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What If the DOL Wrote the Rules of Golf?

By Don Trone

    

The U.S. and British golf associations recently announced that significant changes are being proposed to make the rules of golf easier to understand, and the game less time-consuming and more fun to play.

"How do we make them (rules) easier to understand and apply for golfers around the world at all levels? And how do we look at delivery, so when you as a golfer get in the book, you actually understand what you are reading?" ---Thomas Page, Senior Director, U.S. Golf Association

Imagine what would happen if the DOL was put in charge of writing the Rules of Golf.

Let's say a pseudo-academic study is published which shows that retirees lose 17 billion golf balls every year. Furthermore, that lost golf balls have a material, negative impact on the savings of retirees. Viola; there's now an argument -- albeit an extremely questionable one -- for the DOL to get involved.

The fact that the DOL has almost no experience actually playing golf won't be an issue. Just the same, to make sure there is perceived public support, the DOL will seek backing from certain large associations that believe golf is the root of all evil.

The DOL's proposed rules will likely be verbose and complex to mask the fact that the Department lacks familiarity with the subject. The rules will probably be so complex that every foursome will need to bring along their own lawyer.

The DOL will likely state that golf courses now have unlimited liability for lost golf balls. In response, golf course owners will instruct their groundskeepers to drain the water hazards, fill in the sand traps and bunkers, and cut down all the trees.

The DOL will require that there be no variability to course play. From now on every hole in golf, at every golf course, must be the exact same yardage. The first hole will be 275 yards; the second hole, 275 yards; the third hole, 275 yards; etc.

Though most golfers keep an average of 14 clubs in their bag, the DOL will rule that only three clubs can be carried: your putter, 7 iron, and 3 wood. Now that every hole is 275 yards, there is no need for any other clubs.

If you desire to use an additional club, the DOL will require that before you tee off you disclose to every member of your foursome that you will be seeking a club exemption. The requisite Best Club Exemption (BCE) document also will be verbose and complex, so leave plenty of time for your foursome's attorney to review the document with each of the other players. If you only intend to use the additional club for one hole, the DOL has made provisions for a BCE-lite.

As for greens fees, rates will significantly increase because owners now have unlimited liability for lost balls. As for payment of the fees, the DOL will allow you to choose whether you want to pay a levelized monthly fee or pay a separate fee for each time you play. Though the method of payment is optional, the DOL and its advocates already have determined that the only honest golfers are those who pay the levelized fee. The rest are "villains" (term of endearment used by one of the DOL advocates).

Depending on whom you talk to at the golf course, your tee time will either be on April 10, 2017, or June 9, 2017. There's also talk of applying an incomprehensible shotgun format.

If you ever do get to play, expect to see a LOT of course marshals. The DOL is going to deputize every plaintiff attorney to enforce the new rules. If you miss your tee time, expect to get sued. Hit a ball out of bounds; hit out of sequence; forget to pull or replace the pin; forget to repair your divot on the course or your ball mark on the green, you'll get a summons.

In closing: If you enjoy the challenge of trying to master an incredibly difficult course, you're out-of-luck. Now every course will have the same slope rating, every putting green will be levelized.

If you already have devoted considerable time, money, and energy to becoming a great golfer, you're out-of-luck. Now everyone will be able to boast that they play golf, and your expertise won't mean a thing because everyone's handicap will be levelized.

One of the unintended consequences of the DOL's involvement in writing the new rules of golf will be that people who know and love the game will stop playing. The only people on the course will be those who have never swung a club.

On the other hand, retirees will no longer lose 17 billion golf balls a year -- mission accomplished, DOL!

Don Trone, GFS® is the founder and CEO of 3ethos. He has been involved with the fiduciary movement for more than 30 years. He was the founder and former President of the Foundation for Fiduciary Studies, and was the principal founder and former CEO of fi360. He has authored or co-authored twelve books on the subjects of fiduciary responsibility, portfolio management, and leadership. He has a 22 handicap, provided he's given a mulligan on each side.

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