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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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.