Guide to tipping on the golf course

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Guide to tipping on the golf course

Let's say you've been invited to play a round as a guest by a friend who's a member of the local private country club. Or maybe there's a charity tournament going on at a course that you've never been to.

You drive up to the parking lot, and realize there's a bag drop and a valet. And once you reach the pro shop, you find out this club uses caddies and forecaddies.

Are you supposed to tip? And if so, how much?

We put those questions to our panel of PGA Professionals: Steve Whidden, director of instruction at Rosedale Golf & Country Club in Bradenton, Fla.; Chad Parker, general manager and director of golf at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta; Nicole Weller, head teaching professional at The Landings Club in Savannah, Ga.; and Christian Czaja, teaching professional at Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla.

First and foremost, they agreed that the best plan of attack is to be proactive. If you don't know what the policy is, don't hesitate to ask beforehand. That will take some of the anxiety out of the equation.

"My suggestion would be to check with the member on the policies, if you're comfortable asking them," Weller said. "Or call ahead and speak to the director of golf or head golf professional. Mention you are a guest, excited to play the facility with your member host, and want to make sure you respect the policies if tipping is allowed."

Palmer agreed, because every club handles tipping differently.

"Ask the host what is usual and customary at the club," he said. "Some clubs allow tipping. Some don’t. Some clubs allow certain employees to be tipped, but it is not expected in other areas."

If tipping is not expected, before you head off, make sure you stop by and "let the pro shop staff or head professional know what a great job they did," Whidden added.

If it's a club that allows tipping, here's a consensus on how much you should give as a gratuity, based on a typical greens fee:

Valet: $1-$2
Bag drop/Bag room: $2-$5
Locker room attendant: $3-$5 (for shoe cleaning)
Cart staff: $2-$5 (for club cleaning)
Beverage cart: 15%-20%

What if it's a club that requires caddies and/or forecaddies? That changes things, because now you've got someone there specifically to tote your bag and dispense advice about the course. Or, if it's a forecaddie, someone to help you locate your group's balls on the course and keep play moving.

According to Whidden, a caddie should be tipped about 40 to 50 percent of the green fee. And the group should split the forecaddie tip evenly, usually between $50 and $100 in total.

But what if you can't find out beforehand whether a club allows tipping or not? Czaja offers this last bit of advice.

"If cash is taken in any area of the club, then it is safe to assume you can tip," he said.