Golf has always been rooted in respect for the Rules and trust, which is why cheating is THE MOST emotive subject in our game.
Justin Doeden’s recent admission that he cheated, reducing his score to try to make the cut in a PGA Tour Canada event, made headlines mainly because it’s so rare in a professional event for someone to think no-one’s going to spot what they’ve done.
Professional golf, even at relatively low levels, has multiple cameras and replays, plus scorers with every group and roving officials on carts or buggies.
Not so amateur golf, sadly, where the only people present can often be the player and his or her partner.
A guy at one of my clubs was recently called out by a playing partner for moving his ball in the rough... his response was simple: “So what? People cheat all the time!”.
I may have just been incredibly lucky, but in my experience that’s simply not true.
Cheating is incredibly rare, which is why the attitude that permeates many a group of casual golfers – that everyone should be regarded as a cheat unless they can prove they’re not – is as petty as it’s counterproductive.
Of course, “cheating” can be subjective: crossing out a 7 and writing a 5 in its place is cut-and-dried, and Doeden will be branded by the incident now, just as Patrick Reed may find himself, after numerous incidents.
But what about not really trying too hard so your handicap index goes up a shot and you get a better chance of winning some money off your mates – is that cheating?
Don’t be shy though: if you suspect someone isn’t playing by the rules then report them to the Committee or call them out yourself.
If I’m playing in a competition with someone who’s apparently not too accurate with their scoring, I’ll always arrange to mark their card, and when they hole out I'll say “good six” before they get a chance to tell me it was a five.
Ultimately, golf is better and more enjoyable for being based on trust, than sports that put an umpire or a referee in place and if they don't see an incident then it’s all good and accepted.