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Rules Review

Rules of Golf Review: Can you be penalized for playing music on a golf course?

June 05, 2024
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Music on the golf course, albeit much more accepted than it was a decade ago, still has its share of critics. Many clubs ban on-course use of bluetooth speakers, and it's never a good idea to play a round with earbuds in. How can you hear someone yell "fore"?

But setting aside the annoying aspects of hearing music on a golf course, especially when it's a genre of music you don't like, you might be wondering if it's ever in violation of the Rules of Golf to listen while playing a round.

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is … it can be.

Rule 4.3(4) says it's OK to listen to background music or news reports (unrelated to your competition), but be careful if your motivation for turning on a bluetooth speaker goes beyond entertainment. If you're using music to improve your swing tempo or even to block out distractions while you're playing, you're in violation of 4.3, and it's either a loss of hole in match play or a two-shot penalty in stroke play. Do it a second time and you're disqualified.

Obviously, the "motivation" for someone listening to music while playing is nearly impossible to truly know, so good luck calling a penalty on your opponents if they're jamming to Bob Marley and happen to be playing the best golf of their lives. It's probably just a coincidence. However, if you've got some earbuds in and realize that When the Levee Breaks by Zeppelin has a great beat for your putting stroke, you might want to skip to the next song before you reach the green.

Another thing that comes into play in regard to listening to music is Rule 1.2. Player conduct is a huge deal in golf, and you should not be blasting music if it's annoying or distracting to others, especially in a competition.

That said, there is no penalty under the rules for playing Taylor Swift to get under your opponent's skin, but you could be disqualified from an event if the committee/course finds your actions to be a serious misconduct. An example of serious misconduct might be intentionally turning up the volume on a song (or shutting off the music) at the exact moment your opponent starts to hit a shot.

The message: Just be considerate.

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