I hope you are able to get out and enjoy lots of golf now that the weather is better and more settled.
It would appear that many of you are organising and entering Open Competitions and I have been informed of some suspicious actions by players during a round.
I have received several emails asking for my advice on how to deal with cheating in Golf.
Perhaps your initial feeling is that you cannot tolerate it and the offender should be disciplined and kicked out of the Club.
But, because of the repercussions of accusing a player of cheating, you need to keep a level-head and carefully assess your approach before you do anything.
What follows are my own ideas on how to approach cheating.
You may not agree with them but I feel they will allow you to deal with a situation without affecting your round, enjoyment of your game or relationship with your playing partner.
A central principle of the game of golf is that players play by the Rules and in the spirit of the game; it makes the game more enjoyable for everyone.
According to studies by the National Golf Foundation, approximately 90% of golfers claim that they play by the rules. So why are there still lots of golfers that sweep away two-footers , improve a lie or take extra tee-shots and don’t add extra strokes?
This is because, basically, although there are players who will always cheat, there are a number of players who don’t even really know they are cheating. So, instead of berating them for it, you should extend them the benefit of the doubt that they are unaware of the cheating – don’t go full pelt into disciplinary action but use the moment to teach them.
You could simply say, ‘You know you’re not supposed to do that?’ and generally, many will thank you for your input and change their behaviour. However, if this isn’t the case and they continue to play the same way, then you simply never play with them again.
Calculate the costs of your actions and always act with a level head.
Golf is seen by many as not just a fun pastime, but also a social event. So, any accusations of cheating in golf can have implications that go way beyond the golfing green. You may accuse a golfer of cheating on the fairway – and then be expected to have a meal and drinks with him/her later… maybe with partners and children.
If the match is of low importance and no one is really losing out greatly by the cheating – and making accusations can cause difficult situations in the future, then it might simply be best just to let things slide. However, if it’s a tournament or important competition, then it’s different. So, are you playing for high stakes or low stakes, or is there more to lose than gain by confrontation?
Calculate what your accusation may cost overall and work out whether it’s worth it.
So, what advice can I offer you?
In 2016, before the New Rules of Golf were introduced in 2019, it was advocated that all Clubs should have both a Code of Conduct and Pace-of-play Policy in place and in the public domain. Unfortunately, not every Club followed the advice.
A policy would provide a reference for players and visitors as to what kind of behaviour was expected from them and, should a player or visitor be guilty of misconduct, a reference to why they were considered to have been in breach of the Code of Conduct and what penalties they might face.
Rule 1.2 is an important Rule in the Rules of Golf as it details the conduct that is expected of all players and what is meant by spirit of the game but on its own it is weak and can be difficult to impose.
There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may under Rule 1.2a, disqualify a player for serious misconduct for acting contrary to the spirit of the game. This applies whether, or not, there is a Code of Conduct in place for a competition.
When considering whether a player is guilty of serious misconduct, the Committee should consider whether the player’s action was intentional and whether the act was significant enough to warrant disqualification without first giving a warning and/or applying other penalties when a Code of Conduct is in place
A Committee, or individual, should also be mindful of a person’s reputation and the far-reaching effects of an accusation outside of the golf course or Golf Club.
Any accuser or attestor to an incident must be 100% certain of the facts, it is no use just having a suspicion.
Examples of actions that could warrant disqualification under Rule 1.2a and further guidance on what is meant by serious misconduct, can be found in Interpretation 1.2a/1.
However, a Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule.
See Committee Procedures, Section 5H (explaining the standards of player conduct that may be adopted).
Penalties other than disqualification may be imposed for player misconduct only if those penalties are adopted as part of a Code of Conduct under Rule 1.2b.”
A suggested Code of Conduct Policy is available on my Website, click on the link below:
Code of Conduct Policy • Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)
Also for consideration is an example Pace-of-play policy available by clicking on the link below.:
Sample Pace of Play Policy • Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)
So, in summary, some points that come to mind, for consideration when it comes to suspecting an individual, or group of individuals, of breaching Rules are, in no particular order:
- Cheating is a matter of fact it has always gone on and always will with some individuals, professional or amateur.
- You must be 100% certain of your facts, be careful to avoid using the word ’cheat’
- A mere suggestion could have serious repercussions outside the Golf Course for the ‘guilty’ party, the accuser and the Golf Club
- If only a suspicion that an individual is breaching a rule, keep a close eye on them but do not call them out until you have definite evidence.
- Is the misdemeanour serious or just a minor infraction?
- Is the infringement intentional or accidental?
- Could a player handle the situation without resorting to informing a Committee, better this way if it can be done?
- Try to use any trespasses as a means of education and avoid any confrontations.
- Depending on the status of the competition, if 100% certain of a breach of the Rules, call the player out immediately or could you leave it until you get to the clubhouse and talk it over with him/her. Picking a player up on his/her behaviour may cause an atmosphere for the rest of your round.
- Again, depending on the status of the competition, impose a penalty there and then or just give them a reminder of their actions and the correct procedure to follow.
- If the individual is a persistent offender or the offence considered really serious, then, having called them out during a round, refuse to mark their scorecard, inform the committee of both your and the player’s actions and let the Committee handle the situation.
- Ensure the committee has a sound policy in place for dealing with disciplinary actions.
There is also some advice on My Golf website on how to discipline a member, click on the link below to read more:
How to Discipline a Member (or Visitor). • Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)
There may be a few more observations that you can think of and I would like to hear them from you, but I hope you find these helpful at the moment.
Enjoy your Golf