Why Do We Cheat At Golf?

The recent post I made about the rules of golf got me to thinking about how golfers bend the rules.  Then I saw a small article in Golf Magazine about this as well.  So it really made me think about why golfers will cheat at golf.

In the Golf Magazine article it said that a survey of 15,000 everyday golfers reported that 95 percent of golfers knowlingly break the rules.  It also stated that the Duke student who headed up the study said it was because in their minds, it was not cheating.

So look at a foot wedge that many of us may have used before.  Is that cheating, especially if we claim “winter rules”?  Yes, by the rules of golf, it is cheating.

So is this guy right?  Do we just rationalize it in our own mind?   I believe in most cases that is the case.  In some cases, I think that it is just really ignorance of the Rules of Golf.  But most often, I agree with him, I think we talk ourselves into it.  For a variety of reasons.

First there is the rationalization that it’s just a friendly game with our regular foursome and we all allow each other to improve our lies.  That’s fair and even right?  No, technically, it is cheating; even if we all do it. 

Then there is the one that the idiot that designed the course should never, ever have put that tree (trap, creek, bush, swale, etc) there so we are going to correct his obvious design flaw?  Or what about hitting your ball during a practice swing?  Well, it was just practice so it doesn’t count?

Many reasons why we do it, but we tend to rationalize almost all of them.  But here is what I believe is the more important question.  Is it ok?  Say if it is just a round with friends and we all allow certain things to be ignored.  Is that ok? 

We all probably have very different opinions on this one, but here is mine.  If you can separate the situations from when you are playing competitively against other golfers or where you are going to be in a tournament of any kind, then I believe it’s not a problem.  And I think also that this should be a situation where you don’t turn in your score for handicap purposes.  If all four golfers in your foursome, for example, agree to improve lies in the fairway and there is nothing at stake, then why not I say?

The only problem here is that a lot of golfers can’t separate the two situations.  And the golf purists will argue that cheating is cheating no matter where or when. And I understand their argument.  But I also want to enjoy the game without creating problems. 

And I believe that if you are in any kind of competition, turning in your score card, or playing with a new group, GO STRICTLY BY THE RULES.  And, by the way,  I go by the rules almost all the time.  For me, the exception where we waive the rules is not very often, but it’s a personal choice.

Hope you don’t lynch me on this one, golf nuts.

There Are 11 Responses So Far. »

  1. Dave,

    The most satisfying way to enjoy golf, or any sport, is to Play the Truth! Unless there is a common denominator, the rules, how the hell can you possibly judge your performance? Of the 95%, which sounds very high to me, who cheat, how many of them would you think mention they applied Golf Amnesia (forgetting some strokes and rules) to arrive at their score? Is there some kind of national allowance for “breakfast mulligans”? I wonder who was the first player to coin the phrase “that’s good by me”? Is there a certain amount of feet away from the hole when the “rake” method of putting is allowed?

    There is nothing wrong with playing “fun” golf. Make up whatever score you want. As long as you realize your score is not real. Enjoy your good shots, forget about the bad ones. What has got the sport screwed up is that to many players think that they are real players and they are not. They think they have fooled the world but have only fooled themselves. It is an unfortunate situation which stretches from the weekend duffer up to the some of the biggest names in sports and life.

    In 2011, get real and Play the Truth. The beer tastes better when your score is by the book.

    Bob Penett

  2. It’s funny how when you are playing golf with friends, the rules tend to get overlooked. Sometimes you just have to let it go.

  3. The problem here for golfers is not that the rules are unfair, the problem is that almost every player attempts to play to standards that are only achievable by PGA players. (check your USGA rules and definitions here) Par, is the stipulated score for an expert golfer…Expert golfer- a ZERO handicap, average drive 250 yards , and can reach a 470yd hole in 2 strokes. This unattainable standard is the reason people have allowed mulligans , gimmies, and other forms of cheating to become socially acceptable. The USGA needs to address the standard of accomplishment for recreational amaetuers, and allow for new ways of scoring to measure success. Please note I am not advocating changing the rules, simply changing the standards of success amateurs can measure themselves by.

  4. If you don’t hit out of that divot, or that dead spot, or the edge of the rough, then how do you know if you are getting any better?
    I play by the rules as best I know them, every time I play. Weather it is a tournament or the first round of golf of the year on our league. (Where “winter rules” are allowed year round).
    I am only a 12 handicap. but, if I played by the rules everyone used on our league I would probably be closer to a 7 or 6. Or would I? Well, I’ll let everyone else play their way and I’ll continue to play mine. At least I know when I’m getting better.

  5. I agree with Bob on this one, being a purist myself. If you “fudge” the rules, the only person you are cheating, is yourself. Why play then? I personally enjoy the competition the game itself presents. You have your good days, and your bad. Whether or not you took a few liberties with the rule book, is the TRUE measure of your love for the game. All that being said, I have given a few mulligans in my time, but never taken any. I have allowed a gimme or two, but never taken any. I don’t get how you can feel good about a score you didn’t earn. Like Bob said, “Play The Truth!” If you really want to measure your metal, then play it straight!

  6. Golf is a sport that embraces integrity. Whenever we choose to circuvent the rules of the sport , we are only cheating ourselves. We will never know how much better we have become if we ignore penalties of omission or commission. We really need to honor the game abide by the rules. We will feel better for it and our scores will also improve as we learn to recover from our mistakes, not ignore them.


  7. Cheating or bending the rules, call it what you want. Every player, knows if thier score was earned or not. If there are no bets on the line among your group, my feeling is…”it’s your score” do want you want! Just don’t brag about a 79 if you used a foot wedge, dropped a ball out of your pocket, and took a mulligan. The quality of the courses the PGAers play is nothing short of pristine. If you indeed are playing a friendly game, ultimately competing against yourself, and(I)find a ball laying in course condition that is NOT supposed to be, I will take a free drop. Example, one round my ball came to rest by the little “carts this way sign” in front of the green on the right side, just off the apron. The grass was mowed “around” the sign leaving about a three foot diameter patch of 8 inch tall grass. If the mower guy would have taken a minute to move the sign, then mow, my lie would have been very nice! Also, our course, on several holes can be inudated with moles. On or off the fairway, if my ball rolls against and stops against the mole created ridge, again, I’m going to roll my ball. Different strokes for different folks.

  8. Amateur golfers everywhere need to realize that the love of the game should not be based on score but the game itself. I agree with casey in the Par is for the best players on their best days. The average person who does not practice, has a job other than golf along with whatever else, expecting to go out and shoot par everytime they play is simply an unreasonable expectation. If they could actually do that we would be watching them on the golf channel.

    I personally like to play it as it lies myself and enjoy the challenges the game presents, but for anyone else (as long as they are not playing for money or in a tournament setting) I say let them do whatever they need feel helps them enjoy the game. Because really at the end of the day, if an average person goes to the course shoots a 79 in a non competitive or wagered round, but enjoyed and respected the course, the game, shared time with old friends or maybe made some new ones, it really does not matter in the game of life.

  9. I agree with Ryan, unless in a tournament or playing for money, it does not matter, its just practice, you should enjoy yourself and the game. We race from work to the course, rush to the first tee, shoes still unlaced, first swing of the day…hook one into the lake..sure take a mulligan! We play the first hole nothing higher then a bogey. Just keeps you mentally stable for the first 10 minutes. I call that purest vs. the realist.

  10. My problem with people who lie or cheat as you call it, “only with their friends”, about their score is that when the tell me later on that they broke 40/80 and I know that every time I golf with them it would be a miracle for them to break 50/100. They’re trying to tell me that they are a better golfer than me even though I know they are full of it.

  11. If he signs for an incorrect score, he’s DQ’d. I’m sueripsrd if he’s hitting multiple shots at each venture that his score is only 12 strokes higher, considering the penalties for playing the wrong ball (which, if he did this EVERY shot and he’s a 90′s shooter, could put him close to the 120′s). I agree- either quit keeping score, or quit golfing with him. Golf is a window to a person’s soul- if he lies and cheats on the course, he’s gonna lie and cheat in the real world .

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