How to deal with golf cheats…

Spotting a Golf Bandit in action

We’ve all had to deal with golf cheats at one time or another, yet golf is supposed to be the great game of honour, or so they say.

Except when it isn’t, and you find that you are confronted with someone trying to manipulate the rules to their own advantage.

With golf being a self-policing sport and often no officials around when needed, it is down to an individual to uphold the rules.

So you might find it’s down to you to decide whether he or she has broken them. 

With players using their own discretion, it’s sad to say that some amateur golfers bend the rules whenever they can.

These golfers are  known as ‘Golf Bandits’.

Here are a few things to look out for when dealing with golf cheats…

The Leather Wedge

Look out for the casual nudge of the ball with the shoe in the rough or near an obstacle – known in the trade as the ‘leather wedge’. 

Another trick is to casually press down the grass behind the ball with the foot or even rolling the ball, for a cleaner impact.

Improving lie in the rough

Given a bad lie in the rough, a cheat will pick the ball up, supposedly to identify it, but then replace it in an improved position, allowing a better contact out of the rough. 

N.B. Identifying the ball is allowed but should be witnessed by a playing partner.

Point of entry

A ball played into a water hazard brings about a penalty of 1 stroke. The next shot must be played, keeping the point of entry between the hole and the point from where the next shot is played from. 

However, someone who cheats will tend to steal yards nearer the hole, by changing the point of entry making the next shot easier than it should be.

Changing a score

People who cheat don’t seem to have good memories, especially when it comes to scoring! They will often declare a score 1 shot less than they actually scored. 

Over 18 holes, this makes a massive difference to their scorecard, even if they only do it once or twice. 

They also tend to dismiss any air shots or penalties they incur throughout the round.

Golf Bandits, how to stop cheats

Moving the coin

Golf cheats often use a big coin, like an old penny, 50p or inch-diameter marker. They then carefully slide it as far as possible under the ball. When replaced, the distance between ball and coin will be at least an inch nearer the hole or slightly to the side to avoid a mark on the green.


Cheats, for some reason, also have poor etiquette on the golf course. Things they get up to include whistling, talking, coughing, rattling change on someone’s backswing or casting a shadow across someone’s putt or tee shot.

False or Fake handicaps

Golf Bandits have a habit of protecting their handicaps too. Especially if they enter lots of open competitions where there’s a healthy prize table or sweeps are on offer. 

During club competitions, if they are in danger of a handicap cut without a chance of winning a prize, they will manipulate their final gross score. Easy to do, by taking extra shots to make their score higher than it would normally be on the last few holes of the round.

Golf Bandits, how to stop cheats

What should I do if I see or catch a cheat in action?

If you come across someone you think has cheated and you have someone who can verify your suspicions, then have a quiet word with the individual directly is the first action to take. However, choose your words carefully.

Don’t start by immediately calling them a ‘cheat’. Be more tactful. Ask in a way that is deemed as inquisitive rather than accusing. Perhaps start with a passive comment. 

If you notice someone finding water after a shot, ask “Apologies, just wanted to ask, what is the rule when it comes to water hazards?”

That way they are not immediately on the defensive. 

  • It may be that they just aren’t aware of any breach of the rules.
  • Explain that their actions are against the spirit of the game.
  • Point out that they can be reported to the committee or event organiser, if they don’t ‘make good’ any discrepancies with the score.
  • If you don’t have a witness to any form of cheating and want to avoid confrontation, you can report to the committee or refuse to sign their scorecard.

Happy Golfing!

By Kevin Booth