A step or two beyond the normal winter golf rules

February 3, 2012

The Cape Region has enjoyed some unseasonably pleasant weather in recent weeks, and I am sure that dozens of local golfers have taken advantage of the unusual opportunities.

Not me, though. My work keeps getting in the way of a good time. Perhaps I really need to reorder my priorities.

Although it’s nice out, it is still February, and dollars to donuts most golfers out on the local courses will be playing by winter rules. That’s a polite way to note that strict adherence to the official Rules of Golf during these casual rounds is not expected, as it might interfere with the ultimate goal of midwinter golf.

You can’t post these scores, and so you can’t improve your handicap. Why not relax the rules a little bit and enjoy the day a little more?

Alex Myers of Golf apparently feels the same way. A short time ago he posted an intriguing article at the magazine’s website, “The Reasonable Man’s Rules of Golf,” which you should check out. Myers and photographer Christian Iooss describe and illustrate 15 different ways to take the hard edges off the rules and have more fun during the rounds that “don’t count.”

One of these suggested arrangements is an old favorite, the Leaf Rule. Suppose a ball lands in a pile of leaves, or at least everyone thinks that’s what happened. It can’t be found after the usual five-minute search, however. If that happens, just drop another ball in a clear spot nearby and swing away, without penalty.

See how easy that was?

Myers offers a similar remedy for golf balls that fly out of bounds. Instead of trudging back to where you swung and then watched that wayward ball go OB, drop another ball adjacent to the OB line where your shot left the course. Take a penalty stroke, and hit your next shot. The folks behind you, already worried about finishing before the 5:25 sunset, will be very pleased at your cooperation.

I liked one suggestion about scoring that our spring golf trip gang uses with a slight variation, namely double par. Myers recommends that golfers should pick up their balls when they reach their maximum handicap strokes on a given hole. A casual round of golf can become something else when the golfer is on his seventh stroke, while still about 50 yards from the green. Give up on that hole instead, and walk with a light heart to the next tee.

Whistling is optional.

The rest of Myers’ recommendations are equally convincing alternatives to maintaining a monk-like devotion to the official Rules of Golf, especially during a rare winter thaw.

The Golf Digest website also features a very funny piece on “The 18 Most Annoying Golf Partners” by Sam Weinman. As the subhead says, “The only thing worse than playing with one of these guys is BEING one of these guys.”

The list includes the “Unsolicited Swing Advice Guy,” “The Frat Boy,” “The Human Rain Delay,” “Oblivious Guy,” “The Volcano,” and 13 others. The list appears to be comprehensive, but the folks at Golf Digest suggest there could be more. Nominees in other categories are cheerfully accepted in the comments section for the article.

At least one more type comes to mind, whose name might be “Shot by Shot Guy.” These are the blessedly few players who decide that I should know what they intended and how they felt as they took each one of their dozens of strokes during the round.

With all due respect, I just don’t need to hear how a 26-handicapper pronated his wrist on his third attempt out of a bunker, along the way to his blistering 108.