By David DeSmith
It used to be that all you’d hear on a golf course was birds chirping, brooks babbling, and human voices chatting—or cursing. But golf’s soundscape has changed. Today, golfers are just as likely to be listening to the latest release from Drake as the bucolic quacking of wood ducks.
Proponents of the trend say it makes golf more fun. Opponents cite the blaring boom box in the golf bag of Caddyshack’s Al Czervik and say that music spoils their good walk spoiled. But in the U.S., at least, it’s a trend that has found a following.
The Bethpage State Park courses in New York, for example, earned applause from music-loving patrons when they equipped their cart fleet with Bluetooth speakers. And at Pinehurst, The Cradle par-three course pipes in music, too.
Mike Vidal, Director of Golf at Willowbend on Cape Cod, says he thinks it’s a trend that’s here to stay. “A lot of our members, especially the ones under 45, bring Bluetooth speakers with them. And I’d say that 50 percent of the players at our charity outings also listen to music. Same thing on the range, where people use headphones or speakers to help them with their tempo. It’s one of those things where if we want to keep the game growing we’re just going to have to adapt to younger generations. And music on the course is opening a door to younger people.”
It’s a door that some people would just as soon stay shut. Surveying my golfing friends and social media platforms like Reddit, comments against music on the course are easy to find.
“The best part about golf for me is getting away from the constant barrage of civilization,” said one critic. “Being outside, in the open, pitting your skills against the nature of the course.”
“Speakers do not belong on a golf course,” said another. “It’s about having respect for other people who also paid to play.”
“No way—it interferes with trash-talking!” said a New York golfer.
In the UK, it’s rare to hear music on-course, and naysayers far outnumber those in favor.
“I don’t understand why you would need music,” said one Scottish golf friend. “Surely the banter with the guys is sufficient.”
“Total ban,” said a golf course manager from East Lothian.
Most people net out somewhere in the middle, saying that as long as the music isn’t played at a volume that offends anyone or interferes with their game, to each his own.
What a lot of folks don’t know is that listening to music in any way, whether via ear buds, headphones, or speaker, may be illegal under 2019’s revised Rules of Golf.
Rule 4.3a(4) states that “Listening to audio or watching video on matters unrelated to the competition being played (such as a news report or background music)” is allowed. It adds that “…in doing so, consideration should be shown to others. See Rule 1.2,” (the section governing player conduct). It goes on to say, however, that “Listening to music or other audio to eliminate distractions or to help with swing tempo,” is not allowed. I guess it’s up to the player or tournament committee to decide which is which.
At the end of the day, the average recreational golfer probably doesn’t give a hoot about Rule 4.3a(4). And those who want to tune in while playing have a lot of good options, from simple Bluetooth speakers designed to fit into cup holders to elaborate sound systems for their personal golf carts.
A few of the better choices include Puma Golf’s Soundchuck Mini Bluetooth speaker, which is available in Rickie Fowler orange and hooks to your bag with a nifty carabiner. Ampcaddy’s speakers are good choices, too, because they easily mount to the cart’s roof support pillars and let you swivel the speakers in any direction.
Even simpler, Bose’s hip new audio sunglasses connect to your phone via Bluetooth so you can keep your tunes to yourself—and still carry on conversations.
Of course, you could also just do what Slammin’ Sam Snead did, and hum The Blue Danube Waltz. Snead said it helped him keep his swing smooth, and it seemed to work pretty well for him.