Cheating in Golf? Surely Not

Robert Forgan took role of Santa seriously at Llanbobl G.C. Christmas
Robert Forgan

“Golf is a test of temper, a trial of honour, a revealer of character. It affords a chance to play the man and act the gentleman.”  – Robert Forgan

Really? What is it about golf that lends itself to such hyperbola, and at time total nonsense about the game. Peter Alliss and co would have you believe that it is as character building as a good war. That the people who play the game are angels and we are all pure in thought and deed (except John Daly).

Golf is a game. Like all games it’s a test of character and there will be ties when you will be tested. I know that but please.. some sort of reality check. If golf is played by such a wonderful divine bunch of angels why are there so many rules?

There are moral dilemmas in golf, as in other parts of life. Especially early on in your golfing career it takes a little while to ‘get it’. New golfers may not see the harm in just dropping another ball once they’ve spent 5 minutes looking in the rough for their hooked drive. “You count air shots?” they may naively ask. You have to deal with this, as an upholder of golf.

Now, we’re not talking about deliberately writing a 4 instead of of 5 or dropping another ball in the rough when you can’t find your ball and it’s the 17th hole in the monthly medal. But how would you react to other moral dilemmas;

For instance, you’re standing on a bridge and can see a tram hurtling towards five people stranded on the track. The only way to save their lives is to drop a heavy weight in front of the tram. A fat man also happens to be standing on the bridge. Would you push him to his death in order to stop the tram, or leave him, in which case those on the track will die? Would you kill one person to save 5?
OK not the sort of situation you would come across in a friendly 4 ball but still – where do you draw your line? Is it OK to lose a monthly medal because you forgot to say you were playing a provisional ball even though everyone knew you were? How often do you walk back to the tee, apart from competitions?
If there was a small child drowning in the pond and you were on your way back from the pro shop wearing your brand new pair of fantastic, but not waterproof shoes, would you ruin them to save the child. Probably, but you don’t always send £5 to save the life of a number of children in Africa?
So does your idea of morality depend on distance?

OK went off at a bit of a tangent there but you get the point. It’s a fine line. I do love the game but can’t really buy in to this sacramental  vision of it though, as you may have gathered. There are people in golf who cheat. Yes you heard it here first. People who play golf are frequently humans and as such are a bit like us – they have that fatal flaw – they are human. Golf has far fewer problems than many other sports – this is true.

Golf is pretty special and I firmly believe the amount of cheating and bad behaviour that goes on in golf is infinitely less than most other sports. However let’s not be silly here. Golf is a competitive game played by those most competitive and sneaky of creatures – humans.

I have played with people who cheat – and heard about golfers who cheat. There are a variety of ways of doing this. For instance at a former golf club there was a character named Bill. Unofficially he was known as ‘Adjer Bill’. He was notorious for adjing, or moving his ball nearer the hole. His favoured method of doing this was by a system of marking and placing his ball on the green. He would pit his marker down in front of the ball and then, after carefully wiping it, would place the ball in front of the marker – therby gaining a few inches. He would even do this on 50 feet putts. He did many other things – he seemed to be always looking for an opportunity to cheat. He was always  ‘lucky’. He’d find his ball in the deepest of rough – usually with a decent lie for instance. Tales of his behaviour spread like wildfire around the golf club and one day he way playing on a cold October evening with one of our more aggressive members.

After a few holes of his marking dance on the green the aggressive member finally cracked. It was an important putt for Bill. He marked and cleaned his ball once, then he did it again. Now his 8 feet putt had turned into 6 feet. Our aggressive member looked at the position of Bill’s ball now, shouted at him (without the swear words) “You can have that now, and the match – I’m going in.” and walked in.

So, why are there less cheats at golf than at football?

I don’t believe it’s because it’s generally played by people with more money.
I don’t feel it’s because it is still an elitist sport in many places.
I think it makes a difference that it is a game that can be by people of all ages and abilities.
I also think that the way people are introduced to the game helps a great deal;
The game of football tends to be picked up as a child as you grow up playing against peers. The values are the values of your group – in most cases groups define their own rules, their own standards. As a child playing football it was acceptable, even expected, to shout and argue for throw ins, free kicks etc.. It’s what you do. In our version of football tough tackling was the norm and sending off’s were non existent.
In golf people tend to be taught one at a time. They are indoctrinated into the game through the mores and values of the group. Generally a group of established golfers who were inevitably introduced individually by a group of similar individuals. The values are handed down and generally these standards involve no cheating. Added to this the stigma of being caught cheating can be incredibly devastating.

I don’t know what’s happened to Adjer Bill. He sort of disappeared from the club pretty soon after he was ‘outed’. Peer pressure is probably the most effective way of keeping golf a thoroughly decent game – but hey let’s not be silly about it, Jack;

“In no other sport does the nature of the contest allow the players to be so free of jealousy and enmity, so willing to help and support each other and be so sincere in their acceptance of each other’s success.” – Golf and Life – Jack Nicklaus

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