Is someone blaring out a tune while you’re trying to putt? Here’s what the Rules of Golf say

Hello pop pickers. Now we’re back out and playing golf again, we can resume counting down the answers to your rules questions on a more regular basis.

What’s your number one concern? A friend of mine quizzed me this query last week and I thought it might resonate at the summit of some your personal hit parades: “Is it against the rules to listen to music on your earphones when playing golf?”

So, let’s see if we can find you a chart-topping answer…

(That’s the last Top of the Pops reference, I promise.)

Rules of Golf explained: Our expert says

Rule 4.3a (4) covers the use of audio and video on the course and, if you’re going to risk subjecting your playing partners to Spotify, it’s worth reading this section pretty carefully.

You can listen to audio, or watch video, as long as it is unrelated to the competition. The Rules cite a news report, or background music, as examples.

But you should show consideration to others – so don’t get your 80s Ghetto Blaster out and turn the dial up to 11. Rule 1.2a, covering conduct expected of all players, classes ‘not distracting the play of another player’ as an example of showing such consideration.

What isn’t allowed is listening to music, or audio, either to block out distractions or to help with swing tempo.

Does wearing headphones eliminate distractions by their very nature? I’d certainly be concerned about anything noise cancelling. I know of one player, for example, that wears an earphone in one ear with the other free. Here, as long as what was being played wasn’t helping with swing tempo, I think that player would be OK under the Rules.

Looking wider, what would be classed as eliminating distractions or helping swing tempo? Loud volume, or rhythmic audio? It feels a bit subjective and there’s no further clarification. As with many things in the Rules of Golf, I think it comes down to acting with integrity and according to the spirit of the game.

Committees that aren’t happy with that do have another way. They can adopt a Local Rule – there’s Model Local Rule G-8 for those who wants to have a look – that prohibits the use of audio and video devices altogether during a round.

Fire up iTunes if that is in place and you’ll pick up the general penalty for the first breach. A second breach, that’s unrelated to the first, results in disqualification.

So, with all that in mind, if you do want to listen to something while out on the course, may I suggest the NCG Podcast?

Worth a try…

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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