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What is Real Golf to You?

JonMA1

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A recent topic addressed the idea of modifying golf in an attempt to make the game more enjoyable. 

There’s nothing new to the idea of simplifying or modifying rules in games. Rules are changed in Monopoly and Scrabble. Poker can become a completely different game by making various cards wild. When playing pickup games of football or basketball, our rules were nothing like those of official high school, NCAA, or the pro ranks. Even these levels of the same game have variance in the rules. 

So it’s not that weird for the rules to change for casual golf or a practice round. Even golf leagues break the rules of golf to make the play faster, easier and more enjoyable in an attempt to get more to participate.

In these circumstances, golf is whatever those playing together can agree upon…. or not. I’ve been criticized for not taking an illegal drop on the green side of a hazard, for not repositioning the ball to get a better lie, and for not taking a mulligan or breakfast ball.  “You’re just making the game harder than it has to be” I’ve been told.

Modifying the rules for casual golf is not an issue. But some want to actually amend the rule book because they feel some rules are just too hard. My favorite example… “I couldn't find the ball even though I saw it stay in the fairway from the tee box. I shouldn't have to suffer a stroke and distance penalty”. Again, it’s fine to take a drop in a casual game. I’ll do it all day long on a busy course.

But that one act automatically turns an official round into a practice round.  

The rules of golf and the handicap system are standards. Choose to play by the rules and you know exactly where you stand compared to others who do the same. Use the handicap system and it not only gives a poor player a fair chance to beat a better one, it also forces the better player to bring his or her best game to the competition. What other sport does that?

Then there’s what constitutes a regulation course and the variations that exist from one course design to another. In addition, each course offers more variation in differing sets of tees. The best part about this system is that the difficulty of each is accounted for. I don’t fully understand the rating system, but it seems relatively logical, even if a bit convoluted. Playing from 6500 yards is more difficult than playing from 5800. The change in the rating and slope of each set of tees reflects that. More importantly, each players may find either option more enjoyable than the other on a given day.

The rules, handicap system and course rating system are pretty damned good as is. What’s even better is that no one is sticking a gun to my head making me follow the rules or keep score. If anything, more pressure is applied to break the rules in favor of faster play. I find it ironic that I tend to play more by the rules when playing a solo round, considering I can’t apply those rounds to an official handicap index.

While specific rule-breaking during a practice round may hone some skills, scoring lower as a result does not make me a better player. For me, leaving the flag in on short putts makes that part of the game easier. It’s psychological more than anything else, but I stopped doing it on all but the busiest days. Why? Because I want to get better at that skill in the event I start playing official competitions. The same goes with abiding by any of the rules. 

I hope to get to the point where this desire to improve starts to subside a little. I want to have more days where my enjoyment on the course is less dependent on the score. But I’m not there yet. I still want to get considerably better. To me, the only way that happens is to include rounds where I play 100% by the rules and from a set of tees or a course rating that challenges the limits of my distance and ability.



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But that one act automatically turns an official round into a practice round.

It doesn't. It's just a hole not played under the Rules of Golf.

Also, what is "golf" depends on the context. I'll talk about "playing golf" even if I'm having a practice round and hitting a bunch of balls, or when I'm with @NatalieB and giving her mulligans or having her re-putt a few times, etc. No official baseball rules have "ghost runners" but sandlot players will still say they're playing baseball.

Within the context of the rules, though, "golf" is whatever follows the rules. Even leagues that modify the Rules of Golf could be said to be playing a sport other than "golf." The rules define the game, and unlike the NCAA and football or basketball (etc.), there's one set of rules for "golf" and that's across the entire WORLD, not just within a specific league. Poker, why, that's just the "conditions of the competition" or "Local Rules" - you're still playing "poker" even if fives are wild (I'm guessing - I'm not a big poker player) just as you're still playing "golf" with different CoC/LR in place.

So long as someone else is enjoying the game, too, I don't really care what you do and call it golf. Have a blast. So long as we're not talking about it in the context of the rules, I'll call it "golf" right alongside you. Just don't brag to me about your 75… because again, that's when the context of the rules matters.

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Not saying a practice or casual round isn't real golf, or that I don't keep score on these types of rounds. Just making the determination that if I knowingly break a rule, I won't apply that towards my HI.

If I hit a drive that I'm reasonably sure will be found, I won't hit a provisional. On occasions, the ball is lost in the rough or leaves. Instead of slowing down the round for everyone by walking back to the tee, I'll take a drop in the rough, give myself two penalty strokes, hit my 4th shot and continue to keep score. If my score at the end of that round is low, I'll still feel good about it (likely won't brag about a low 90's score). If asked, I'll tell someone without going into details - not to be deceptive, but because no one cares how I shot my 94.

What I wouldn't do is post it towards my HC. Maybe there's a way to do it under 4.2, but I don't know that rule applies in this example.

When I play a practice or casual round and play close to the rules, I consider it real golf. However, there are times when I concentrate efforts on a specific part of the game without keeping score, sometimes picking up without chipping or putting. This doesn't fit my definition of golf any more than hitting in my backyard does. It's 100% practice.

As the entry title implies, ones definition of real golf is subjective.

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1 hour ago, JonMA1 said:

As the entry title implies, ones definition of real golf is subjective.

I think everything from a practice round to a casual round with mulligans to a competitive tournament is still "golf", even if you pick up without chipping or putting. 

What you are talking about (to me) is what makes a real score. That would only include rounds played in accordance with the RoG.

It is interesting that golf is different from other sports...there are no "rules of baseball" or "rules of soccer". Each league has its own, and there are commonalities, but no single set of rules.

 

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Common sets of rules in baseball, basketball, or softball then adopted with modified rules locally or internationally.  Take Little League, then it's World Series in PA for example.  

Now about golf.  Fun no matter how you slice it.  I score keep when I'm play with others, usually not alone as I practice other things as it might not be considered real golf by others standards.  It's all golf.

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Real golf, to me, is being 100+ yards out, on a windy day, standing in light, browned-out rough, the match all square, and wondering if I can bump a 9 iron to a back left pin location.  The temperature is hovering around 48 and the course is all but deserted.  My fellow competitor is closer; but mulling over a ticklish pitch over a green-side bunker.  Playing it safe seems an opportunity wasted and, with two holes to go, this shot could determine the match.  That, to me, is golf.

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People want to soften the rules of golf so they don't have to admit that they aren't as good as they would like to think they are. People who maintain a handicap who cut corners really aren't doing themselves a favor. If you're playing to an artificially low handicap, you will have to compete using that handicap. The opposite is the sandbagger who inflates his/her handicap to gain an advantage in a competition. Why not play be THE rules and let the chips fall where they may? They really aren't that hard.

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3 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

Not saying a practice or casual round isn't real golf, or that I don't keep score on these types of rounds. Just making the determination that if I knowingly break a rule, I won't apply that towards my HI.

You know this violates the rules of handicapping, yes? :-) You're supposed to be posting almost everything you play, even if you concede putts, etc.

3 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

What I wouldn't do is post it towards my HC. Maybe there's a way to do it under 4.2, but I don't know that rule applies in this example.

Hole not played under the rules of golf. Par + handicap.

1 hour ago, Hardspoon said:

What you are talking about (to me) is what makes a real score. That would only include rounds played in accordance with the RoG.

I tend to agree.

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38 minutes ago, iacas said:

You know this violates the rules of handicapping, yes? :-) You're supposed to be posting almost everything you play, even if you concede putts, etc.

Hole not played under the rules of golf. Par + handicap.

I did not know either of these until now. I understand how to score under rule 4.2 - I just didn't realize it applied to intentionally breaking a rule. Par plus handicap would likely improve my net score on the scenario I described.

Thanks for the info. I'm still pretty ignorant concerning the ROG.

As you may or may not know, most of the rounds I play are solo. None of those can be counted towards a legitimate HI anyway. The entire exercise of posting scores to an online handicap service was to track progress when playing as close to the rules as I understood them. It was not to enter tournaments and it certainly wasn't to brag about getting it to under 24. 

I would decide before a round whether I was going to post it or consider it practice. I didn't wait for a good round and then decide "this will be a good one to enter". That's why there were some poor rounds entered and some good rounds left out.

4 hours ago, Hardspoon said:

What you are talking about (to me) is what makes a real score. That would only include rounds played in accordance with the RoG.

What I've tried to describe is what golf means to me. Changing the rules for the sole purpose of making the game easier just isn't enjoyable, much in the way I don't think putting to 8" holes would be much fun, or always playing from forward tees. The score is only part of the equation. 

3 hours ago, Hatchman said:

Now about golf.  Fun no matter how you slice it.  I score keep when I'm play with others, usually not alone as I practice other things as it might not be considered real golf by others standards.  It's all golf.

^^^ this, and this vvv.

2 hours ago, Piz said:

Real golf, to me, is being 100+ yards out, on a windy day, standing in light, browned-out rough, the match all square, and wondering if I can bump a 9 iron to a back left pin location.  The temperature is hovering around 48 and the course is all but deserted.  My fellow competitor is closer; but mulling over a ticklish pitch over a green-side bunker.  Playing it safe seems an opportunity wasted and, with two holes to go, this shot could determine the match.  That, to me, is golf.

Real golf means different things to different people, imo. I don't think there's a wrong answer to the question.

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Real golf to me is what the professionals play. They are the top of the line golfers who play the game. They are the real deal when it comes to golfers playing golf.  It's their living, and how they play determines the life they live. I, as a non professional, can deviate from the rule book, depending on whatever playing situation I might be in. The pros can't deviate from those rules for the most part. 

I just golf, and play my own game, much like most amateurs do. The only part of the game I have in common with the pros is the rule book. 

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I think anyone who tries to play by the rules, and has some semblance of decorum, can be said to be play real golf, no matter the score.

It might not be very pretty, granted. 

I also think part of this is respecting the course, the way it is laid out and was intended to be played. 

 

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6 hours ago, Kalnoky said:

I also think part of this is respecting the course, the way it is laid out and was intended to be played.

This is something I certainly appreciate about the game. Every course is so unique. I'm unsure if natural parts of courses that give golfers trouble - a giant tree on the inside corner of a dog leg for example - are in place by design, or if they are simply (un)happy accidents. 

Over the last couple years, the grounds crew at my home course has done away with a couple bunkers and cleaned up other areas that had always given me fits. In a way, it's kind of disappointing... like the course has lost some of it's teeth (corny analogy, I know).

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Real golf is going out and playing by the rules.e.g playing for your handicap.

As suggested here there's loads of variations of the game which makes it fun.

 

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I seldom play with anyone who plays by the rules; they think they do but they don't.  For example, I ask my buddy, "What was that drop".  He says, "I was in roots, I'm not going to injure myself or damage my clubs".  He doesn't take a penalty, he doesn't realize there is a rule (unplayable lie) for that situation.  That is relatively innocent compared to a couple of players who just can't seem to keep track of their score on a hole, and they always make a mistake on the low score side of things.

The argument of simplifying the rules doesn't make a lot of sense to me given the types I play with.  They don't follow the rules and they don't know the rules (though as I said in their own mind they play by the rules).  If the rules were simplified I'd bet they still wouldn't know the rules.

 

 

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Very interesting discussion. I play by one rule-"Play the ball as it lies"--which means by the rules. I practice by another rule-"what am I trying to learn?". I can play at a good pace because I know the rules. I don't have to take the time debating what to do. Just like marking your ball when it leaves the fairway so you can find it. My father taught me the game. He would not let me on a course until I knew every shot, rule and etiquette marker there was. Lack of knowing those is what's wrong with the game today (well one of the things).I don't have to list them. You all have seen them in action. I've been in tournaments where the competitors aren't sure of rules. "That's why there are officials there". That's crap. Learn them.

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For me, riding a cart doesn't seem like real golf.  Golf traditionally was a walking game.  Changing it to a cart riding game is an abomination (unless one is not physically able to walk a course).  Courses that weren't designed to be walked, awful.

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Golf - it's those bears in the hats that drives those little buggies?  great

 

 

(Golf as exercise.....I ride carts, have cocktails, and carry a bunch of extra stuff along - When I want exercise I exercise - every day.  Golf isn't it and doesn't provide much for me at all - maybe when I'm older and can't do "real exercise" (note humorous irony), it'll help the cause, but as a fit 50, it's not much return on a 3-4 hour investment.  If it works for others, that's great, but not for me.)

"Real Golf".....that's so incredibly subjective for most that I don't even want to try to answer nor do I want anyone else to decide for me.  They are perfectly welcome to decide for themselves.  I like best so far the answer that the real golf is pretty much the PGA tour, the rest of us just have an interesting hobby that means something different to each of us.  I'm perfectly happy to play with anyone and have them doing completely different things than I would provided it doesn't slow us down much.  Others seem a bit too concerned with how others play - I suggest they play their own game and I'll play mine.  I am continually amazed that even a small percentage of people just can't handle this.  I'll call my version glof to keep the purists from being offended  .

I also like the answer of respecting the course and each other - but that's not golf, that's just not being a selfish a-hole.  Hopefully 'real golf' serves as an example though...

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Never really understood the idea that the game the pros play and the one we hacks play are worlds apart. Sure, the skill level and the distances are not even close and the goat tracks I play are not tournament courses. But golf is golf.

While I don't have some guy toting my equipment around for me and have only made about $1.50 in lifetime earnings, I still hit a ball from off a tee to a target down range. There are fairways, rough, hazards, greens and holes. I have a bunch of different clubs from which to choose for each shot. I get pissed when I screw up and I'm happy when I play better than usual.

Most of the time I play an entire round by the rules (to the best of my knowledge), but when my game is really in the crapper and I hit a ball I don't like, I might drop another one to see if I can hit it better, then another, then another....

I don't remember ever telling anyone else how they should play. If I have, it was wrong to do so.

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I believe that the game the pros play is NOT real golf.  Courses manicured to pool table fairways and glass table greens.  Caddies toting huge devices designed to advertise products for the use of viewers. Nothing the actual golfer encounters is not practiced and rehearsed and subjected to intense scrutiny.  Young men and women training and specifically designated through a huge grueling and often failure ridden selection process to entertain the masses, while endorsing and being paid grossly exaggerated fees to appear and play.  None of that says Real Golf to me.  It is  an entertaining diversion for Northern Americans and Canadians who can only seasonally play at a game they love. Give me a fine day, a good companion, a reasonable expectation of hitting some good shots, and watching some.  Give me some laughs on the course and a chance to remember portions of the round forever.  That is my Real Golf

Edited by gatsby47

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Real golf to me is playing it by the rules, putt everything out. I agree the PGA tour with a gallery for the top players which can stop a ball going over the green is a little fake in that way. I play better when I walk but as I approach 70 on a course where walk between holes is long and cart area are very limited on the course. However, I use a cart but walk a lot for the exercise between shots. My top challenge is keeping tempo slow enough, walking helps me do that, the rhythm of walking is a good metronome for me.

Walking helps pace as well as I can line up as I walk up to the shots.

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I play munis/publics, mostly with my wife once a week,  at home and when visiting friends and family. I occasionally play a private course with business associates. WE all seem to play the same way. Use a HCP app, try to play by the rules, try to keep track of strokes and hcp is somewhat important, who doesn't want to reduce their score. 

At the end of the games, we count up, laugh about the BS and go home happy.

I couldn't care less what others do other than keep up to the folks in front of us and not be self centred assholes

Thats my golf

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I have been thinking about this question for a long time. I believe my answer is what is magical about golf. It's a paradox. Golf is beautiful and maddening. It's a love/hate cliche. Giving it up would be painful, and okay, too. 

Golf is the perfect shot, whatever that means to the individual. It's the feeling of weightlessness when the club hits the ball right in the sweet spot. It's seeing it go up in the air against that blue sky, in the direction you intended. The right distance, landing in the right spot, ready for the next shot, or putt. It's draining the long ones.

Missing the short ones is the end of the joy and the beginning of the misery. So easy to leave it on the edge of the cup. Or a mishit putt which goes by the hole and keeps...on...going. It's the slice, the duck hook, the top. It's the bad shot after the perfect shot. Golf is frustrating, and that's as much of the beauty of golf as the perfection. Golf is the shot that makes me want to come back and do it again.

They say about a lot of things: You take the bad with the good. That's a negative. Golf is taking it all, and loving every minute of it. As Rory said in an interview I read today, you can't do anything well unless you love it. And I do love golf, even if I can't do it well.

That's what golf is to me.

 the challenge of doing it again

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I guess when I think of real golf, I think of the round I played yesterday (Sunday). Played with the wife at 7:20 in the morning at the local Muni (one of the only places you can still walk in the morning). Enjoyed the scenery, got paired up with a single who was a nice guy, had a cheeseburger and a couple beers at the end. Complained about how I hit my driver, was glad I hit my irons well and putted pretty good. It only took 3 and half hours, didn't wait much to hit shots. All around enjoyable morning. Weather was nice. Looking forward to getting out again. Hope springs eternal.

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Now that you've brought up this topic, it appears that I play rounds under vastly different sets of rules and dependent on with whom I play.

League night:  Our league (local rules) says you can improve you lie in the rough until the grass is growing and it's mowed sometime in May each season.  Winter/Summer rules effect.  We can always improve our lie in the fairway due to people who don't know how to fill or replace divots or the mowers went over soft areas leaving them as unmarked ground under repair areas.  Also, I don't care what my opponent does, (within reason) because regardless, I'm counting his strokes on each hole as well.  So far, I've called someone out exactly ZERO times.  It's just not worth bad feelings and straining friendships over something that is supposed to be fun and recreational.

Saturday matches:  Our usual group of 8 plays for skins, pin shots and match play results.  We play as close to the rules of golf as each of us in a collective 4-some knows them and can agree upon during any possible ruling.  Ironically, I don't shoot any worse playing this way than playing on a league night under the more relaxed local rules.

Wife rounds:  These are for practice.  We both take seconds off the tee if we feel like it, pick up and record bogus scores, pull them out of hazards without penalty.  Oh and a round of golf with the wife usually includes beers on the course and a nice dinner outdoors afterwards.  Again, we're just out there to enjoy the company of each other, a beautiful day on a nice golf course and spend a summer Sunday doing something we both enjoy.

Lastly, if you're trying to take money out of my pocket there's only one set of rules and we both play by them.  Every shot.  Every hole.  This way, you're taking my money fair and square.  Oh and I'll need 2 strokes a side!  :-D

dave

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