This May I’m missing my 20-year college reunion to play in a four-day event celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bandon Dunes, at Bandon Dunes. If only more of life’s decisions were this kind of hard. I equate it with choosing music or no music on the golf course. Either way, I’m going to have a great time, though it’s possible my choice could disappoint or even offend a friend.

In college, I took an art class, and there was a paint-splattered stereo at the back of the studio. With enthusiasm, I would bring CDs (yes, it’s a 20-year reunion) so that we could jam out while depicting our still lifes of onions, grapes, glass vases and even the occasional nude model of rural Rockbridge County, Virginia. Physics, history and economics were stiff, but art could be a party—until one day a visiting professor pressed the stop button. “Don’t intrude on someone else’s moment,” he said, kindly but with certainty. By this, he meant painting is hard, and each person is entitled to strive for and savor the fleeting brushstrokes where it feels like you know what you’re doing, unencumbered by the sound or sound choices of others. Maybe it was then I realized golf rounds are like paintings. You struggle through your mistakes and in the end are left with something other than what you expected, but usually with a glimmer that encourages you to try again.

The other small nugget of knowledge retained from my expensive education comes from Thomas Jefferson, who said, “In matters of style swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” This perfectly describes my attitude toward the popular rise of music on the golf course. The game’s principles are to play the ball as it lies, play fast and treat opponents with respect. For most anything else—be it hoodies, untucked shirts or electronica blasting from an E-Z-GO—there is little sense allowing an opinion on trivial fads to come between camaraderie with your fellow man.

One good thing about music: When it hits, you feel no pain. (Same as most of my classmates, I can quote Bob Marley far more extensively than Jefferson or any of the other great dead white guys.) But the other thing about music, especially when it comes to golf, is that getting it right is akin to that elusive blend of power and finesse that sends a ball soaring straight through the sky. The world pretty much agrees that if another group can hear your music, the volume is too loud. Yet, is there anything more maddeningly dissatisfying than music not played loudly enough? If you’re in my foursome, don’t think for a second the tinny acoustics of a phone sitting in a cart cupholder is adequate. I don’t have much patience for cheapo portable speakers with fluky Bluetooth, either. Because I love music, I think it should never be played with anything less than full respect.

Ever watch LIV Golf? Chances are you haven’t, but the audio of their broadcasts can be disorienting. The tour’s slogan, “Golf, but louder” refers to the speakers and party atmosphere of its tournaments, which is one thing if you’re on the grounds, but the levels are way off if you’re watching at home. The microphone of an on-course reporter providing turgid commentary greenside might also pick up the pumping dance beats near a tee box. As a viewer, you’ve correctly identified the man with pale shins grinding over this eightfoot putt is in fact Louis Oosthuizen of Stinger Golf Club, but in the staticky distance is that really Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”?

As far as musical choices, I’ve made the snide remark to good golf buddies that there are lots of places one can go to hear the same classic rock songs for the 10,000th time that don’t require a hefty green fee or initiation with annual dues. Like Buffalo Wild Wings or the airport. The point being, DJing a golf round for four hours is no small responsibility. If you’re going to accept it, know your audience, have rich sound quality and lay down some vibes.

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