When I golf it’s ‘winter rules’ even when it’s 90 degrees

If it’s a crime to deface the Mona Lisa, or to spray graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial, or to yell “Fire” in a crowded movie theater, then why isn’t it illegal for a grown man with a bad swing to wear lime green and pink striped pants with a matching hat on a public golf course?

Fortunately for those of us with refined sporting sensibilities, golfing attire is more sedate these days, and the casual golfer is less frequently subjected to the sight of some pathetic hacker ball-peening his way around a course wearing pants of a color more commonly associated with the posterior of a baboon.

I’m thinking about golf because this weekend I’ll be joining some friends in a couple of rounds of golf at the Suncadia resort near Roslyn. I haven’t golfed in nearly a year, and I’m a little worried about my game, which was never really very attractive in the traditional sense of that word, perhaps not in any known sense of the word, and has not improved with age and loss of flexibility.

But I enjoy golf nonetheless. Everything I know about golf I learned from a book that I never read by Bobby Rusher, which includes chapters with titles such as “How to Hit a Top Flite out of the Rough When You Hit a Titleist from the Tee Box,” “How to Get More Distance out of a Shank,” and “How to Find a Ball that Everyone Else Saw Go into the Water.”

I don’t practice or read books about improving my golf swing or my putting, yet I always believe that my game will improve every time I play, which I do religiously once or twice a year. Thus, I am always surprised when my first drive slices into the trees, or when I am hitting my second shot from a spot just short of the women’s tee, or I leave my fourth putt more than a foot short of the hole. I start out each round hoping to shoot my age and end up wishing I could just shoot my weight.

I don’t use a golf cart; you can get to the places I hit the ball using public transportation. I consider it a good day if I hit at least one ball further than I was able to throw my best club. Once I’ve given up hope of breaking 100 (which usually occurs when I find myself lying five on the first hole tee box), I turn my attention to my real golfing specialty, which is distracting the guys I’m playing with in the hopes of reducing their games to my level.

I’ve mastered all the basic techniques — jingling keys and loose change in my pocket, strategic coughing, tactical shadow work on the greens, stepping on my opponent’s ball to unimprove its lie, and making suggestions about where not to hit the ball during back swings and at the point of contact on tricky putts.

The truth is I like golf as much for its non-golfing components as for the game itself. What’s not to like about a nice long walk through well-manicured lawns, beautiful old trees and soothing water features? It’s truly a shame to mar such a pleasant diversion with the need to muscle an uncooperative ball out of some long grass or through a stand of inconveniently placed trees.

To avoid just such distractions, I tend to make liberal use of my shoe wedge and the concept of “winter rules.” I also only count those strokes where I make good contact with the ball; to do otherwise is to reward failure. During the course of a round, there’s always plenty of time to reminisce with friends, laugh at particularly inept shots or regrettable club selections and to indulge in a few mild vices.

After our early morning round of golf and mandatory afternoon nap, we’ll probably head into Roslyn for an animal protein and carbohydrate-intensive post-game meal at the Brick Tavern, and maybe pick up a dozen or so donuts for the next morning’s breakfast before we head back for a game of cards and a friendly recap of the morning’s round of golf, a recap which will undoubtedly make my game sound like an unlikely combination of Tiger Woods and Woody Woodpecker.

It’s not a bad life. And without the pink and green pants, it’s a downright fine one.

Tom Tyner of Bainbridge Island writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper.