Ask the Rules Guy: Can you wear headphones on the course?

Ask the Rules Guy: Can you wear headphones on the course?

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Ask the Rules Guy
Jason Raish

TUNING OUT
Hey Rules Guy: For a match, my young opponent arrived at the first tee wearing headphones, and he kept them on for the entire round. Is this allowed?
— Dave Swiosh, via e-mail

Kids these days, with their Walkmen and electric golf carts! Next time, tell Bruce Swingsteen to lose the headphones and pick up a book instead — the rulebook, that is. Rule 14-3 covers "artificial devices" and holds that using headphones or earplugs to tune out noise or distractions is a no-go, under penalty of disqualification. Decision 14-3/17 further explains why such behavior is illegal: Listening to music or a broadcast "while making a stroke or for a prolonged period of time" might unfairly assist the player — for example, by "eliminating distractions or promoting a good tempo." There are exceptions. For example, a quick listen between holes is okay, from music to sports to Howard Stern. Just keep the Bababooey!'s to a minimum.