In this feature on how to spot a golf cheat we take a look at the typical tactics and moves of golf club cheats...

Golf is one of the few self-policing sports you can play. Without an umpire or referee to hand, at club level it is down the individual to uphold the rules and decide whether he or she has broken them. With so much left to a players’ own discretion, it is sadly not uncommon to spot amateur golfers bending the rules. Here is how to spot a golf cheat…

Golf Rules Videos

1 Improving Lie

We’ve all seen it. A player hits their ball into the rough and after a lengthy search, the ball is discovered, nestled deeply in the roots. Having identified it, you walk over to your ball only to look back and see your opponent has a hybrid in his hands. Clearly what has taken place as you diverted your attention back towards your own game is some serious amateur gardening. Playing the ball as it lies is one of the oldest rules in the book and yet it is incredibly common to see players using their club or foot to trample down grass around their ball to improve their clubs access to it. That’s against the rules! Feel free to forward this on to any serial offenders…

Golf Rules: Identifying Your Ball

2 Unofficial Handicaps

Not every golfer is a member of a club. In fact, many avid players are not and often this creates a problem caused by an unofficial handicap. What people sometimes forget is that their handicap is designed to be a reflection of their best golf, not their average scores. If you tend to shoot around 12-over but have shot rounds of 7, 8 or 9-over you should err towards a lower handicap. Selecting an unofficial number and then beating it by a few shots is a sure way to rile all those who do play with an official handicap.

3 Marking Procedure

Place a coin or marker behind your ball, lift it up, clean it and then replace it in the same spot. Simple, right? Well for some, the desire to avoid missing from short range means they can’t help trying to use the marking procedure to gain an unfair advantage. Either placing the ball too far in front of the marker or marking the ball to the side and then replacing it in front are the two to look out for.

Why you should mark your golf ball

4 Provisional Ball

Every ball you hit should be uniquely identifiable. That means that if you have just hit a Titleist 1 with a blue dot on it into the deep rough, your provisional should either feature a different number or a different marking. It’s also advisable, though not compulsory, to declare to your playing partners exactly what ball you are using. Hitting exactly the same ball into roughly the same area can lead to all sorts of issues as you won’t be able to identify which is which.  Our advice for would be that if you are unsure about what ball a player is using, ask for some clarification before the provisional is struck. The player doesn’t have to tell you but it might help avoid a potentially awkward situation when you are trying to work out how to spot a golf cheat!

5 Identification process

In this instance, the ball has finished in a bad spot – either deep rough or an overgrown area. Identifying it is tricky and the player is well within their rights to lift it to see if it is his or hers. The process for this should be as follows: you must declare your intention to your fellow competitor or opponent, you must mark the position of the ball, and you must allow them to observe the whole process. Of course, the ball needs to go back to its original spot. Sadly, that doesn’t always happen.

6 Amnesia

It’s the oldest trick in the book. You reach the end of the hole and ask your opponent what they had. ‘Put me down for a 6’ is the reply. But this triggers a slight sense of suspicion so you add up their shots and reach a number higher than that which was declared. What now? Well you are in a difficult position but the truth is there is no excuse for writing down a lower score. We would suggest that you explain their mistake and then keep a close eye on their scoring. If it happens again, it is worth escalating – this is the most obvious pointer in how to spot a golf cheat.

7 Spike Marks

Under the current rules of golf, players are not allowed to repair spike marks on their line. This may well change as the next set of revisions come through but patting down slight imperfections is against the rules. This does not apply to repairing other damage such as old hole marks or pitch marks.

Quiz: How Well Do You Know Your Golf Rules?

8 Nudging the ball

We have all knocked our ball off the tee at address. After the predictable cry of ‘One’ by your playing partners you are well within your rights to re-tee the ball. However, the same is not true if you accidentally move your ball in other areas of the course. It may well have been a total accident from which you have received no material gain but that doesn’t matter. Golf is largely self-policing and it is in moments like these you need to do the right thing and call a penalty on yourself. You must then replace the ball in its original spot.