I was watching the men’s beach volleyball last night (can you tell I haven’t gotten much done lately?) and noticed how pumped up the crowd was and really “into” the game (then figured out later it was the bikini girls’ dancing that probably did it). Then I thought about how that’s usually the case (the crowd – not the dancing), except for only two other sports: tennis and golf. Those are the only competitions where the spectators are actually “shushed” during play – and this is accepted by the crowd. I’ve been to a couple tennis matches, and you can’t even go to your seat while they’re playing – you just stand there until there’s a break in play. Kind of like if you’re late to a show at The Music Hall and have to wait until intermission to find your seat (an excellent policy, IMO). I believe there was even one incident when Tiger Woods jumped all over somebody for being too noisy during his tee-off – I think they were taking pictures and the noise bothered him.
Hockey, basketball, baseball, volleyball, football, soccer etc. all have these hugely LOUD crowds – even gymnastics for Heaven’s sake – talk about needing concentration! But at the U.S. Open or Wimbledon you can practically hear a pin drop during play….odd, don’t you think? (and don’t pull the “that’s because those are more civilized sports” excuse…PUH-LEASE!!)
The short answer to your question is "that's because they're more civilized sports." But I'm just guessing that's not what you wanted to hear. There are a couple real reasons that people are asked to be so quiet during golf games:
1. Before public profanity became so socially acceptable, golf games were the one place where people could go to learn all the new cuss words and phrases from the golf participants. But sometimes those are muttered under people's breath, so extreme silence is necessary. We've unwittingly carried on this tradition.
2. So the people attentively watching at home on TV can sleep.
As for tennis the major driver here is so that the audience can hear the very odd grunting sounds perfected by Monica Seles. Check out this actual information about her from Wikipedia:
"1992 was an equally dominant year. Seles successfully defended her titles at the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open. She also reached the final at Wimbledon but lost to Graf in the final 6–2, 6–1. Some observers, however, attributed her lop-sided loss to her decision to remain silent throughout the match, resulting in less penetrating shots. Two opponents (including Navratilova in the semifinals) had strongly complained about Seles's grunting".
Need I say more? (also, the same reasons for silent golf above apply to tennis)
Thanks for the question, CM!