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.”

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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.

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.