What is a Golf Clap?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

The gesture known as a "golf clap" fits in with a number of other rude or sarcastic expressions, such as the slow clap, Bronx cheer, raspberry or cat call. It is performed by lightly tapping the fingertips of one hand against the palm of the other hand, thereby creating the effect of spectators clapping silently during a golf game. This gesture is usually considered a form of sarcasm, delivered after a disastrous moment or embarrassing incident has just occurred.

Spectators may utilize the golf clap during a golf game to express themselves without causing a disturbance.
Spectators may utilize the golf clap during a golf game to express themselves without causing a disturbance.

The golf clap really did originate in the golfing world. Spectators were frequently warned not to make loud clapping noises while standing near the players. Loud claps and whistles could also distract players on nearby holes. The original golf clap was developed to give fans a way to express themselves without causing a major disturbance. It is not unusual to hear people clapping this way during television broadcasts of major tournaments.

Spectators should clap quietly during a golf tournament.
Spectators should clap quietly during a golf tournament.

The use of this gesture away from a golf course, however, is a different story. Some people do use it as a sincere form of quiet appreciation, especially at times when loud clapping is not appropriate, but more often than not it is meant to express sarcasm. After a person slips on the floor and spills his or her entire tray of food, the next thing he or she might see is a group of bystanders offering a golf clap. Essentially, a sarcastic clap is used to provide artificial applause when no such applause is warranted.

Receiving a sarcastic golf clap often adds insult to injury, but sometimes it can help to put the original incident into perspective. The sarcasm can occasionally be skin deep when delivering a golf clap, especially when there is a legitimate need for applause or recognition. A supportive golf clap from a friend might help to take some of the nervous tension out of a solemn or formal ceremony.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


Oh, interesting. I thought it might have been something Tiger Woods was familiar with.


I've actually never heard of this kind of clap before, although I've seen people do it. I didn't even realize it could be taken as sarcastic. It probably depends on the context.

The slow clap is sometimes used without any irony at all, although that usually seems to be on TV. I imagine it's the same with the golf clap.


@pleonasm - It makes sense though, because golf spectators are generally going to be fairly quiet and very close to the action. It's not like, say, a basketball stadium where there is going to be a constant level of noise. That's not distracting.

But sudden loud noises when there isn't any background noise to cover them can be extremely distracting.

And it's not just a matter of tuning them out. There's a reason tennis pros and martial artists make a loud noise as they do their moves, and it's not to make the moves more effective. It's to psych out the opposition. Humans simply cannot stop themselves from flinching a little bit at a sudden loud noise, even if they know it's coming.

It's the last thing you'd want to have at a golf tournament, so it makes sense to ask the crowd to stay as quiet as possible.


To some extent I think it's a bit pointless to have a special kind of clapping for golf. I mean, every other sports person in the world has to deal with a lot of noise and other distractions. I know that golf involves calculation, but so do many other sports. And it's calculation that has to be done on the move, by people under pressure.

I can see why they wouldn't want someone letting off a foghorn at the last second while someone was trying to play golf, but not allowing clapping during a sport strikes me as a bit too precious.

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