Justin's dog Ivan on the disc golf course.

I love dogs. I have a 9-year-old Aussie-retriever mix named Ivan. I have had a dog my whole life except a couple years in college. I also love music and frequently play rounds with my iPod hooked up to some speakers playing mellow music. Rounds that include dogs and music are frequently more enriching. Just like life, pets and music almost always make golf better.

I personally can't use headphones or ear buds when I golf — I like to chat a and they get in the way whenever I try. During an event, I had several bad interactions with a golfer on my card because he always had in his ear buds. He was constantly shooting out of turn or in someone's line. Eventually, I had to give him a courtesy violation warning because we couldn't communicate with him. Communication is a necessary aspect of a professional round of disc golf.

I recently played a tournament in Tahoe, and there was a player who was playing music from speakers and with a dog. I couldn't believe that during a sanctioned tournament someone would bring a dog and play music. I was more stunned that the golfer was allowed to do so, that no one on the card put a stop to it. I was also surprised that the TD allowed it to happen — I suppose he or she may not have known it was happening. This situation got me thinking that the rules governing the etiquette of playing music and the etiquette of bringing your dog to the course are similar.

I have talked about the casual and accessible nature of disc golf before. Part of that accessible nature means that during casual rounds we can bring our dogs and play music. The privilege to bring your dog or play music during a round comes with additional responsibilities. These responsibilities go beyond just picking up after your dog.

If there are other golfers on the course, you should have your dog leashed. Do not assume they like your dog. Instead, assume all golfers do not want your dog around unless they have specifically stated it is OK that the dog run free. I don't golf with my dog unless my wife comes with me. I can't pay attention to my game and my dog at the same time. Maybe there is an acceptable middle ground for some golfers, not for me.

Bring your dog to the golf course. Disc golf is a family activity, and my dog is part of my family. Ivan loves getting out on the course with my wife and me. It helps keep him in shape, and we all get to spend time together sharing my favorite recreational activity. I wouldn't bring Ivan during a league or weekly round. I certainly wouldn't bring him during a sanctioned event.


Justin's wife and dog at Snowbowl.

A barking dog is even more troublesome as the dog can affect golfers even farther away. This is the same with playing music. I love to listen to music during casual practice rounds. It makes the round more fun. It helps me stay relaxed and loose. Music almost always makes any activity better. But not everyone feels that way about music on the golf course.

If you are playing music on the course you should be considerate about the type of music you are playing and the volume of that music. Park users may be offended by some of the music that you want to play. Profanity and sensitive topics are offensive to many people, and it may be inappropriate for any children present.

Just like you should leash your dog until you know for sure that the dog is not going to interfere with someone's game, you should turn off your music as you approach other golfers or park users until you confirm that the music is welcome. You don't know how serious a round the other golfers are having. Maybe they are practicing for an event. Maybe they play every round as if they were in an event. You can't know.

Unless you know every golfer within sight, you should have your dog leashed and your music off. If I approach other golfers on the course, I turn the speakers off in enough time to ensure they never hear the music. I only let my dog off the leash on secluded holes. I releash Ivan as I approach blind corners in case there are golfers there. I don't wait to see if there are other golfers or park users.

I am proactive in my consideration for other park users. Assume every golfer would be unhappy about your pet or music until you have asked if they are acceptable. We must be responsible for the image we portray to the public.

Many of you have recently taken a survey from the PDGA. It seems clear from the questions that the PDGA, as an organization, is at a critical decision point. Are we trying to become an organization that supports growing the sport on a professional level or are we going to stay a recreational league that focuses on creating a larger bank of casual players?

I answered the questions, and started writing about disc golf, with the specific intent of turning our organization into a more professional endeavor. My series on disc golf etiquette is directly intended to guide disc golf into the more professional arena of main stream sports. It is bothersome to me that there is even a discussion of abandoning the "professional" tag of the organization.

We need to increase our professionalism if we are going to make it onto TV like darts, poker and bowling. I was stunned to see how many more people are dues paying members of other niche sports like ultimate, darts and bowling. Based on my time in California and how quickly our events fill up, I find it hard to believe that there are more people playing darts as seriously as people are playing disc golf. Yet darts has a larger membership than disc golf.

One way to lift our sport's profile is to be responsible and respectful about our dogs and our music on the disc golf course. Bringing unleashed pets and blaring offensive music at the course is the wrong direction if we want to have a professional organization. More than any other sport, we play in public shared spaces. As representatives of disc golf, we have to respect every other golfer and park user when we are using these public spaces.