8 socially-acceptable ways to cheat at golf

December 5, 2019

The rules of golf are harsh. Unyieldingly so, in many cases. Lots of times golfers break the rules unknowingly. Other times golfers make the executive decision not to abide by certain rules because this game is hard enough anyway, so why not give yourself a bit of a break? I do it, you do it; almost every golfer does it. It’s ok, you don’t need to feel guilty about it, but let’s be honest about the various everyday ways golfers cheat but are kind of ok with it.

1. Breakfast Ball

I was playing with an Australian friend over the summer who was outraged when one of our other playing partners pulled out an extra ball on the 1st tee after a carving hook on their initial tee shot. Apparently mulligans off the 1st aren’t a thing in most other countries. It’s a pretty strange concept when you think about it, but most of us are ok with it anyway.

2. General Mulligans

The 1st tee isn’t the only place people take mulligans, though. They come after thinned bunker shots, chunked wedges water-bound approach shots and everything else. Ordinarily I don’t care, but whenever I see people taking mulligans and then inputting their eventual score into the handicap system, that always makes me feel a little weird.

3. Gimmies

I’m the king of gimmies. I sweep away sub-five footers all the time, and routinely tell my partners to pick it up to. Do I give myself putts that I’m only certain I’d make, in the interest of keeping a good pace of play? I’d like to think so. But I know, deep down, that’s just not true.

A golfer trying to cheat a bit. This cartoon was hand-drawn in ink and colored with markers.

4. Touching Your Line Of Putt

Do you use your towel, or nice new hat, to waft away the leaves whenever they’re interfering with your line? I bet you don’t. Technically, that used to be against the rules of golf, but don’t worry, the penalty was eliminated when the new Rules of Golf were enacted on January 1, 2019. Now, there is no longer be a penalty for merely touching the line of play on the putting green.

5. Improving Your Lie

Have to admit, this is another one where I’m a serial offender. Not so much when I already have a nice lie, or when I’m in the rough but not punished too badly. But in egregious cases, like when I smash the ball down the middle only to find my ball in a divot, sure, I may give myself a slightly improved lie. And you know what? I’m ok with that.


6. Seeking advice during their round

Have you ever been playing poorly and asked your buddy for some swing advice? Or felt a gust of wind and asked your playing partner what club he’s hitting? That’s against the rules, fella. And besides, you probably shouldn’t be messing with your swing halfway through your round, anyway.

7. Borrowing Clubs

You’re out on the course, maybe it’s cart path only, and you realize you grabbed the wrong club. Do you really want to walk all the way back to your cart, or will you just grab your buddy’s club and take a swing?

8. Not taking stroke and distance

Of all of these, this might be the most common. Certainly in my neck of the woods. You carve one out of bounds, or you hit your ball into a patch of particularly nasty rough and the ball is never seen again. Don’t be that guy who goes all the way back to the tee, club in hand, to hit another one from the original starting point. All you’ll do is annoy the guys your playing with, interrupt the group playing behind you, and slow down pace of play for everyone.

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