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While most of the marketing efforts of the golf industry paint golf as a hallowed, formal and uncontaminated game, where the primary aspiration is to become a PGA TOUR player, the reality is quite different. According to a new survey conducted by Google Consumer Surveys, based on more than 6,800-screened Internet respondents, the vast majority of golfers regularly disregard the rules, have no idea what a USGA Handicap is and are increasingly turning to non- conforming equipment in an effort to maximize their enjoyment of the rigorous but popular game.

Among the findings were an overwhelming majority of golfers admit to bending the official rules of the game

; 61% of respondents said they sometimes take mulligans, gimme putts and other popular infractions such as using a "foot wedge." An additional 12% said they always bend the rules, while 27% claimed to have never broken the rules during play.

Most golfers acknowledged they aren't even aware of specific rules. 72% said they have never read the USGA's Rules of Golf, which dictate standards for professional play, competitive amateur tournaments and club championships. The overwhelming majority of golfers are "recreational golfers," and have no desire to follow the same standards as professionals. The survey found that fewer than 15% of respondents keep an official USGA handicap, and a similar number are not even sure what a USGA handicap is.

A majority of golfers play for fun, 78% in fact. Just 22% played golf according to more formal or stringent rules such as the USGA's Rules of Golf because they play for the challenge, work or to be an aspiring professional. A majority, 63%, of golfers said they would consider using golf equipment that was banned from professional play but allowed for recreational use. 37% of respondents said they would not consider playing professionally banned equipment.

One in five Americans has played golf; 21% answered yes or sometimes. The survey comes as the golf industry faces some interesting challenges. According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF), golf rounds fell from 518 million to 475 million in the past decade and declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2011.The numbers of golfers stood at 26.1 million at the end of 2010, down from 30 million in 2005. Golfers are leaving the game, largely due to inconvenient rules, excessive play times and high costs.

"The results of this Google survey confirm our own statistics," said Dave Felker, CEO and Head of Technology for Polara Golf, which commissioned the survey that was conducted from November 08-14, 2012 and was based on 6,824 screened responses with 95% confidence. "The majority of golfers are looking for a little help with their game. They're fine with the idea of playing with recreational golf equipment such as our anti-slice golf balls which remove a lot of frustration and allows them to have more fun on the course."