A club golfer’s worst nightmare

What do you do if you’re playing with a cheat?

It’s the moment many of us dread seeing on the course and a question which has vexed club golfers for decades – what do you do if you suspect a playing partner is cheating?

The simple answer is to report them to the committee, have them disqualified and ultimately banned from club competitions – but these things aren’t always so black and white.

A poor counter is easy enough to tackle, just get their card in your hand in a competition and make sure to add up their strokes carefully. More often than not, they’ll get the message when you correct their five to a seven a second time.

While arguably the most common form of cheating, those who protect their handicaps or artificially inflate them in order to win selected competitions are worthy of a whole column on their own – though the remedies later work just the same.

Other forms of cheating – the extra ball or the leather wedge in the rough – are far harder to be 100% certain on – and far harder to bring up for club golfers not wishing to cause a scene in the clubhouse or car park in the future.

The Great Escape-style dropped ball or nudge in the thick rough can be hard to spot and harder still to confirm, particularly if they happen when your ball is on the opposite side of the fairway.

But there are remedies. The first is to raise it with your fellow player if you’re confident you’ve seen them break a rule. You have a duty as a golfer to play by the rules and if others choose to not follow the rules, you have a duty to raise it with them. If you’re sure you’ve seen a breach of the rules, try a quiet word on the next tee or at the soonest opportunity which doesn’t cause a fuss.

Alternatively, raise your concerns with the handicap secretary or committee after your round. They are charged with ensuring competitors play to the rules and should take up the issue on your behalf.

There is also the option of raising the issue with other members to see if the same thing is going on regularly. If you find others with the same concerns, it becomes far easier to monitor in the future and will give the handicap committee far more leverage to punish to offending player when multiple players bring evidence.

The key to raising any issue is to be certain you have seen a breach of the rules. There is nothing worse for a golfer’s reputation than to be labelled a cheat. 

But, if they’re not keeping to the spirit of the game, are they truly golfers in the first place?