Music on the Golf Course

Remember the funny Caddyshack music scene?

In 1980, when Caddyshack was released, music on the course would have been unheard of but now with smartphones and portable mini-speakers music is an option some golfers embrace.

And as I was writing my blog post and watching the QBE Shark Shootout on the Golf Channel there was Greg Norman promoting his business, Shark Enterprises, that has a new technology product to transform the golfer experience with “web-connected golf carts that enable streaming music and entertainment.”

I love music! I listen to music in my car, while working out, and in my home. However I am not one of those golfers that wants to listen to music while I play golf. In general, I enjoy the sounds of nature and the conversation with the other golfers in my foursome.

I have no problem if other golfers want to listen to music as long as they are respectful of others but that’s the crux of the matter. Just as in other aspects of life, there are those that are considerate of others and those that are clueless when to comes to being a considerate individual.

I have had one good experience and one bad experience on the course. The good experience was with a player that liked music and wore ear buds. He enjoyed his music without the rest of us in the foursome having to listen to it. He also had the music low enough so that he was aware of what was going on in the group and on the course.

The “bad” experience was in a work golf event. It was an after work nine-hole scramble and one group had music blaring. Another person in my group yelled at them to turn it down but of course they could not hear him. Apparently my foursome was not the only group annoyed because the next day a co-worker sent a very funny email to staff making the case, using The Rules of Golf, for the foursome to return their prize and be disqualified (yes, it was a competition).

So who determines if the music is too loud on the course? My opinion is if another golfer asks you to turn the music down, that pretty much indicates that your music is too loud. But this is my opinion and so I decided to search the internet to look for “official” data on how loud is “too loud.” I was not surprised that I could not find any volume standards. I did find the following advice in a Golf Digest article from 2014, “Take 15 paces from your cart. If you can still hear the guitar riff from “Welcome to the Jungle,” you should probably reduce the volume.” Sounds like great advise to me!

Now if you want official rules you can go to the USGA website to search the Rules of Golf and in section I (which covers etiquette and behavior on the course) it clearly states, “Players should ensure that any electronic device taken onto the course does not distract other players.” Or if you are a Rules geek then an FAQ on Rule 14-3a is more up your alley because it reads:

“A player may not use any artificial device or unusual equipment that might assist him making a stroke or in his play. Listening to music or a broadcast while making a stroke or for a prolonged period might assist the player in his play, for example, by eliminating distractions or promoting a good tempo. Therefore, the use of an artificial device to listen to music or a broadcast, whether or not through headphones, while making a stroke or for a prolonged period of time during a stipulated round is a breach of Rule 14-3…”

What’s a golfer to do? I prefer the simple answer — be considerate of other golfers on the course. Unfortunately not all golfers are considerate of others. It’s sad to say but as music becomes more popular on the course, golf courses operators may need to consider posting a music policy at the first tee. You may be thinking, we don’t need another policy that inconsiderate golfers won’t obey. My response, it’s not the policy that is the issue, its how the policy is implement that has an impact on experience. For example, if a golf club has a four hour pace of play policy then good courses have rangers out on the course evaluating pace of play and moving slow golfers along.

Here’s an idea for golf course managers to decide if they need a music policy. For one week have starters ask the question “Do you listen to music while playing golf?” It won’t burden the starter to keep a tally of a yes/no answer. The starter may even get some interesting anecdotes he can pass along to his boss. The value to the course manager is data about your customers! Maybe based on the answers the course decides they need a music policy. Or maybe the course manager decides to embrace the music loving golfers and offers a “music golf nine-hole party” after work on a night where business is slow. I might even try a music golf party! But I digress.

As a golfer, I want to enjoy my time on the course and I want other’s to enjoy their round of golf; and golf courses with great starters are the first step to making everyone’s round enjoyable. Would it be so hard to train starters to talk about music when the give their spiel on pace of play, carts on the course, or any other course specific policies they doll out?

Finally should traditionalists worry about Greg Norman’s web-connected golf carts coming to their course? No, in a Golf World article about Shark Enterprises it states, “The best feature of the cart are two speakers whose cones are designed and angled to project sound directly at the center of the bench. The tone is loud and rich, but diminishes to a point of near inaudibility 40 feet from the cart. Which is a key feature to respect the sacred space of golfers who want only birdsong and babbling creeks.”

Advertisements

Communicating Change – USGA not so “old school”

The golf industry has been anticipating the ruling on long putters all year and finally the announcement came that the governing bodies of golf, the USGA and The R&A, are proposing a ban on “anchoring” the putter against the body.

I was not planning on writing about this announcement because I use a traditional putter and I don’t have an issue with the rule.  What I found interesting and what has compelled me to write is my surprise at how well the USGA and The R&A disseminated the information!

Obviously if you are a golf geek (as I am), you expected the news to unfold on the Golf Channel.  Both Mike Davis, USGA Executive Director and Peter Dawson,  The R&A Chief Executive were on TV.

What I did not expect was the variety of materials created to communicate and explain the proposed rule change, and the fact that they are promoting a 90-day feedback period to allows stakeholders to share their opinion on the proposed change.

INFOGRAPHIC

Proposed rule 14-1b Infographic USGA Infographic Anchoring Putter, Proposed Rule-14-1b

Infographics are a great tool for visually explaining the rule.  I’m a visual person so I love infographics.

From a communication perspective, the use of infographics in business is becoming more common but is still not really widely used and is not considered a “standard” in the communication toolbox. Therefore, it is nice to see the forward thinking of the communications folks (at the USGA and R&A) using an infographic to support the explanation of the rule change.

Video Explanation

The other visual I did not expect was the in-depth video explaining the reason behind the decision and demonstration of the putting options.  Yes, many videos are done but not all of them are done well or posted in a timely manner.  The USGA and R&A had the video posted on the websites and on YouTube ready for consumption and sharing.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen a major company (or brand) announce a new product and not have a decent video demo posted to YouTube.  And, demo videos are a standard in communication toolboxes in business today.

Email and Social Media

The next thing that impressed me was the email I received from the USGA.  I am a member (just a regular golfer membership for $25/annual fee) so I was not surprised to receive an email, but once again the timing of the email was impressive.  It came at 8:52 a.m. (I was literally watching the golf channel listening to the live press conference at that time).  Again, this simple act of sending an email early to the members is “first-class.” The email included a link to the rules explanation on the USGA website and encouraged feedback via the website feedback tool.

I was not surprised at the USGA’s use of social media (Twitter and Facebook) because they have been using those channels; and the status updates on twitter and Facebook are always timely.  Of course, one key to successful social media is to have great photos or images to share so the infographic and video play nicely into the social media communication channel.

Impact on Reputation

Finally, I think many golfers think the USGA and R&A are “old school” with a bunch of “old boys” and “old traditions.”  I’m sure there are golfers that will view the decision on anchoring the putter as wrong and view the USGA and R&A leaders as hurting the game.

However, based on the execution of the communication of the proposed rule change, the USGA and R&A have shown that although they are protecting the traditions of the game of golf; they are modern in their transparency and communication of their initiatives.

Grow the game of golf by being kind to a new golfer

In the past ten days I have played two rounds of golf  in which one of the other golfers was a new golfer.  At the first tee, new golfers often and nervously explained their lack of skill, sheepishly saying, “I’m just starting out, I’m not very good, etc.”

My response was to smile and tell them it’s a great day for golf.  I told them if they have any questions about the game, ask away — I’m happy to help.  You could literally see their whole bodies relax when they realized I was not annoyed with the fact that they were beginners.  I also asked them if they would like me to let them know if they are about to break a basic rule of the game or if they would like me to give them pointers on golf etiquette.  Both said they would love the help.

Now, for me, this is the key to playing with new golfers; help them relax and let them know we are in this wonderful round of golf together.  By asking them if they would like assistance, I am creating a win/win.  They agree to the help and I can offer assistance to keep me from going crazy if they do something truly annoying (like talking in my back swing).  I look at it this way, the more relaxed they are the better the chance they will play well.

Each new golfer had their own set of questions, ranging from how high to tee the ball to how to read a putt, but the most valuable tips I shared with them allowed them to keep up with the pace of play.  I told them that it doesn’t matter how bad they think they play; what they need to avoid is playing too slowly.  The advice I shared was simple:

  1. Don’t think too much about your swing.  Take one practice swing and then go for it.  If you take too many practice swings or stand over your ball thinking about all the things you learned, it will slow things down (and it will tire you out both mentally and physically).
  2. Be aware of what the other golfers are doing. Watch them hit the ball off the tee so that if they do not see where their ball landed, you can save them time finding their ball.
  3. Be ready when it is your turn — as soon as you see the other person hit their ball (hopefully from the fairway) be ready to hit your ball.  In other words, you can be thinking about what club to use and where you want to aim when they are getting ready to hit their ball.
  4. Pick up your ball if you are struggling on a hole — don’t take 15 strokes on a hole. If you are not in a tournament,  just pick up the ball and take it up to the fringe and hit a chip and putt.  No one will think less of you, and in fact, will respect that you are aware of the pace of play and making a decision that will keep things moving along.
  5. Always put your clubs between the green you are putting on and tee for the next hole.  Then when you walk off the green you can pick up a club that you might have left on the fringe and get your bag on the way to the next tee.  If you don’t know where the next tee is, ask your playing partner (as you are walking up to the green.)

The other area in which they needed a lot of advice was on the green.  Both of the beginners had putting lessons, but the lessons only explained the putting stroke, so we had a quick class on managing the green. Advice included:

  1. Make sure you have a ball marker to mark your ball — one of them didn’t even know that their glove had a built-in ball mark.  Always ask if you need to move the mark for someone else putting.
  2. Repair ball marks — I showed them how to lift the grass and tap it down with the putter.
  3. Tending the Flagstick — I explained they must remove the flagstick when their ball is on the green (or it’s a penalty).  If you can’t see the hole, you can have someone tend the flag.  I tended the flag, giving them little pointers, like if their body casts a shadow, stand so the shadow is not over the hole. Or, if it is a windy day, hold the flag against the pole so it does not flap in the wind.
  4. Never walk in between the hole and another players ball mark — explaining that you want to always know where the other ball marks are so you avoid making any footprints in another golfers putting line.
  5. Ask if you can finish out your putt. Don’t just assume you can “tap it in”…make sure your playing partner doesn’t mind if you tap in before he takes his/her turn.

Both rounds of golf where enjoyable and the new golfers were very happy when I left them in the parking lot.  I felt good about helping them and remembered friends that had helped me when I was a beginner.

A lot of seasoned golfers dread being put with beginners. This always amazes me because we were all beginners at one time, and let’s face it, on any given day our golf swing can let us down and our game can “look and feel” like we have never held a club in our hands.  So if you love the game of golf and want golf to grow and prosper — do your part to help grow the game of golf by being kind to a new golfer.

Moments of glory in golf – some forever and some fleeting

The best advice my mother ever gave me is that life can be tough (with lots of ups and downs) and we live through the tough times to experience “the moments” that make life worth living.  So here are two stories that are perfect examples of the ups and downs of life as a golfer.  One story of a golfer making history and the other who should have made history except for a heartbreaking lapse in concentration.

Let’s start with the moment of glory for Rhein Gibson.  Gibson is not someone you should know.  He plays on the Golfweek National Pro Tour (frankly, a mini-tour I have never heard of before now).  So what did Gibson do for his moment of glory?  He recorded a 55 (or 16 under par) at his home course, River Oaks, in Edmond, Oklahoma.  His scorecard is all over the internet but if you have not seen it here is a great shot of it from the Australia Broadcasting website article (Gibson lives in Oklahoma but is Australia).

Australia Broadcasting Company Image of Rhein Gibson Scorecard

How good is a 55?  The world’s best female golfer is known for shooting a 59 (in tournament play) and her nickname is Annika59 (yes, Annika Sorenstam).  She often talked about her personal goal to shoot a perfect round — the elusive score of 54 (which would be a birdie on every hole).  But this has never happened for any golfer.

Now, Gibson was not playing in a tournament but Gibson’s score of 55 could still go into the Guinness Book of World Records.  We will have to wait and see if it accepted; but what an amazing site to see.  Six birdies on the front nine for a 29; followed by 2 eagles (the triangles) and 6 more birdies for a back 9 score of 26.  Will Gibson ever make it to the PGA?  Who knows, but he has his 15 minutes of fame and a moment in his life that he will never, ever forget.

Now to a story that should have been history making for a young high school female golfer.  Caroline Inglis was on her way to winning the Oregon state tournament for the 4th year in a row. She finished with a 3-under 69, a score that was nine shots better than anyone else in the tournament.  But she was disqualified and lost her title.  How?  Read on…

In golf, a player must sign the scorecard at the end of the round and if the player signs an incorrect scorecard they will be disqualified.  This is what happened to Inglis.  According to news reports, her playing partner recorded a par for Inglis on the final (18th) hole but Inglis shot a bogey (1 over par); and Inglis did not catch the error and signed the card.  You can see the disbelief in the young golfer’s face in the photo below.

Churchill golfer Caroline Inglis after being disqualified for a scorecard violation — Jesse Skoubo/AP/Corvallis

(Photo by Jesse Skoubo/AP/Corvallis).

You wonder how could this happen; but according to an article written by Mike Tokito of The Oregonian, it happens more that you think.  He interviewed the University of Oregon women’s golf coach Ria Scott.  Inglis will play college golf for the University of Oregon next year. The quote from the article is:

“From my experience, it seems to happen when people are really emotional about their round, one way or another,” Scott said. “Either you’re really frustrated or really excited.”

In other words, the young player was so excited that she lost her concentration and did not focus on making sure the card was correct.  That’s a tough golf (and life) lesson to learn.

I’m sure Caroline Inglis will recover and go on to bigger and better things in golf.  Although we can’t predict her future; I think we can predict she will always double check her scorecard.

Kevin Na’s personal frustration translates to golf fan frustration with slow play

The big story from the 2012 Players Championship was Kevin Na’s endless struggle with his pre-shot routine.  What I thought was fascinating was that the press was so empathetic and forgiving.  Normally, the press would be very critical but this time it was the fans that were outwardly critical.  The fans were respectful the first three rounds but by the 4th round, the fan frustration was evident with the haggling Na had to endure.

What led to this “gentler and kinder” press?  The answer appears to be in the fact that he did not hide from their questions.  Many reports stated Na “is refreshing” in his admission of his problem.  He not only apologizes to his playing partner but opens up in his press conference explaining:

“I’m trying to get comfortable with my waggles. It’s usually a little waggle, half waggle, little waggle, half waggle, and boom, supposed to pull the triggers. But if it doesn’t work, I’ve got to go in pairs.  So it’ll go four; and if it doesn’t work, it’ll go six; and after that, just — there’s a lot going on in my head. (Laughter).  And it’s not — I’m not being nice to myself, trust me. I’m ripping myself.”  See more of Kevin Na’s press conference at PGAtour.com

Now, I certainly have sympathy for any personal struggle but I must admit that more than once I was yelling at my TV — “just hit the ball.”  Eventually, I turned away from golf (something I rarely do on a Sunday of a big tournament).  I’m sure I am not the only fan that stopped watching.  My reaction is something golf cannot afford. The goal of the golf industry is growth (both in the fan base and in recreational play) and risking that a percentage of the current fan base might “walk away” from a telecast is going in the wrong direction.

Even though the tournament officials put Kevin Na on the clock (which added to his stress); it did not appear (to me) to quicken the pace of play.  Slow play is one of the biggest issues in golf today (both in professional and recreational golf).  If the professional golfers are role models for “how to play” then they need to send the message that playing slow is not acceptable.

Many tour players have expressed their dislike for slow play but it helps the cause when big name players take a stand.  Yesterday the biggest of big name players, Tiger Woods,  stated his opinion on how to fix slow play on tour.  Currently the fine for slow play is $5,000 up to $20,000 depending on the situation.  Tiger Woods said that he believes a penalty stroke should be accessed for slow play.  Woods explained:

“Strokes is money….what’s the difference between first and second [at the Players] right now?… $800,000…that’s one shot, and that’s the difference. That’s what people don’t realize, that one shot is so valuable out here.”

I completely agree with Woods, given the income of professional golfers a $5,000 fine is nothing but a stroke is significant.  A stroke not only impacts the wallet for the professional; but it could impact where they place in the tournament which can also carry over to Fed-Ex points and world rankings.  All of these combined make a stoke penalty a more meaningful deterrent.

Finally, I think the PGA could learn something from the LPGA.  Both the PGA and LPGA do have stroke penalties in the rules for slow play.  Both the PGA and LPGA give the slow player a warning before giving a violation.  But the difference comes when the first violation is given to a player.  The  PGA only imposes a fine; not a stroke on the first violation. The LPGA imposes a fine and stroke on the first violation.

Final word — gentlemen it’s time to follow the ladies lead — give a stroke penalty for the first violation of slow play.

Why Spit on a Golf Course?

During the playoff at the Northern Trust Open Keegan Bradley spit incessantly.  And it is not just my opinion.  One of the TV commentators said something like, “You wouldn’t think he had any spit left.”  The other commentator was questioning the fact that Bradley must know he has cameras on him so why is he spitting with everyone watching. And then they noted that he will certainly be spoken to when he gets off the course. There was so much buzz about it that Bradley actually tweeted an apology.

Keegan Tweeted Apology for SpittingSo I give Bradley credit for apologizing but it did make me wonder if this was against the rules of golf.  In my research I found that it is not listed in any rules but tournament officials do have discretion (based on code of conduct) to fine a player. To my knowledge Bradley was not fined but I wondered if any player has ever been fined. The answer is yes. Tiger Woods was fined last year, in February at the Dubai Desert Classic.

Tiger spit on the green (of all places) and the commentator was spot on with his analysis. The well-known British golf announcer,  Ewen Murray said “…there are some parts of him (Tiger) that are just arrogant and petulant. Somebody now has to come behind him and maybe putt over his spit. It does not get much lower than that.”  The amount Tiger was fined was not disclosed, and like Keegan Bradley, Tiger apologized  via twitter but it is still disgusting and unprofessional.

Some online comments, at the time, were saying that it was wrong to fine Tiger.  Most of them seemed to feel that spitting is just part of sports.  Yes, many professional athletes spit when playing sports (you see it in football and baseball when the show the players on the sidelines or in the dugout) but is it really necessary or just a bad habit?

I can’t speak for other sports fans.  I can only speak as a golf fan.  For me, golf is supposed to be a “gentleman’s sport” and spitting is not a trait of a gentlemen.  Spitting is just plain gross and incredibly disrespectful of the group coming up behind you on the course.

It is not just the professionals that have this bad habit.  Unfortunately, if you have played golf, you have probably seen a guy spit on the course.  So to all the guys out there that have this “bad habit” — why don’t you try to “conquer it” and give the group behind you some respect.

TV viewers help get a golf player disqualified

Well I can’t believe I am writing about the European tour after such an exciting finish to the Northern Trust Open, but I just have to give my “two cents” on the bizarre trend of viewers involving themselves in tournament play.

This weekend Peter Whiteford was playing a shot on the 18th hole of the 3rd round in the Avantha Masters in New Delhi, India.  He thought perhaps his ball might have moved after he addressed it (if this were true he would need to take a one stroke penalty unless the rules official ruled differently).  He asked his caddy, another player, and a TV camera man if they saw it move. They were not able to confirm if the ball had moved so he played on and signed his 3rd round score card.  He went into the final day three shots behind the leader (after shooting rounds of 66, 68, and 72.)

Apparently, overnight, a number of TV viewers emailed the tour and said that Whiteford’s ball had moved.  Then next morning, although they let Whiteford start his round, the rules officials decided to check the video from the previous day.  On the third hole of the final round, the head official walked up to Whiteford (he was only one shot behind the leader) and told him he was disqualified because his ball did move and he signed an incorrect score card.

First of all, every player is responsible for following the rules.  Whiteford’s only real mistake was that once he questioned if his ball moved he should have asked for an official ruling (thus avoiding any ambiguity.)  I don’t believe he was trying to cheat.  He is human and he made a mistake; but it seems unfair that folks sitting at home rewinding their tv’s over and over again can then impact the tournament by calling to tell the officials the ball did move.  Can you imagine in football or baseball, the result of the game being changed the next day because viewers called with their opinion?

But what I really question is the fairness of how the officials handled this the next day.  At some point in time a round should be considered “final.”  If in fact there was any question, then the head rules official should never have let Whitefield start the fourth round.  They should have reviewed the tape and made the judgment before the start of the last round. Basically, I think a precedent should be set that once the next round begins the previous round is considered “final and closed for review.”  Maybe it doesn’t completely address post-round viewer input but at least it would be a start.

This is a complicated situation but in the long-term, I don’t want to see viewers of golf inserting themselves into the rules process of a tournament.  Other sports fans have to accept missed calls, bad calls, or just stupid mistakes (that’s part of what makes the water cooler discussion so much fun the next day).  Why should viewing golf be any different. Anyway, that’s just my “two cents.”