As spring takes hold, nothing could be more fun and exciting than a golf outing. Okay, maybe not so much the exciting part. After all, we're talking about a sport where TV announcers whisper and the usually silent crowd occasionally cheers: “Get in the hole, ball! GET in the HOLE!!!”

This year more than ever before, one of the biggest challenges in planning a golf event is budget. After years of providing glamorous days of golf at Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines, it's tough to explain why you'll be going to “Ye Old Buccaneer's Miniature Golf and Sno-Cone Emporium,” where the biggest challenge is getting the ball through the pirate's mouth.

But even after budgetary matters are settled, there are other challenges. That's because most people are divided into two camps: 1) the zealots and 2) the rest of us.

The zealots adore the game and want their days filled with golf, starting with practice rounds and ending late in the day at the bar, where the true devotees wager about whether they can putt a cocktail meatball into a martini glass.

Then there's the rest of the world, the folks who hate golf because they have tried — and failed — to master it. It's time for these rookies to tee off, then march into the woods to hunt for the ball, which is what most folks do when golfing: wander around, making important business deals and swapping recipes. Oh sure, there might be a few oddballs who actually control the flight of the ball, but the real action is in the woods, which everyone occasionally leaves to go putt.

Putting can take most of a lifetime because you have to squat down, dangle the putter in front of your face, flick putt-interrupting microbes from the path of your ball, wait for all noise on the planet to stop, and then miss the putt. Then the next person does this and so on, until everyone yawns and proceeds to the next hole, tees off, and goes back into the woods. But no matter what you do, you're sure to break one of the roughly two million rules of golf.

One of the major rules that everyone is tempted to break is: You can't improve your lie, i.e., you have to play the ball wherever it lands. Experienced golfers have a bagful of tricks to surreptitiously improve their lie and then lie about it. But they still chuckle as they watch the beginners whack the ball through bushes, off the tops of soda machines and out of scum-laden ponds.

Once the round is through, everyone repairs to the bar to tell stories about their birdies and eagles, and how they had to wrestle a wolverine in the woods. The beginners try to explain why they spent most of the day wandering in the woods screaming obscenities. The experienced players already understand. “Welcome to the dark side,” they chuckle.

When he's not writing humor columns, Mike Donlin writes technical and marketing articles, presentations, and press releases for the electronics industry. He is based in Hudson, N.H., and can be reached at