Cheating at golf is so easy, a caveman could do it! Before this piece devolves into a Geico commercial, let’s get the basics out of the way.
Whether you intentionally step in your opponent’s putting line, purposely improve your lie in the fairway or rough, move your ball mark on the green beyond where it’s supposed to be, ground your club in a sand trap, or even go so far as to lie about your score on a hole, all of these examples (and more just like them) are akin to sticking up a liquor store. By that I mean the reward doesn’t measure up to the risk.
Why get called out and embarrassed, or forever labeled a cheater to simply gain one- or two-stroke improvement on your round? Just ask Patrick Reed about his recent Hero World Challenge misadventures in the Bahamas. The juice IS NOT worth the squeeze. Hence, the liquor store stick-up comparison. If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly. Go whole hog. Plan a big money bank job or a multimillion-dollar jewel heist. Don’t risk long-term incarceration over pocket change!
Hopefully, you realize I’m being facetious. I’m certainly not suggesting you go out and commit felony robbery (or any crime for that matter!) for your own enrichment. Nor am I suggesting you should cheat during your next golf match. But… If you are going to cheat, then at least make it something to write home about—or write a story about!
The following cheating ploys have been used successfully. They were pulled off by experts—hustlers that make a living on the links, yet don’t have a PGA Tour card or hat’s worth of sponsorship. Their survival—from the clothes on their back to the food in their belly to the clubs in their bag—fully depend on their ability to beat their opponents time and time again. And these are some of the methods they use:
GIMME A BREAK
Jacques is a fantastic putter. One of the best I’ve seen in the 10-20-foot range he’ll routinely sink a few of these per round, and I believe he once completed 18 holes on a reasonably difficult course with less than 22 putts. But for all his skill with the flat stick, he absolutely SUCKS at short putts. Seriously. Inside of two feet, the guy turns into Yip Man. He’s seen a multitude of sports psychologists to remedy the problem, and nobody has been able to help. So what’s he do? Gimme’s. Whenever he starts a round with a new opponent, he’ll initiate the gimme as soon as his opponent is within a reasonable range.
And rather than wait for his opponent to reciprocate, he’ll simply pick up his ball when he’s within “acceptable gimme range” and move on to the next hole. Very seldom has a golfer called him out on this ploy. He figures that when it comes down to anything outside of the gimme range, he’s got the advantage and will sink more long putts per round than his opponent. By taking the short putts off the table, he limits his chances of screwing up and takes control of the match before the first green has been reached.
MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS PRIVILEGES
Lynette and Steve are a couple of Sticks who played on their college golf teams. They met during a scramble in the Catskill Mountains and have been together ever since. They moved to Scottsdale, Arizona—one of golf’s true Meccas—and, after considerable due diligence, joined a club (Desert Mountain) that had the greatest number of affluent duffers. But when they joined, they made it a point to come across as beginners, going so far as to join group clinics and take private lessons, even though both could give the club pro a run for his money.
Whenever they played against other members, be it individually or as a couple, they seemed to always “find the magic” somewhere in the round to win a press, or squeak out a nearly impossible shot that would secure their victory. Keep in mind while they won often, they never won by a lot. And they were smart enough to dump a few rounds here and there, keeping their fish in the barrel. After a few years, they moved on to a new location (they’re in Orlando, Florida now) and started the process all over again.
I GET BY WITH THE HELP OF MY FRIENDS
While golf is a solo endeavor, there are times when a team effort is required. If you’re planning a big-money match, you’d be wise to do a little recon of the course you’re planning to play or, better yet, pick a course that will allow you to “pre-arrange” some perfect shots. For example, if you can find a hole with a blind dogleg—with trees or some other obstacle that obscures the fairway—you can make a show of going for it, attempting to “cut the corner” by launching a drive into the trouble area. The key is to have a partner-in-crime playing in the group ahead of you.
Even if your drive comes up woefully short and disappears into the woods, your cohort can drop a ball (be sure it’s the brand you’re playing, preferably with your initials or some other distinguishing mark that identifies it as yours) in the fairway or edge of the rough, and then you’re sitting pretty, most likely with a huge advantage. If you’re smart, you’ve already pressed the bet on that hole.
Or if the match is tight, this is where you gain the advantage. But having a co-conspirator in the group ahead isn’t just a solid ploy for dogleg holes—they can casually leave balls for you anywhere (ideally in the rough, but with a perfect lie). Just make sure the drops are pre-determined, so you know when to purposely tank a shot, and where to look for the so-called “lucky result.”
RULES ARE RULES
Two of the nastiest but most effective cheating ploys are best suited for deployment against opponents that are staunch by-the-book rules geeks. Everyone knows a maximum of 14 clubs is allowed in a player’s golf bag. If extra clubs should find their way into your opponent’s bag, and that “discovery” is made at round’s end, your opponent has no choice but to forfeit the match. Another simple but ironclad rule is the inadvertent playing of a golf ball that isn’t yours. So if you have the opportunity to switch your opponent’s ball—for example, if they hit into the rough and you “find” their ball—and they play the rest of the round (or even just the rest of the hole) with the impostor sphere, that also causes a forfeit. This ploy was pulled off to perfection by Her Majesty’s best secret agent, James Bond, against Auric Goldfinger in Goldfinger.
There are plenty of other dastardly cheating schemes that can be employed against unsuspecting opponents out on the links. All that’s required is a devious desire and a little creativity. After all, money won is twice as sweet as money earned!
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