Rules Guy: Is it permissible to wear earplugs to block out background noise?

quiet sign

The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

I know you can’t have headphones on during a competitive round to listen to music, but what about earplugs? I can imagine some Tour pros wanting to improve their concentration by blocking out crowd noise. —Mark Reaume, Huntington Woods, Mich.

You mean to tell us that there may be pros out there who would prefer not to be bombarded with blood-curdling shrieks of “Bababooey!” and “Mashed potatoes!” from lager-sodden lunkheads? Rules Guy is shocked, shocked!

The same rule that applies to headphones applies to earplugs. Listening to music in and of itself isn’t a breach, but rather doing so to eliminate distractions or help with swing tempo and such. So, if Tommy Rabbit-Ears puts in earplugs to try to block out noise, he’s in breach of Rule 4.3a, with the general penalty for the first breach and a DQ for the second. Argh!!!

For more rules-related guidance from our guru, read on …

Rules Guy: Can my partner refuse to move a ball that’s in my way?
By: Rules Guy

Living in Southern California has its advantages, like playing winter golf, but also its drawbacks. Late one afternoon, I had a 40-foot eagle putt where the sun was directly behind the pin at ground level — standing at my ball, looking at the pin, the glare meant I couldn’t see the pin, much less read the green. Could I have had the other players in the foursome stand to block the sun, or would that have been a Rules violation? Needless to say, I three-putted for par. —Tony Fina, Camarillo, Calif.

Though often misattributed to Mark Twain, it was Twain’s friend and fellow writer Charles Dudley Warner who said, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

Maybe that’s because everybody knows Rule 10.2b(5), which prohibits players from using anyone as protection from the elements — sunlight, wind, rain, what have you— lest they incur the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. Or maybe not.

Either way, you’re in California … shouldn’t you always have cool sunglasses at the ready?

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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