Golf is a social game for some, an addiction for many and even a career for a lucky and talented few.
No matter what level you play at – even the PGA Tour – it’s more than likely some of your most cherished rounds are low-stakes match play with your buddies or a $2 skins game with your old man.
Some of the best time had on a golf course is when the handicap isn’t in question and the score doesn’t matter. You swing free. You take risks. The tension falls from the air as soon as you know a three-putt means nothing (or at worst, a couple of bucks).
So, is a social round not best accompanied by a cold beer? And even if you are allowed to take alcohol onto the golf course, should you?
Most golf courses will allow you to drink alcohol during your round, however doing so will likely inhibit your performance. Studies have shown one or two drinks can release tension in your swing, but anything more than that will negatively impact your ball striking and consistency.
Let’s take a deeper look at the rules, etiquette and even science around drinking on the golf course.
What are the rules around drinking alcohol on a golf course?
Surprisingly, rules and regulations about drinking alcohol on golf courses can be difficult to come across, even when searching the websites of individual clubs.
Quite often golf courses won’t have hard set rules on the use of alcohol, but general etiquette and manners are unsurprisingly expected to be followed.
It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that getting plastered and playing the 18th without a shirt or shoes on will see you ushered off-site pretty quickly.
The first thing to consider is whether the area the golf course is located in is a dry zone.
A club I used to play at was within a local government enforced ‘dry zone’ for the metro area, so whether the members liked it or not, it was against the law to drink outside of the clubhouse.
No fairway beers were had, sadly.
Outside of local dry zones, the rules start to become a little grey and more dependent on club direction.
Some clubs operate under strict licenses, requiring those who drink while playing to purchase beverages on site and in non-glass containers.
It goes without saying that a grassy lie turning into a glassy lie is not an ideal situation.
Other courses, without liquor licenses, won’t sell alcohol on the premises, allowing patrons to bring a six pack or two along from elsewhere.
In these situations, it’s obviously important to adhere to the general rules and laws around public drinking in that area, with intoxication every chance of being treated as public drunkenness.
Ultimately, if you want to know the definitive dos and don’ts of a golf club, you’ll have to consult their website or call them to clarify.
What is the etiquette around drinking alcohol on a golf course?
As is often the case in golf, etiquette, the unofficial but equally as important unspoken rules of the game, define much of what is appropriate in relation to drinking on a golf course.
If you have the all-clear to consume alcohol on a golf course, consider the following when deciding if it is the right thing to do:
Is it a competition day?
Saturday competition is a big deal for both scratch handicappers and those beginners playing off 40+.
For many, it is their one chance for the week to get out of the house and get into the zone, competing against themselves, and the course.
Whether someone is an accomplished golfer or not, people do take things seriously on the main competitive days at any club, and having to tee off with others having a few beers could be considered disrespectful and not exactly in the spirit of healthy competition.
Drinking alcohol on the golf course should be kept away from peak times and ideally later in the day.
Are there children present?
For many people, golf is a family pastime, especially on abbreviated courses, such as Par 3 courses.
While drinking on a golf course around children may be legal, it could potentially be frowned upon, especially if intoxicated.
If there is likely to be children around on the course you are playing at, keep consumption within reason so families can enjoy a wholesome round.
Is it a function or golf day?
We have all been a part of a workplace scramble or football club social day held on the golf course with long drives, novelty prizes and quite often a drinks cart doing the rounds.
If the course has been booked out by a group, even a prestigious country club or top-ranking course, drinking is often encouraged, with clubs selling beverage packages as part of lucrative deals.
While irresponsible drinking and excessive drunkenness will definitely still turn heads, if your organisation or group has run of the course for a few hours, you have more room to define the behaviour accepted, within the scope allowed by the club, of course.
Will I ruin the time of other golfers?
If, during your round, you drink slowly and keep with the pace of play, there’s little you can do to negatively affect the experience of others.
However, if too many drinks lead to excessive hacking and slow play, other players are within their rights to be aggravated by your behaviour.
If half a dozen beverages do little to affect your golf game, you might not attract much attention.
However, this leads us to another important question…
How does alcohol affect your golf game?
In an interview with Graham Bensinger, the iconic and colourful golfer John Daly remarkably claimed “wherever I set course records, or whatever, I would be bare-footed, drunk, playing golf, making every 20-footer I looked at”.
Could it be that intoxication is the missing ingredient in your much-maligned golf game?
The likely answer: no.
In an experiment conducted by Golf Digest in 2018, three golfers: a scratch, 13 and 20 handicapper were tested to see how alcohol consumption affected their game.
Sober, they hit five drives, five irons at a pin and five short range putts.
The experiment found that one or two initial drinks could loosen the stroke up and remove some tension from the body, allowing for surprisingly consistent results.
However, after eight drinks, all three golfers struggled with direction off the tee and getting their irons close.
As might be expected, the originally consistent game of the scratch golfer was less affected by drinking alcohol, whereas the 20 handicapper was struggling with contact by the end of the experiment.
Unless you are a golfer of a high standard with amazing hand-eye coordination, it is unlikely your golf game will do anything other than deteriorate the more you drink.
How does marijuana affect your golf game?
Once again, Golf Digest experimented with smoking weed and the effect it has on the golf game, testing a 6, 13 and 18 handicapper before and after consumption.
Surprisingly, marijuana consumption seemed to have a positive effect on driving distance, particularly for the lower handicapper, but the more finessed skills of putting and iron play saw general declines with each puff.
A study by Prashad and Filbey in 2017 showed that motor skills (skills that involve the movement and action of muscles, such as a golf swing) were negatively affected by smoking marijuana, meaning it is highly likely weed will only increase your score.
What are the best coolers for the golf course?
If you are going to take alcohol onto the course, it’s likely you’ll want to keep it cold.
Even if you’re only drinking water or Gatorade, there’s a number of products out there that could be a worthwhile investment for those summer months.
A selection include:
- The Athletico Golf Cooler Bag will hold up to six cans with a convenient over-the-shoulder strap making it easy to haul around the course.
- The Clicgear Cooler Bag and Clicgear Cooler Tube that hold six cans and two cans respectively and will attach securely to most golf buggies and carts.
Like many great golfing questions, the answer lies in the etiquette when asking ‘can I drink alcohol on the golf course?’
Clubs will have rules and regulations in regards to drinking, but these will differ from course to course, so it’s always important to check before playing to avoid breaking any rules or laws.
If drinking alcohol on course has been given the all clear, consider the etiquette mentioned above and make sure to always act in a manner that won’t detract from other people’s experience.
If your reason for drinking is anything other than social, reconsider, as the evidence suggests drinking is no golfing panacea and likely to hurt your game, rather than help.
Enjoy your next social golf game and choose wisely when deciding whether to load up the cooler bag or leave the six pack at home.