The subject of tipping and how much to tip at the golf course comes up frequently and honestly, there are no strict guidelines. It completely depends on whether you are playing a daily fee public course, a resort course, or an upscale private club.
But just so you have some type of guide line or reference point, here is some great advice I picked up from an article in Golficity that I think works perfectly.
I will say that having spent 40 years in the golf business, I know how much tips mean to employees and their families. It is the true definition of trickle-down economics. So the next time that you encounter an employee just remember that many of them work completely for tips and others are paid minimum wage at best.
In the section about the starter, it really only applies at a crowded public course but having worked as a starter, I know that I had cancellations on the tee sheet and left the name on there just in case. It might help get worked in a little quicker.
Here is a quick reference guide to help you.
The bag drop attendant is a lot like a bell hop at a hotel. When you pull up to the bag drop, a club employee will often assist you by taking your clubs from your car and placing them on a cart for you. A standard tip is for a bag caddie attendant is roughly $3 per bag, however, a $5 dollar tip will go a long way to ensure your clubs are cleaned with a bit of extra care and attention after the round. You can simply say “thank you, please clean them up after my round today too” when handing over the $5 to let them know that you’re extending a double tip for bag drop and club cleaning.
You will rarely tip the starter unless he/she goes out of their way for you. Examples of a starter going the extra mile include allowing you to jump ahead on the waiting line to get off earlier, assisting you in playing through slower golfers, or simply squeezing you out there when the course is backed up and you don’t have a scheduled tee time.
Again, keep in mind that you normally won’t tip a starter, especially at a private club, and certainly no tip is expected of you. But if your local public course is badly backed up on a Sunday morning a $10-$20 tip may just go a long way in getting your round to commence at an earlier time. Don’t be discouraged if they turn you down though. Most times, starters won’t even accept your offering and usually their hands are tied in those situations.
Revisiting the bag drop attendees, this tip, if not given before the round, should be offered at the end, when you return your cart to the clubhouse. Here again attendees (often the same group who took your bag earlier) will take your clubs off your cart and will clean them up. They will also take time to clean out your cart and return the cart to the garage. At some clubs, the attendees will bring your clubs up to the bag drop by the parking lot or even put them in your trunk as your pull up. The standard tip for this is $5 dollars, but if you gave $5 at the bag drop, then only $2-3 bucks more would appropriate here.
It’s important to also use your discretion a bit here. If you’re playing at a public course where you pick up and return carts yourself there is obviously no need to tip anyone. Just make sure to take care of anyone who goes out of there way to attend to your cart or bag.
If you use a caddie (which some golf courses require), make sure you know the tipping protocol before your hire them for the day. Odds are if your using one, you’re at a high end country club so expect to spend some serious cash for service. Rule of thumb that most golfers go by is to tip the caddie at least 50% of the cost of the round. That may seem expensive but a knowledgeable caddie can help to improve your round dramatically, especially if you’re not familiar with the course. Some folks even tip the head caddie 20% of the round cost to ensure that they get the best caddie!
If you’re a guest at a private club, it’s also well within your rights (and ethical standards) to simply ask a member what he or she typically tips caddies at their establishment. Another option is to call the pro shop in advance of your round and ask what is the proper tipping etiquette. Just don’t short change your caddie. Aside from all the advice they provide you, they’re also spending a good four hours in the sun carrying your clubs around so you don’t have to. We’d say that’s worth $50-$60, wouldn’t you?
Caddies make your day easier, make sure you treat them right.
Although rare, occasionally a single forecaddie is assigned to a group of golfers and his or her job is to keep track of everyone’s shots. A good forecaddie can do wonders for helping you find your ball easier and speed up your round. If you have a helpful forecaddie sweating out a full 5 hour round he or she should typically receive about $50-$100 total for the group.
On-Course Food and Drinks (e.g. Beverage Cart)
If you buy any food or drink at a snack bar or grill inside the clubhouse, tip the same way you’d tip if you went to a nice restaurant. There’s no need to be over generous unless the level of service calls for it. Most times simply throwing a buck or two into the tip jar at the snack stand will do.
When it comes to the beverage cart, the rule of thumb here is first, try not to lay the flirting on too heavily. It is almost impossible to come up with a line that they haven’t heard many, many, times before. Second, a $1 tip on a 10 dollar or less purchase is ideal ($2 on 11-20, $3 on 21-30, and so on).
The most important thing to keep in mind about this golf tipping guide is that it’s exactly that…a guideline. Always keep the unique circumstances of the day, facility, and service level in mind when deciding how much to tip.
If you’re doing business out on the course or just generally want to ensure you don’t do anything embarrassing, your best bet is still to call ahead and ask the pro shop what the standard tips are for the various services their particular course offers. Most importantly, always remember to have some cash on you! Perhaps the most embarrassing thing is not being able to tip or having to borrow cash from someone else to do so. A good idea would be to keep a few singles hidden away in your golf bag so you’re never caught unprepared.
Keep in mind that very few courses offer all of the services mentioned above and odds are you won’t be spending more than a few bucks in tips, so don’t let these costs scare you from an enjoyable round at a beautiful golf.