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Is Cheating Rife In Golf

By Robert Hardie August 01, 2023 16 comments

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.

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  • This new handicap system has produced more bandits than ever before.. 4 players playing from the same club in opens is a recipe for cheating.. my club is riddled with cheating.. playing of fictional handicaps is rife and some are blatantly admitting it..

    Jim Lockerby on

  • I agree with all that has been said but, luckily, my club stipulates that only players with a minimum of 9 bona fide competition qualifying cards, not general play, are able to win prizes in competitions.

    Keith Gleghorn on

  • I regularly play seniors matches, and some teams seem to think that they only need to put in three cards per year. The argument from their side is that as they play Matchplay amongst themselves, they self-regulate their handicaps. Delusional or what? These are the same people who will shout if an opponent turns up and has ‘one of those games’. You know the sort of game, where it seems you can do nothing wrong – but know full well that the next game is going to drag you straight back to earth!

    And don’t think it’s just the seniors. Many new to the game since the pandemic, seem to think that once they get their handicap after joining, they no longer have to enter cards, so don’t bother entering comps, then wonder why they can’t get a game with established members.

    Then there is the odd player (who appears in most groups) who has a ‘leather wedge’ in their kit – they just need a quiet word to put them right.

    There you go, a gripe or two – must be more, but they will do!

    John on

  • The word cheating in my regular golf group is abhorrent.
    People make mistakes, however, continuous mistakes need investigating. The new WHS relies on individual golfers to maintain a realistic handicap. Manipulation of a handicap by purposeful bad play is abhorrent.
    There may be many rules that not all people agree with, however, playing the game in the spirit of the ancient game means obeying the rules.
    Enough said.

    John Krancioch on

  • Handicap protection UGH!! I play a lot in Spain and it’s rife. 4 putting the last 2 greens with qualifying cards, tearing up competition cards and posting NR when they know they have a good score but not enough to win !!
    There should still be a minimum number of qualifying cards required for each season and not just 3 as the old system. Make it 5 or 6 and it would cut down on the problem.
    Other thing I’ve come across playing amatuer events here in the UK….
    “score 3 on a par 3….put me down for 2 and add one to the score on the next hole, no different to final score but there’s a prize for 2’s” . UNBELIEVABLE at least I wish it was.
    Thankfully I do believe it’s the exception rather than the norm at least here in the UK.

    Stefan on

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