The phrase is deus ex machina. The meaning is fluid, as far as I can tell, but it seems in popular usage to be something unexpected that for no obvious reason makes sense of gibberish or substance of nothingness.
Herewith golf, the simplest game. Its goal, its very essence, is simple, which is to strike the small white ball as many times as necessary to make it come to rest on the putting green and thus to hit the ball along the ground enough times to make it drop into the cup.
Nothing to it, nothing in it, a blank slate begging to be filled, which looks a lot like anarchy to some people. Which might be why the golf authorities have given us the deus ex machina, i.e., the rules, with sub-rules and exceptions and exemptions and explanatory notes. They stuff all that guidance into a compact paperbound booklet titled, simply, “Rules of Golf.”
For the 2019 version, they really got busy.
Just for instance: The Rules now offer a new procedure for dropping a ball (from knee-high, rather than shoulder-high).
Did you know: You now can get relief from any embedded lie, except in bunkers, without penalty.
This just in: New! Less stringent! Yes, there are new guidelines for removing loose impediments in a penalty area (such as outside the red stakes alongside water), including allowing grounding the club. You still can’t ground the club in a bunker.
Rule 13-2a(2) says, for the first time, that a putter (the person putting) may leave the flagstick in the hole when attempting a putt from the green and a putted ball striking the pin incurs no penalty. Call it the Bryson DeChambeau rule: He took them up on it at the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, and led the field in Thursday’s first round in strokes gained putting (and didn’t much give a shit if anybody didn’t like it).
Like any enhancements in the name of progress, modernity and the common good (not to mention speed of play), the rule-makers went on from changes that probably needed to be made to solving problems nobody knew existed — a deus ex machina in reverse?
The rules do come into play in a game of golf, and as dry as the reading of this book might be, passions can run high. For just these times, you can have your very own Rules to tuck into your golf bag. This year you might actually consult it.
The best way I know to acquire it is to establish (or re-up) your membership in the United States Goffin’ Association, one of world golf’s two anti-anarchical governing bodies. Send the USGA $25 and you’ll get a nifty bag tag, a U.S. Open hat, and the Rules.
I know you. You would have us believe you hate conformity of any kind, yet you need — you crave — discipline and order. I’ll leave it to you to wrestle with the Rules and your own particular demons.