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Monday, March 2, 2015  |   Madison, WI: 25.0° F  
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Citizen Dave: Some misconceptions about golf

Finally, the courses are open and we can get back to suffering.

But there's trouble on the horizon. The grand old game of golf is losing players. Every day adherents die, and they're not being replaced by young people.

In order to reverse the trend, radicals and heretics are proposing various ways of defiling the game.

Some of these ideas are reasonable. For example, some would change the rules to allow for taking "mulligans" (that is, do-overs) on every hole, as well as kicking the ball out of bad lines or sand traps. This is just codifying long-held municipal golf tradition. I'm fine with it, as every right-thinking golfer should be.

But then there are really outrageous ideas, like increasing the size of the hole to the dimensions of a large pizza. Proponents say that this makes the game more fun and less frustrating, and can reduce the time of a round by an hour.

Maybe so, but all of this is based on several misconceptions about golf that need to be dispelled right here and right now.

Misconception one: Golf should be fun. No, golf should not be fun. Everyone needs frustration, disappointment and a feeling of worthlessness in their lives. When I gave up Catholicism, I replaced it with golf.

Misconception two: Golf should be fast. No. NASCAR should be fast. Bobsledding should be fast. Golf and baseball should be slow. If you don't have the patience for it, buy yourself a bobsled.

Misconception three: Golf should be more athletic. Now my blood really gets boiling. There should be a place in this world where middle-aged flabby guys can compete. The trend in golf toward extremely fit athletes gliding down the fairway is just against every principle of the game that I find dear. What's next? A workout and diet regimen for Scrabble?

Misconception four: Golf has too many rules. Not so. For example, I looked at the USGA rules and looked at their "rule of the day" for last Saturday. It goes as follows:

Q: In stroke play, a competitor deems his ball unplayable in a bunker and, purporting to proceed under Rule 28b or c, drops a ball outside the bunker and plays it. What is the ruling?

A: In this case, Rules 28b and c require that a ball be dropped in and played from the bunker. Generally, if the ball is played from outside the bunker, the penalty should be disqualification for a serious breach of Rule 28, unless rectified under Rule 20-7c. However, if the position of the ball after it is dropped out of the bunker is not substantially different from what it would have been if the competitor had invoked the stroke-and-distance option under Rule 28a, he incurs the penalty stroke prescribed by Rule 28 and an additional penalty of two strokes for a breach of that Rule, rather than disqualification.

See, perfectly reasonable and clear. And look, for those of us who are not constitutional law professors, it's our own fault for not completing our education. Don't dumb down the game just because some of us (approximately one out of every three Madisonians, for example) are not lawyers.

Now it's time to hit the links. Expect a long, frustrating afternoon filled with litigation during which you won't get much exercise.

I love this game.

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