RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links

Kick Out the Jams

Does music belong on the golf course? Let's debate



I, Shane Ryan, am not just pleased, not just delighted, but downright blessed to kick off this discussion of music on the golf course. My only regret is that my take on this controversial issue is so emphatically correct, so infallible, that I feel most readers will be infused with a sense of total righteousness upon completing it and click away from the article without seeing what my colleagues have to say. I guess it's a risk we'll just have to take.

My opinion (perfect): On a golf course, nobody should have to listen to anybody else's music.

Notice that I'm not saying it's bad to listen to music while playing golf, or that music itself should be banned. I am not advocating for Taliban policies on America's golf courses. I like music too! I'm only saying that if you want to listen to music, you should use modern technology to ensure that nobody else can hear it, because they might not want to hear it, and it's a jerk move to make them hear it if they don't want to.

Use earbuds. Have a little radio on your cart but keep the volume super low. I don't care. I also don't care if your music is "good" or "bad" or somewhere in the middle, because that "good" music is going to be bad to someone else.

Call me crotchety, call me stuffy, call me any old thing you want, but it's disrespectful and selfish to expose other people to your music on a golf course, where those others might find it unpleasant or distracting. They may go there, as I do, for a little peace, and that peace might include the quiet of the outdoors which you are now spoiling. If you do it, stop!

There is exactly two places in the world where it's okay for you to play your music at me, and that's if I come to your party or ride in your car. Maybe at the beach? I don't know. I don't want to get into beach politics. The golf course, though, is not such a place.

I'll go a step further: You shouldn't even ask a stranger you've been paired up with if it's "OK" to play your music. I'm the kind of jerk who will just say "no," but the majority of people will hear that question and be coerced into saying "yes" because they don't want to look uptight or create tension before the round starts. So they'll say yes, and have a bad time because they don't actually want to hear your music, and now they resent you for holding them sonically hostage. It's a no-win situation; even when I've been asked, and said "no" in the politest way possible, the round is pre-spoiled because the other guys hates me. Simply asking puts the other person in a terrible spot. Don't do it.

So please, by all means, listen to music while you play golf. Just don't make me do it too.

Stephen Hennessey: Music helps us cement unforgettable memories on the course. Allow me to get sentimental for a second. I played Bayonne Golf Club a number of years ago. It happened to be my late father Gerry’s birthday—it was just over a year since he had passed away. He worked on construction sites a town away in Jersey City for most of his life. When someone started playing one of my Dad’s favorite bands (The Allman Brothers) during the round, it truly felt like he was there experiencing this special place with me. Without music on the course, I wouldn’t have necessarily felt that connection.

Christopher Powers: As is the case with any discussion in 2022, you must PICK A SIDE when it comes to the music on the course vs. no music on the course debate. In reality, it’s a much more nuanced discussion than that, and I can make great arguments for both. For me, it depends on the music. I’m very here for some chill, yacht-rocky type tunes that give off an extremely chill vibe that puts the whole foursome at ease. It’s when someone starts blasting other types of music, which I’m not going to name as to not offend any one, where I can sometimes lose focus.

For me, golf is still about trying to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible, and I like to put all my focus and energy into doing that when I play. Being relaxed helps me do that. It’s the unrelaxing, unrelenting and loud music that does not help me do that. The final verdict is yes to music for me, so long as it’s not so loud and irritating that I turn into Shooter McGavin and scream DAMN YOU PEOPLE THIS IS GOLF, NOT A ROCK CONCERT

Joel Beall: I am pro-sound, and while this vote is synonymous with music, let me make my pitch for a slightly different tune. For all the tranquility and peace that can be found in this sport, finishing a sunset round with a baseball broadcast on a summer night is a serenity unmatched. It's oddly comforting to hear the sounds of a game and voices of a crowd draped against the dying light and solitude of the course. Same goes for football on a fall afternoon, a tailgate that exchanges the parking lot for a slightly greener pavement (or, if you play public golf, maybe not). As one who often finds himself playing solo, having a broadcast in your ear ensures you're not making that walk alone.

Coleman Bentley: Playing music at a volume that is distracting to other golfers is the equivalent of taking a phone call at a funeral. You are putting your own comfort above the comfort of others and probably don't even realize it because you're that type of person. This, in a nutshell, is everything that’s wrong with modern society. If there's nobody else out there and your playing partners are down to clown, turn up, chief. If not, save the showtunes for the car ride home. Also one parting thought before I stable the high horse: It's always best to assume your taste in music is trash. If I wanted to listen to Machine Gun Kelly at 105 dbs, I would have driven my kid sister to the mall.

Sam Weinman: I feel the same way about music on the golf course that I do about kids on airplanes. I know both belong. I just prefer not to deal with any other than my own. When you consider how subjective music is—and how fickle golfers are—the only way to get an entire foursome to agree on the same type of music would involve a sufficient level of booze, and that's a whole other topic for debate.

Daniel Rapaport: Pretty simple, really: play it loud enough so the players in your group can hear it, but not the group behind or in front. Simply do your best to follow that rule. You know, spirit of the game and everything. If the nearby groups catch a few notes, which seems inevitable, it's not the end of the world—but you know when you're blasting music. Don’t blast music. I also feel like the rules greatly loosen after 3 p.m. If you want your round to feel like the U.S. Open, play in the morning.