Hey, Rules Guy: Can players listen to music on the course?

September 18, 2017

“Are there any rules about players listening to music on the course? I have a friend who does this, and it’s driving me nuts.” — Larry Meathe, Solon, Ohio

Not only is your friend annoying, he’s also in breach of the rules. Per Decision 14-3/17, a player has violated Rule 14-3— which pertains to artificial devices, unusual equipment or abnormal use of equipment—if he listens to music or a broadcast while making a stroke or for a prolonged period of time (as it might assist in his play). While driving from a putting green to the next tee? Permissible. Much longer than that? Penalties may loom—loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play for the first breach; disqualification for the second. Your buddy may want to listen to the blues on the ride home.

“My fellow golfer has a chip shot from high, wet rough. His club enters the grass and lifts the ball out. Problem: The ball and clubface stay together until both are just past knee-high, when the ball leaves the club and lands on the green. With no separation, is this still considered a double hit?” — Richard Brace, La Quinta, California

Presumably, the superintendent didn’t overseed the rough with peanut butter. The more likely scenario is that the ball was not “fairly struck”—defined by the rules as only momentary contact between clubhead and ball. “Spooning” the ball, which seems to be the case here, puts a player in breach of Rule 14-1a, with a penalty of two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play. Like peanut butter, a bit tough to swallow.

“I pulled my approach to a green guarded by a pond. When my opponent and I reached the green, my ball was nowhere to be found. He went over to the water, said “Here it is,” and plucked the ball from the hazard. The water was quite shallow there, and I might have attempted a shot. Was he allowed to move my ball without penalty—and should I have been allowed to replace the ball without penalty?” — Jim Bronner, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Under Rule 18-3a, there is no penalty in match play if the ball is moved or touched by an opponent in the process of searching. (There is never a penalty in stroke play for touching a fellow competitor’s ball.) In this instance, however, your opponent wasn’t searching for the ball when he plucked it from the water—the ball had already been found. He thus incurs a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-3b. You indeed could then replace the ball or decide to take relief under the water-hazard rule. Moral of the story? In golf, it’s good to be a Good Samaritan, but you’d better know the rules.

“My opponent took a swing and whiffed. “Good thing I missed the ball!” he said. I told him that his intention to hit the ball meant that he had to count that stroke. Then he asked, “Who determines if I intended to hit the ball?” When I said that he did, he immediately claimed that it was just a practice swing. What options do I have?” — James Schorey, Oakdale, Minnesota

Rules Guy is not a violent man, but at a minimum, a stern harrumphing is in order. Your only recourse is to refer the matter to the competition committee. In match play, you’d need to make a claim before either player plays from the next teeing ground; in stroke play, you can do so anytime prior to returning scorecards. The committee would gather the facts from the players and any witnesses before rendering its judgment. That said, the rules assume a player’s honesty—they weren’t designed to deal with deceit. Worst-case scenario: Avoid this charlatan like the yips.


Of course you do! Whatever it may be, send yours to rulesguy@golf.com and the question may be answered in an upcoming issue of GOLF. Until then, play by the Rules!