How To Handle A Cheater On The Golf Course

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?

  9 comments for “How To Handle A Cheater On The Golf Course

  1. elliot forest says:

    I play golf with a friend who always cheats…his next honest round will be his first. Let’s see; rake putting; one handed putting; mulligans, do overs, doesn’t count penalty stroke; ball goes out of bounds and he places new ball on the fairway…not two but twenty club lengths from point of entry into hazard; and just general stroke shaving. I’ve learned to stop calling him out on it since he just doesn’t “get it.” In general conversation he will say, “I’m out to have a good time.” So is everybody else! To me, having a good time and being honest about entering a score are not mutually exclusive. When you consider that the golfer, himself, is on the honor system of entering a correct and accurate score, it becomes a question of integrity and character. My solution for my particular dilemma with this “friend”..I will never be on the same scorecard with him, even if I end up riding with him.

    • Pat Mullaly says:

      I agree… Golf is an individual sport … and honesty and integrity and key to making it a game everybody can enjoy. I’ll play with a cheater once. Never again. His loss, my gain.

  2. golf Lover says:

    I luv golf, but its true to me that it is not the same as real sport in the general sense that you have refs or umpires or even judges-any weenie that wants to can cheat and get away with it 99.999% of the time. Therefore it falls below diving, gymnastics, synchronized swimming etc. as a sport.

    • Pat Mullaly says:

      The fact there is no other umpire or refs on the course but yourself puts the total burden for honest play squarely on your own shoulders. Golfers who cheat soon find themselves without partners. It’s just bad form. Of course, if your golf buddies always accept the occasional foot wedge… that’s another story. But it’s best not to go down that road.

  3. clarissa says:

    This is some great advice here. Just reading the title really got me to thinking. Some people don’t enjoy rigorous weather conditions when it comes to playing golf. However, I think its a great adventure and adds a bit of challenge to the normal hum drum golf game.

  4. Pat Mullaly says:

    How To Handle A Cheater On The Golf Course

  5. Pat Mullaly says:

    Blog Post: How To Handle A Cheater On The Golf Course

  6. Scot Duke says:

    Good point. I would think that at the very least the person cheating should be called on it right away since my studies show that over 60% of the people playing golf today do not know the rules or that they cheat since they learned to play from someone who cheats. Unfortunately, some cheats don’t like to be called cheaters and in a business golf situation that can get rather touchy. I am with you..just don’t play golf with them again or do business with them either…the cheating trait will come up again sooner or later.

    • Pat says:

      Thanks for your comment Scot. I find that what happens on the golf course usually reflects what happens off the golf course. Golf really is a metaphor for life.

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