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April 2017

The Sound of Silence

thesoundofsilence.jpg‭There may always be those select few golf course operators who are adamant about remaining faithful to the game’s longstanding traditions. The serene silence that hovers across 18 holes is usually only broken by the quiet chirp of a nearby bird or the swish of a club.

Barring music from the course has been a staple of the game since its inception. So what, if anything, could possibly coax these traditionalists from moving away from one of golf’s most recognizable aspects?

Would changes at the highest levels of the game do the trick? If Augusta National suddenly began blasting Foo Fighters prior to the final round at the Masters, would golf’s purists take notice in a positive way?

That’s probably a stretch, but change is nevertheless on the way elsewhere. The PGA of America has experimented with it at the Ryder Cup, and attendee Giles Morgan—the global head of sponsorship and events for HSBC—later implemented the idea at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship earlier this year.

“I was blown away by the energy of the spectators and the players, and the way the players reacted in a completely different way,” he told the National Golf Foundation. “I had seen they had gone to the next level again in 2016.”

The Ryder Cup was no doubt the perfect place to hatch such an idea. Blaring music seemed to make for a natural marriage with the rowdy fans that take over the event.

“We were very happy with the way it was received and the experience it created,” PGA chief championships officer Kerry Haigh told the NGF. “It’s fair to say [Ryder Cup Europe officials] enjoyed it and they’d be interested in doing it in Europe in 2018.”

Those in the industry should be well-versed in the urgency to modernize the game by now. The NGF’s “Golf and Millennial Generation” study showed 18- to 34-year-olds are more likely than Generation Xers and baby boomers to have negative perceptions about golf. Playing the occasional rap or rock song at a high-profile tournament may be one way to stave off that perception.

If those at golf’s highest levels are working on ways to do it, then it only makes sense for single- and multi-course operators to do it, too. No doubt, the professionals are on board. Just ask Rickie Fowler or Dustin Johnson.

“It gives the player a little more character,” Morgan told the NGF. “We’re identifying someone who may look small and meek as a heavy-metal fan. If he comes to the tee to some face-melting guitar solo, he might seem fun and interesting, and you might like that song, too, and get behind him.”

Or, better yet, may try to emulate him out on his or her own local course.

—Staff reports

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