Golf has a reputation of being a gentleman’s game. Players are expected to honor the game by upholding its values of integrity and honesty.
Golfers always try to get a competitive edge, but players rarely adopt the ‘win at all costs’ mentality that we sometimes see in other sports.
As such, it is hard to imagine any professional golfer cheating to gain an advantage over his or her opponents.
However, there have been numerous incidents over the years where certain players have crossed the line and broken the rules of fair play.
In the article below, we are going to do a deep dive on cheating in professional golf. How golfers could cheat, the penalty for getting caught, and famous instances where players were caught red handed.
We have a lot to cover so let’s get started.
There are numerous ways to cheat on a golf course, all of which are easier for amateur players because they don’t have cameras following their every move.
Here are a few examples of how a professional golfer could, in theory, cheat on the course:
While there is nothing wrong with carrying around extra golf balls just in case you lose your original, whipping one out to try and fool people into believing it’s the original is blatant cheating.
If a professional golfer loses his ball, either in the water, in some woodland or just in some heavy rough, then they have to take a one-shot-penalty-drop.
If a golfer is embroiled in a close battle for a championship, then they may be tempted to pretend that their tee shot that went flying into some trees bounced favorably and came out in view of the fairway.
To do this, they would secretly drop a second ball and pretend it was the original instead of taking a penalty drop elsewhere.
This is probably the form of cheating that a professional golfer is most likely to get away with. Almost every professional golfer elects to pick up their ball and mark it after they land on the green.
They do this to get a better look at the slope of the green and to allow their caddy to clean their ball.
However, what’s to say that some of them don’t place the ball back a couple of centimeters ahead of where it truly landed?
These centimeters could be the difference between making or missing a putt and winning or losing a championship.
Sometimes, a golfer may end up with a terrible lie. This could be in a patch of rough or in a bunker.
When this happens, a golfer may be tempted to nudge the ball slightly to improve the lie while nobody is watching.
This is against the laws and etiquette of golf where balls are expected to be played as they lie.
Another common way of cheating on the golf course is to knock shots off your scorecard. With countless live television cameras following their every shot, this is going to be next to next to impossible for a professional to pull off.
Despite that, there have been instances where a player has tried to say they scored differently from what broadcasters and tournament organizers had down.
If a professional Golfer is caught cheating, then the match officials have a decision to make. Typically, they have three available options depending on the severity of the case and how much of an advantage has been gained through the cheating.
Option 1: One-stroke penalty. This is usually applied for very minor instances that could even have been accidental such as playing a ball from a different place than where it originally lay.
Option 2: Two-stroke penalty (stroke play) or loss of hole (match play). This is usually applied for more severe cases where the advantage gained is worth more than just one shot.
Option 3: Disqualification. This is applied when the misconduct is so severe and blatant that the player in question showed a complete lack of respect for the sport and his/her competitors.
There have been numerous incidents of cheating in golf over the years, with some players even gaining a reputation for it. Two of the biggest cheating instances in golf history are as follows:
Back at the World Hero Challenge in 2019, Patrick Reed was handed a two-shot penalty when he was spotted moving sand in a bunker to give himself a better lie.
When in a bunker, players are prohibited from performing any practice swings that disturb the sand. Reed, however, was seen creating space behind his ball by shoveling sand away from it.
While there weren’t as many cameras back in 1985 as there are today, there was still enough to spot that Vijay Singh had knocked a shot off his score at the Indonesian Open to help him make the cut.
When the tournament organizers realized, Singh was disqualified from the tournament and indefinitely suspended by the Southeast Asian Golf Federation.
Cheating in professional golf is very rare but it has happened. Professional golfers occasionally commit these acts unintentionally, but in some cases, golfers deliberately commit these acts to get an edge up on the competition.
Players who cheat deliberately have severe consequence to pay including banishment from the tour.
Thankfully cheating on tour almost never happens. There is no place for cheats playing professional golf.
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