How Should I Tip at the Golf Course

Dear Molly: I recently played as a guest at a well-known private club, where someone took my clubs out of my car, someone else parked my car, someone gave me a locker, someone else cleaned my clubs, and, well, the service is all wonderful, but am I supposed to tip all these people? And if so, how much?

Tough questions! It can feel like we’re on another planet when we enter someone else’s comfort zone, such as when the golfer used to playing the local muni for $25 on a Tuesday visits a private club that costs thousands to join and probably another thousand a month on dues, cart fees and food and beverage minimums.

Tips, you ask? Well, have I got some tips for you!

Tip No. 1: If a private club member invites you to play his or her course, right after you exclaim, “I love you man/woman!” you should ask about guest fees, dress code, tipping policy and whether caddies or forecaddies will be part of the experience.

Some clubs do not allow tipping, but at others you will imagine invisible hands reaching out to you at all points of contact. And you may look in your wallet or purse to find a few ones and realize that your smallest bill is a ten, which feels like a bit much for someone who has just opened your trunk and taken your clubs to the curb, especially when the next attendant already is picking up your clubs to load them onto a cart.

Tip No. 2: If you can remember to bring hat, sunglasses, shoes and clubs along, you can think ahead to bring a stash of small bills. The folks helping you are probably making $15 an hour and getting some golf perks, which do not make for much of a living in Colorado. Director of Golf Russ Miller says he trains the golf services staff at the Broadmoor, which is both resort and private club, never to expect tips. “We never hold our hand out or do anything to acknowledge we’re expecting one,” he says. “A lot of people do tip. Most do. And it’s good for the staff to have that additional income.” How much do they tip? Generally $2 to $10, he says.

Tip No. 3: Sometimes you’ll see a tip box or can at the first point of contact, or at cart return. These hint that the golf services staff divvies up the proceeds, a policy that encourages staff to provide good service to everyone, not only the best dressed player with the latest driver. At the Broadmoor, there’s no tip box but golf services gratuities are shared equally. So if you’re not sure, go ahead and ask the first person who helps you, “Do you folks pool your tips?” If so, go ahead and put out a bill-for-the-day and get over feeling self-conscious about subsequent encounters. Or go restaurant style and hold off until the end. Even at municipal courses, where there’s no bag drop, locker room attendant or club cleaner, when I use a cart I return it with a few dollars in place of the scorecard.

Tip No. 4: If someone goes the extra mile for you, running out to your car to grab your sunscreen or, in one case at the Broadmoor, going to the store to pick up some medicine, you can designate that person for a non-pooled tip by giving it to the head pro or by putting it in an addressed envelope.

Tip No. 5: Whether tips are pooled or parsed out along the way, $2 or $10, the etiquette is to fold the bills up into your hand and press them into the recipient’s hand discreetly. I also like to look the person in the eye and say a sincere “Thank you.”

Tip No. 6: Caddies generally receive higher tips, and you should rely on your host for advice on that. If you’re taking a caddie at a famous resort like the Broadmoor, Bandon Dunes or Pebble Beach, try doing some pre-round searching so that you know what is expected. When we visited Streamsong recently, we tried to elicit advice on caddie tipping from a staff member. He kept saying, “That’s entirely up to you,” until finally I told him what we were thinking. His eyes widened and he hesitantly said, “I would think a caddie would consider that a very good day.” That gave us our high-water benchmark, which turned out to be well-deserved.

The last word: Closer to home, here’s a great rule of thumb from former CGA President Kent Moore, who has guested at many Colorado clubs: “Try to tip whenever you can. If a club doesn’t allow tipping, the potential recipient will decline. No one is getting rich working in club service jobs, so it’s good to support them.”

Molly McMulligan, created by golf journalist and CGA member Susan Fornoff, is the CGA’s on-the-course advisor on how to have more fun on the golf course. You don’t want to take swing lessons from Molly, but if you’ve got a question about etiquette, relationships or the culture of golf in Colorado, Molly will find the answer. Send your questions along here.


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