It’s funny how ridiculous it seemed at the time. Rodney Dangerfield’s character in “Caddyshack,” Al Czervik, tearing away a panel on his oversized golf bag to reveal a stereo, then cranking the volume to Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” before breaking into some sort of goofy off-kilter dance in the middle of a fairway. On the course. During a round.
“That man is a menace!” screamed an exasperated Ted Knight, playing the stuffy Judge Smails. “Music is a violation of my personal privacy! He’s breaking the law!”
Omigod, the hilarity. Could you imagine what would happen to a backward clod like Czervik if there were actually stereos embedded in golf bags and people actually played loud music on a golf course? Such a serious breach of etiquette would never be allowed to pierce the quiet solitude and sanctity of a golf course.
In 1980, when “Caddyshack” was released, a real-life Czervik might’ve been rightly escorted off the course and asked not to return. That was the gag. Even non-golf fans understood the game to require quiet and respect. You didn’t play music on a golf course and you sure as heck didn’t play it loudly.
Today, kids might not even get the joke. And that’s too bad.
The acceptance of music on golf courses has slithered its way into the mainstream with the advent of iPhone playlists and a slip in the game’s popularity. Mostly younger people — those damn millennials — have decided they can’t spend four hours without background noise and so they bring a Bluetooth speaker with them to carry in their cart or on their bag and they play music. During a round of golf. Sometimes quietly. Sometimes loudly. But they play music.
Is nothing sacred?
In short, no.
“We don’t need more reasons why people wouldn’t play this game,” said Fargo Country Club pro Mark Johnson, echoing many in the golf industry. The game has seen a decline in young players due to a number of reasons including cost, difficulty, time and competition from other activities. “If people are respectful about it, I don’t see a problem with it.”
Perhaps 10 years ago, and certainly 20 years ago or more, the idea of somebody carrying a radio or portable stereo onto a golf course to listen to music was sacrilegious and unacceptable. Golf courses, even lower-cost public ones, were treated as cathedrals of tradition and quiet. Going to the course was a getaway from the hustle and bustle, a place to hear the birds chirp and wind rustle the trees. It was a place to unwind.
The loudest sounds were the occasional yelling of “#$@&*^%@!” when a golfer sliced a shot into the woods or water.
Now, more often than not when I play golf, somebody has music coming from their cart or their bag. I’ve heard heavy metal, rap, country and just about every other genre coming from a speaker on golf courses public and private. It’s been quiet and it’s been loud. But it’s there, destroying my tranquility and ruffling my feathers.
Just last Saturday at beautiful Golden Eagle Golf Course near Emily, Minn., a foursome of young men charged to the first tee near the practice green with their caps on backward and music blaring from one of their carts. The perfect weather, blue skies, towering trees and perfectly manicured fairways and greens weren’t enough to entertain them. They needed noise. Perfection ruined.
I would describe myself as a traditionalist. Others would call me a cranky old dinosaur. So be it. Get the hell off my lawn.
“I’m not a super big fan of it myself,” said the pro at Fargo’s Edgewood Golf Course, Greg McCullough, “But as long as it’s within your own group, I think ‘what does it matter?'””
That’s been the tact many courses have taken. They are willing to let people play their tunes if the music can’t be heard beyond earshot of the group of offending golfers. No harm, no foul. If the music is too loud or other golfers complain, the pros or their assistants will respond to it.
“Not everybody likes Megadeath, or not everybody likes country, so if somebody from another group says something, we’ll ask them to turn it down,” McCullough said.
Fargo Country Club’s policy is to have golfers who want to play music check with others in their group on the first tee to see if it’s OK. If so, the club requests that music be played quietly enough so that the noise is contained within the “sphere” of the cart.
“We have more and more guys out there playing music, but they are starting to understand the boundaries of it,” Johnson said.
The Minnesota Golf Association, the game’s governing body in that state, doesn’t have an official position on music being played on courses, but the subject has come up in committee meetings about tournaments. Spokesman Warren Ryan said it’s up to each course to regulate music how they want, but the MGA would not allow music to be played during one of their events.
Ryan said rules officials would likely cite the Rules of Golf, Rule 14-3, that says, “Except that as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment, or use any equipment in an abnormal manner.” Rule 14-3 includes electronic devices, which would include smart phones.
Ryan also said playing music on the course is a clear breach of etiquette under the Rules of Golf.
“Players should always show consideration for other players on the course and should not disturb their play by moving, talking or making unnecessary noise,” the Rules say. “Players should ensure that any electronic device taken onto the course does not distract other players.”
Breaching etiquette does not carry a penalty, but a severe breach could lead to disqualification.
That sounds wonderful, by the way. Disqualify people for breaching my relaxation.
Sadly, there’ll be more and more people playing more and more music on golf courses. My pleas will undoubtedly fall on deaf and distracted ears.
I can hear y’all now:
“Music on golf courses? So what?”
“So let’s dance!”