Caddie Confidential: Is cheating really an issue on the PGA Tour?

In this month’s Caddie Confidential series, we tackle the topic of cheating in professional golf.

Welcome to the third installment of our “Caddie Confidential” series, with monthly, inside-the-ropes perspective from dozens of Tour caddies on rotating golf topics. On the tee this month: cheating on the PGA Tour. Is it an issue? According to the caddies we polled — who were given anonymity — it happens more than people know.

The great Bobby Jones once said, “When you cheat in golf, the only person you’re cheating is yourself.”

While the point of that quote no doubt makes sense, it isn’t necessarily true in professional golf. Make no mistake — a person who cheats is most certainly cheating themselves. But, they’re also cheating the rest of the field and in essence robbing players out of boatloads of money — or even status — given how high the stakes are today.

Golf has been a game of honor since the beginning. There’s no other sport where players police themselves like golf.

Everyone associated with the game wants to believe it’s always pure and, while rules violations happen, they’re not always committed with ill intent.

But according to the dozens of PGA Tour caddies we polled, cheating happens more than people realize.

“Although I think it is an extremely small percentage, it does happen, and that’s an issue in itself,” one caddie told us.

“Ninety-nine percent of players are honest and have integrity. The other 1 percent try to take the rules to benefit them in a certain situations like drops,” another caddie said.

So, is cheating an issue on the PGA Tour? Here are the results from the caddies we polled:

  • No: 68.4%
  • Yes: 31.6%

Why, or why not, is cheating an issue on the PGA Tour?

Check out this selection of responses from caddies:

Twitter causes this question.

Interpretation is different than blatant violation.

There may be very isolated issues, which usually seem to pertain to where a ball crossed into penalty areas.

Players allow it to happen and the Tour is worried about their image.

It’s very uncommon in my opinion.

Ninety-nine percent of the players don’t cheat.

It happens more than people know.

It hurts the game. The officials need to do a better job of interpreting and enforcing the rules how they are read.

I think the penalty for cheating should be very harsh. I think cheating is slow play.

There’s too much on the line for these players to cheat. Too many eyes on you if even try to cheat. Will some try to use the rules to their advantage? Absolutely. And I do not think that is “cheating.” So, is “cheating” an issue? No.

It’s a rare occasion when a person is trying to gain an unfair advantage.

Because human beings are not all the same. Therefore a game of honor, which insists each participant is responsible for playing the game honorably and following all rules and procedures, is not possible of taking place. There will always be an outlier who tries to cheat.

There have been a few cases of it recently that have been discussed in the golf media already. The rules officials covering for that behavior is a major concern of mine.

This is a gentleman’s game based on honesty and integrity. I do not think any Tour players purposefully cheat. If they are in question on a rule, Rules Officials are there to ensure the integrity of the game and protect the field.

There are instances of cheating. Always have been. You’re dealing with humans. It’s isolated and usually gets sorted out.

Players have been taught the rules since they started playing the game. If they are cheating then karma will weed them out!

It’s very limited.

I haven’t seen anyone cheat.

The couple of circumstances recently have been magnified. The lateral water hazard, now penalty area, is the most stretched rule in the game

Guys fudge occasionally. They will get caught if they keep it up. Cameras are more plentiful and better.

It’s only an issue if someone gets caught.

Technology in cameras make a lot of infractions seem worse than they are. Most of the rules are outdated and aren’t up to date.

Not in my experience. The occurrence is rare, but it does exist.

In general, no. Too many people (other players, caddies, etc.) and cameras constantly monitor 99 percent of play. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Guys do it.

Cheating is not widespread on the Tour, but it is an issue when it occasionally happens. Anyone who cheats is affecting the final outcome of the event if they made the cut. This could be the difference of someone making or missing a cut, playoffs, keeping their status, etc.

It happens. Whether it’s mis-marking your ball on the putting green or taking questionable drops from penalty areas… it happens.

Interested in more from our March 2021 installment of Caddie Confidential? Be sure to check out what pro loopers say about the one rule Tour players are most likely to ‘fudge’, as well as how many pros cheat and how to crack down on it.

You can view all the results from our entire Caddie Confidential by clicking here.

COMMENTS

  1. Assuming the slightly less than 1/3 believe does that mean they have witnessed it? Does the integrity so many mention apply to both sides of the bag? Haven’t read about anyone turning in their player recently (ever?)

  2. Many years ago I witnessed a guy (who later won a Senior major) blatantly cheat….. I was at a tournament and I was walking along the rough on a hole when I heard a ball hit the trees to my left, so I waited to see who it was. There was the player, his caddy, me, and nobody else nearby. His ball was on the edge of some trees, and he proceeded to take enough practice swings to knock down some small branches that impeded his backswing, then he finally hit his shot. I looked at his caddy as they walked away and he wouldn’t even make eye contact with me.

  3. Years ago in qualifying rounds there were players calling across to each “Burrowing Animal Hole” to improve their lie, most of that group are no longer around.. there were probably a few “Kicked Balls” in the Ruff occasionally.. this was in the 60’s..

  4. Cheating certainly happens in professional golf, like all competitive sports. Golf less so, than most. It would be interesting to know if any players doctor their clubs, like bats in baseball.

    I was told years ago, a particular player was known for moving his ball on the green to avoid putting through spike marks, which you can now tap down. People look for an edge, cheating will happen.

    How about doing a survey of LPGA caddies?

    Thanks for raising the topic.

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