Golf is a very unique sport for many reasons – one of which is that it is played over a very large area. Because of that, rules officials need to use air horns to signal a suspension or resumption of play. Much like there is in boating, there is a “horn language” that is spelled out on our Hard Card (i.e. permanent rules) and in our Player Tournament Regulations booklet that clarifies what the different horn signals mean.
At the professional level, one prolonged horn blast signifies a suspension of play due to a dangerous situation (typically the threat of lightning). At that moment, players must not play another stroke and should immediately seek shelter. Two short blasts signifies a resumption of play. Three short blasts signals a suspension of play for a non-dangerous situation (fog, lack of daylight, course becoming unplayable due to excessive rainfall, etc.). In these situations, players are allowed to discontinue immediately or complete any hole they have started.
A couple of weeks ago at our event in Bogota, Colombia, we had to use all three types of signals at some point during the week. During round one, we used one long horn blast to suspend play because of a threat of lightning in our area. When the players heard that, they knew to immediately stop play and head for cover. We then had to signal the resumption of play the next morning with two short blasts. Finally, at the end of the day on Friday, we had to stop play due to darkness with three short horn blasts.
As with golf tournament administration, boaters often times use horns to communicate with each other. While there is a more extensive system of communication with boating horn signals, some of the more basic ones include one short horn blast (passing on the port side), two short blasts (passing on the starboard side) & three short blasts (reverse propulsion). There is even a signal (1 long blast followed by one short blast) that can be used by an operator of a vessel to request the opening of an inland waterway bridge.
Probably more information than you need to know but, at least from now on, if you’re ever spectating at a golf tournament or are out on the water and hear a particular horn signal, you’ll have a better idea what that means!