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Golfer’s Diary: How do you break the rules?

As I’ve written at the end of every article for years, golf is great. I absolutely love the sport. I actually lose sleep thinking about it sometimes.

That said, golf rules are just plain dumb sometimes. And I’m just talking official rules. The unwritten rules take stupidity to another level.

For instance, I recently read a story of pro golfer Lee Ann Walker. She hadn’t played competitive golf for some time and apparently wasn’t completely caught up on a major rule change. As a result, she was given a total of 58 penalty strokes during the Senior LPGA Championship. Seriously? That’s just embarrassing for the sport. Why didn’t someone just tell her that her caddy couldn’t line up behind her?

And what about having too many clubs in your bag? Who cares? Keep a left-handed club in your bag for emergencies. Keep a “rock club” in case you have to hit from some unfriendly terrain. How does that affect me while I’m playing with you? It doesn’t. Not even a little bit.

That intro is my long-winded way of saying that breaking the rules in golf is okay. Heck, I’m willing to bet we all do it anyway. Here’s how my group generally plays:

Mulligans – I get it. Part of the sport is that every shot counts. Blah, blah, blah. Listen, I’m not playing competitively. You can take 20 mulligans if it’ll make you happy. I allot myself a “first-hole mulligan” because that first swing is usually pretty ugly. Then I give myself one per nine holes. I take a bit of pride in not using the front-nine mulligan, etc., but it’s nice to have that cushion there in case I fall.

Gimmes – As I know I have non-golfers reading, a gimme is a putt that is so close that you don’t have to make it. You just pick it up. I’ve played with guys who give themselves gimmes rather liberally and that rubs me the wrong way. I like making sure with my group that they’re okay with me picking up. That said, I do have a rule. I’m never going to take a gimme unless the ball is inside a putter’s length to the hole. And I’m never going to take a gimme if it’s for par or better. I’m going to earn my good scores, thank you very much.

Quad-bogey – This is actually one that I’ve never seen anyone else do, but I find it works well for my groups because I’m so often playing with new players. I want those new players to, you know, actually want to come back, so I came up with this rule to avoid punishing them too badly on the scorecard. I set a max score per hole at quadruple bogey. That means a ‘7’ is the worst you can take on a par 3 while a ‘9’ would be the highest I’ll give you on a par 5. Thank heavens I haven’t had to take a max score in quite some time, but I’ve found it has helped keep the atmosphere light and fun with some people that I’ve golfed with.

Ready golf – This one should be universal for non-competitive golfers. If you’re ready to hit, just hit. The rule is that the person whose ball is furthest from the hole hits first, but I find pace of play to be a huge issue sometimes. We’ve all been out on a Saturday afternoon and gotten stuck behind that foursome that takes an eternity on every green. Please don’t do that if you’re with me. Have a read on your putt? Good. Go for it. Let’s move this thing along.

Play it as you can – Again, I’m out here to have fun. I’m not going to punish myself because my ball happened to roll into a random divot or dead patch of grass in the fairway. No, I’m going to pull that thing out and give myself a good lie. I’ve certainly seen people take this a little bit far. On some roots? Yes, move your ball so you don’t hurt yourself or break a club, but maybe don’t pick it up and throw it 20 yards back out onto the middle of the fairway. And the foot wedge (that’s the sly term for giving your ball a little kick into a better position)? Are we even still playing golf at that point? You’re better than that. Have at least a little bit of integrity.

So now you know how I break the rules. How does your group play? I’d love to hear some more rule-bending wisdom from other golfers. Send your ideas to golfersdiary@gmail.com.

Until next time, golf is great. Go get some.

Stefan Gestwicki is an OBSERVER contributing writer. Comments on this article can be sent to golfersdiary@gmail.com

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