Unlike most sports golf is a game where the player calls the shots. He or she is both player and referee. Of course there are rules to follow, as in all sports, but interpretation of those rules can, in some cases, be individualized. For example: play the ball as it lies. According to the USGA rule book you are not supposed to improve the way your ball is at rest. But I’ve seen a lot of golfers kick their ball out of a divot left by another player and claim it’s ok. It isn’t. Yes, you can move your ball off a sprinkler head in the middle of the fairway because that is a man-made object. But you are not allowed to move your ball out of a natural depression in the grass. But then, you may ask, isn’t a divot a “man-made” depression? and as you can move your ball out or off a man-made object can’t you move it out of a divot? You see where this is going. There are rules and there is the interpretation of rules.
It can all get a bit sticky, especially if you are playing a round and you intend to enter the score in the GHIN system for your handicap. If everyone could interpret the rules of golf in their own favor, the handicap system would not reflect reality.
In a tournament the rules are governed by the league or golf pro in charge, and they have the last word. Even in a friendly game between golf buddies, if there is a difference of opinion or a question about the rules in a given situation the best way to resolve the dispute is to play a second ball and then check with the golf pro when you return to the clubhouse. Just be sure you are not holding up the golfers behind you.
But what do you do if you find someone blatantly cheating? You watch them move their ball without explanation, or report a score you know is one or two strokes less than the truth. They ground their club in a sand bunker and swear they never touched the surface. Stupid things. What do you do?
Recently, golfgurls conducted a survey asking this question with an extra twist: the cheater is your boss. The results were revealing:
- 44% of those responding determined they would pretend they didn’t see it
- 28% would call him or her on it right then and there
- 25% would let it go but confront the person later
- and 3% would decide to cheat a little themselves to “even things up”
I think the best way to handle a cheater on the golf course is to never play with them again. If they cheat on the golf course where integrity is key, they’ll cheat or cut corners in a lot of other areas of life. That’s the type of person I would rather stay away from on or off the golf course.
Is it important to tell others about the cheater? I don’t think so. Sooner or later people find out on their own. Best to just let the cheater’s reputation ooze out on its own. Truth always finds a way.
What do you think? What would you do if you caught someone cheating?