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Bluetooth and Backward Caps: Nontraditional Trends in Golf

Nov 16, 2016

Bluetooth and Backward Caps: Nontraditional Trends in Golf
Image: Keith Allison / CC BY-SA 2.0
Rickie Fowler during the practice round of the RBC Heritage.

Golf has historically been one of the world’s most traditional sports. But that has slowly but surely been changing. Since Tiger Woods burst onto the professional golf scene in the 1990s, the game — and the business surrounding it — has undergone a sort of renaissance.

The biggest change: an explosion in the lucrativeness of the pro game has made golf more appealing to all demographics. A new generation sees a future in a game that used to be seen as a default pursuit once someone left other sports like football, baseball and basketball.

With a new crowd in the professional game has come a greater acceptance of changes to traditional golf practices. We asked some of our Golf Academy of America students and staff what they think about a few current changes and trends in the golf industry, and here’s what they said.

Flat Bill and Backward Caps

Younger recreational golfers are showing up to courses sporting backward caps or colorful flat bill hats more reminiscent of the X-Games than the Masters. These golfers may find inspiration in some of the PGA Tour’s young guns like Rickie Fowler. From his early pro days, Fowler has worn the backward cap during pressers and has faced criticism for his style. He even had direct instruction from club and tournament officials to turn his cap back the “right way” at Augusta and Quail Hollow.

Our students’ opinions varied on this topic.

“Wearing hats backwards defeats the purpose of wearing a hat,” said first semester Golf Academy of America student Marty Kiepe.

But fourth semester student Dylan Jahr took a page out of Fowler’s style guide.

“I think the flat-brim hats are the best,” he said.

Smartphones on the Golf Course

Another trend clubs and courses have started to see is golfers adding extra entertainment to their rounds. Smartphones allow golfers to live-stream pro tournaments on their phones while playing their own rounds.

“The Golf Channel is promoting ‘Golf Live Extra’ on the golf courses,” said first semester student Cor Timmerman, referring to the network’s mobile app that airs live tournament coverage. “It will cause slow play.”

Course rangers might have to police the pace of play as foursomes pause their rounds to watch Jordan Spieth sink a long putt, but the networks are probably happy that their audience can watch more golf even while out on the course.

Portable Bluetooth speaker systems have also made the game more fun for some players. Golfers bring them along for the ride in their carts, choosing to enjoy their favorite tunes over the serenity and natural sounds of the course. Golf Digest was interested enough in the trend to conduct a reader survey, finding that nearly 40 percent of golfers age 18-34 and about 20 percent of 35- to 54-year-old golfers now bring portable music players out on the course.

“I like the music in the golf carts,” first semester student Isaac Nelson noted. Nelson said of course it’s a personal preference, and he enjoys the music only if the volume can be controlled and isn’t too loud.

Be sure to check out the etiquette guide for listening to music on the golf course compiled by Golf Digest as a result of their reader survey, as well as our own modern etiquette tips for the golf course.

Golf Will Continue to Grow and Change

Whether it’s Rickie Fowler and his blazing orange flat bills or music coming from the golf cart ahead of you, golf definitely looks different now than it did just a few decades ago.

“Golfers like Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston are shaking up the industry in a good way,” said Golf Academy of America Phoenix campus representative Stephanie Coombs. “Yes, golf is still a conservative sport. But like everything else, it has to change to fit the demands of its customers. It’s an extension of the changing tides in the industry. The game has to be inclusive, not exclusive, if it wants to reach a younger audience.”

What do you think about these trends from the pros down to the local muni course? Be sure to share your opinions with us on Facebook!