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Captive audience

Golf rules in Laguna Beach resident Judy Wittenstein’s life and she has written a book about it.

“I’m a Prisoner of Golf,” is Wittenstein’s take on the rules that govern the game to which she says she is addicted, although she had never played until the 1980s, when she was in her 40s and had moved from New York to Southern California.

“I lived in Manhattan and golf was not an option — you’d only carry a club to defend yourself,” Wittenstein said.

Assistant Newport Beach County Club golf-pro Carlo Borunda said he expects to see Wittenstein hit the links at least three or four times a week.


“It keeps me busy,” Wittenstein said.

Her book, illustrated with cartoons by Terry Mitchell of Corona del Mar, stemmed from her efforts as Club Rules chair to educate members about the rules of golf without boring them to death. She decided the best way to get their undivided attention was to hang vignettes on the inside of each bathroom stall in the women’s locker room.

To make sure the vignettes were read, she made the members part of the story.

“That, my friends, is referred to as a ‘captive audience,’ ” Wittenstein said. “The object was to make them laugh and remember the rules. It worked. “


Wittenstein said it wasn’t long before club members began referring to “Claudia’s Rule” or “Debbie’s Rule.”

“Everyone began looking forward to the next story, hoping, even requesting, that they be the next ‘victim.’” Wittenstein said. “The stories took on a life of their own.

“Newport club members talked about them all the time and it’s the most boring subject in the world.”

To make sure all the rules were accurately written, Wittenstein submitted them to the U.S. Golf Assn. to review. She said the association was happy to do it and thanked her for efforts to educate others about the rules.

Regardless of where Wittenstein’s book got its start, the rules apply equally to men and women, including the option for them to start their round by hitting off of either the men’s or the “ladies’” tee.

But who outside of golfers would think a rule was needed to cover the theft of a ball by an alligator?

“It has happened,” Wittenstein said.

Her own personal experience with a ball theft was a little less dramatic, but the rule applied.


“I was hitting a drive and I was on a fairway with condos along the side,” Wittenstein said. “A dog came out of a condo, picked up the ball and ran away.” There was no penalty for losing the ball under those circumstances.

“You just play a new ball,” Wittenstein said.

Dogs or no dogs, par for the Newport Beach club is 71.

“On a good day, if I am playing really well, I shoot in the mid-90s, Wittenstein said. “My best score was an 88 and that was a great day.”

But not as great as hitting a hole in one — one shot off the tee straight into the cup.

Wittenstein has hit two of the coveted shots on the club course, the same hole just six weeks apart.

Mitchell also has scored two holes in one.

They consider their collaboration on the book to be an equal highlight of their lives.


In another life, Wittenstein was a stockbroker for 22 years with Paine Webber, with whom she was affiliated when she moved to California and began to play golf.

“It was a sport I always thought I would like to play,” said Wittenstein. “When I moved here, I took lessons and became addicted.”

She joined the Newport Beach Country Club in 1991.

Wittenstein also has played golf at Aliso Canyon Golf Course in South Laguna since moving to Laguna Beach in 1998.

“It is only a nine-hole course and a rather short course,” Wittenstein said. “It is good for new golfers, but you should wear a helmet with all those balls flying around.”

Off the golf course, Wittenstein attended the Laguna Beach Police Department’s Citizen’s Academy conducted by Sgt. Darin Lenyi.

“I tell everyone they should attend the academy,” Wittenstein said.

Wittenstein subsequently volunteered with the police department, where she worked with former Det. Paul Litchenberg on a cold case that was solved.

“I got involved one day when I was wandering around the department and I met the detective and asked if I could help,” Wittenstein said. “He handed me some case books.”

One of the cases was a murder in 1980 at a hotel in North Laguna.

Wittenstein arranged an appointment with an FBI profiler who would be attending a seminar at UCLA.

“It was very interesting,” Wittenstein said. “The agents look right out of central casting, but I was most impressed by the way they listened.

“We did find the murderer — in Michigan by matching the DNA taken when he was leaving jail.

“Litchenberg called me at about 7:30 a.m. one morning and said, “We got him.”

She no longer volunteers with the department, but takes pleasure in the “Cold Case File Specialist 2004" plaque on her wall.

“Actually, I would do it again,” Wittenstein said.

Provided, of course, it didn’t interfere with her golf.

“I am a Prisoner of Golf” can be purchased at Laguna Beach Books, 1200 S. Coast Highway or ordered through

The book, priced at $9.95, also can be ordered by e-mailing

**** **


Sitting on the bench at the short par-3, the following conversation took place:

I asked Sandey, “Do you think my 3-wood is enough club?”

I was assessed a two-stroke penalty for asking advice! Sandey did not respond to my question; therefore, no penalty to her.

I said to Colleen, “I’ve been watching you and I think you may be over-swinging.”

I was assessed a two-stroke penalty for giving advice. Colleen did not respond to my question; therefore, no penalty to her.

I asked Lynn, “Do you think these green shoes go with my pink shorts?”

This time I did not receive a penalty, but Lynn asked me to wait on the bench for the next group.

In other words...Don’t ask! Don’t tell!

Source: The Rules of Golf -- Rule #8

Where did the term “fore” come from? We know it means “Look out!”

Why don’t we just say “Look out”? Is it because it takes too long to say two words? We could say “Look!” We could say “Whoa!”

If we’re going to use a number, why four? Why not, “Niiiine!” Isn’t that more intense than four? How about “Fiiiive!” Don’t you think those numbers would get your attention?

But the fact is “fore” is an old Scottish military warning cry to troops in foreword positions.

So, obviously golfers feel that playing the game is like going to war and must alert you when one of their cannon balls, I mean golf balls go astray.

Brenda was absolutely mesmerized by this dissertation, but still reminded me that when I picked up my ball on the fairway to make sure it was mine, I neglected to mark it and thus incurred a one-stroke penalty!

I looked at her and yelled “Fore!”

Source: The Rules of Golf -- Rule #12-2