with a “warning shot.”

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you might hit a great shot that goes further than normal and might get near the group ahead. But if you’re bombing drives by them or close to them more than once, they’re going to get mad.

This likely won’t end with them asking you to play through and instead, they might hit your ball back, pick it up, or call the pro shop to complain.

Scenario #4 – The Last Resort

The last scenario is to simply drive ahead of the group and play through if they refuse. Because sometimes, groups don’t have the common sense to invite you through even if they’re playing slow. I hate it when golfers don’t know what to do, but it happens.

Be careful, as this can make golfers mad. It can also be awkward if they are not there during the round. This is the last resort!

How to Play Through in Golf


Do you have any questions about how to play through? Check out our frequently asked questions and answers to make sure you’re letting golfers play through correctly.

Can you ask for a round of golf through?

It depends on what situation you are in. If it’s a packed weekend round and the tee sheet is full of players all day, playing through likely won’t do much other than get you ahead of one group. Then you’re in an awkward situation as jumping ahead accomplished nothing.

However, if you’re playing golf and it’s not as busy in the afternoon or weekdays, playing through is a good idea. It’s an awkward dance with the group ahead, often seeing if they will invite you to go through or if you need to ask.

It is best to play fast so they are aware of your intentions and they will allow you to proceed. But don’t hit up into their group as it will likely anger them more than make them invite you to jump ahead.

You might also find that the golf course itself can change the situation. If you’re a guest of a member and it’s a private golf course or country club, it might not be the best idea to play through.

When should a player play through?

If there is enough room in the future groups, and there are less people ahead of them, a golfer should ask to play through. If you’re a foursome and the group ahead is a foursome, it rarely makes sense to ask to play through.

But if you’re a single player or playing with a buddy, it might make sense to jump ahead of the group.

Should you allow a single golfer to play through?

It all depends on the situation. It may not make sense to jump one jump ahead of others if there are three or four people on the course. I would communicate that with the individual and let them know you’re keeping up with the pace of play but it’s just slow that day.

Who is the first to start playing golf?

If you’re in a formal tournament, there is usually a tee sheet order. If there is not, you can either go by name or use a trusted tee technique.

Here’s how it works… have your group stand in a circle and let one person spin a tee in the air. The first person to tee off is the one whose tee points towards them. To determine who goes next, third, or fourth, flip the tee again.

Final Thoughts

It is always a fun experience to play through golf. The situation will determine how interesting it is. The number one rule is to make sure you’re always polite to fellow players and never hitting up on them with warning shots.

Remember, if you’re a slow group or in no rush, but there is some space ahead of you, it’s a good idea to let a smaller group play through. However, I wouldn’t do this more than once per round as it can slow down your round and make it hard to stay in a good rhythm.

On the other hand, if you’re a single or twosome, playing through is often a good move and important to have the right etiquette. Playing through is a good idea.

  • Don’t play slow
  • Do not take mulligans
  • Perform your routine
  • If you are within the group, shout fore
  • Be friendly with your group and say thank you for allowing you to jump ahead

This guide should help you navigate other groups and make it easier the next time.