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Shoddy score keeping is popular at corporate outings and among golfers who don't play together frequently.
Shoddy score keeping is popular at corporate outings and among golfers who don't play together frequently. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)

Cheating at golf is a delicate art and science

Shane SharpBy Shane Sharp,

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - I have been fortunate to learn many things about the game of golf over the past five years during my tenure as a "golf writer." I know what a Redan hole is. I know that golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast used to take his whiskey in the shade while his crew worked their hands to the nub in the blistering sun. I know what 90 compression golf balls are, and I am all too familiar with the term "non-conforming."

So it is with a deep sense of regret that I must confess that despite all this new, useful knowledge, the one thing I have learned the most about is how to cheat at golf. In the past five years I have played hundreds of different golf courses. On these playing surfaces, hundreds of methodologies for cheating have been revealed to me. Some are as bold as Duffy Waldorf's wardrobe. Others are as deft as a Phil Mickelson lob wedge.

No, I am not admitting to participating in any of this chicanery. I am nothing if not fastidious and law-abiding on the links (of course). But I have seen it all from the hackers I've played with, and I feel it's my sworn duty to reveal the best cheating techniques available on the market today.

The classic "I found it" technique

The "I found it" maneuver is almost foolproof, and is detectable only by the most savvy and suspicious of playing partners. This technique is employed when a tee or approach spot sprays or duck hooks into the woods, a lateral hazard, or in the case of Arizona, some cacti. The owner of the errant shot knows, in his heart of hearts, that the ball is long gone. So rather than search for the ball in the woods or fish the ball out of a creek, the guilty part begins his search on a stretch of ground that is still in play. A smoke screen, if you will.

The playing partner is typically about 20 to 40 feet away, looking for the ball where it actually should be. When the unsuspecting golf buddy has his back turned, the perpetrator drops a new ball and triumphantly declares, "I found it." For the first ten seconds, the playing partner is perplexed. "Surely," he thinks to himself, "that ball must have hit some invisible, gravitational force field to have held up in play." Then, if he's a recreational golfer who's not used to surveying other player's shots, self-doubt creeps in, and the guilty player is exonerated without having to actually do anything.

WorldCom Accounting Techniques

Shoddy score keeping is a timeless cheating methodology, but it is also takes an incredible amount of gall and guts. Unlike the "I found it" technique, false score reporting can be uncovered by playing partners with relative ease. And if you are part of a foursome, getting busted before teeing off on the next hole can be quite embarrassing. Still, this technique is popular at corporate outings and among golfers who don't play together frequently.

Despite its risque nature, there are ways to cloak this technique and minimize discovery. If you were in and out of hazards on a par-4, shanked a chip shot and four-putted, reporting in with a score of five or six might warrant an impromptu blow-by-blow by someone in your group who was paying attention. However, if your real score was an eight or nine, taking a six or seven on the hole may actually procure you some pathos from your partners, especially if you are otherwise a pretty nice guy.

Disavowing the Rules of the Game

Rare are the times when you are actually playing with other golfers who are up-to-speed on most of the official USGA Rules of the Game. But, any golfer who plays at least once a week is probably well aware of the basics. This doesn't mean that you can't disavow any knowledge of proper rulings, and play dumb. For example, hitting your tee shot out of bounds and just taking a drop two-club lengths from where the ball exited the playing surface is a classic disavowing maneuver. If you've watched even an iota of golf on television, you know that out-of-bounds is a stroke and distance penalty, and that you should be reloading on the tee, or from wherever you hit the pathetic poke. Denial, a la getting caught in an extra-marital affair, is the only way to go here.

Other solid disavowing techniques include: grounding your club in a bunker to get a better angle on your sand blast shot; beginning the hole with a new, alabaster white Pro V-1 and ending it with a mud-soaked Golden Ram while calmly pretending you played the same ball the entire hole; and rather than taking a drop two-club lengths from the point of entry into a lateral hazard, you drop your ball safely in the rough (the fairway is too obvious) about a smooth pitching wedge from the green, and prop it up like a tee ball on Viagra.

Tired Old Techniques

Some methodologies for cheating at golf are simply out dated and will reveal you as a colossal moron if you even attempt them once. The foot wedge is for use ONLY by beginners and juniors in order to retain their participation in the game. For men teaching their wives and girlfriends to play, use of the foot wedge by your eager pupil can be the difference between an evening of unbridled passion and another night spent sleeping on the couch.

However, NO somewhat experienced golfer should resort to the foot wedge. Even senior citizens with failing vision will notice that your ball miraculously appeared on the fairway after having been hit behind a giant oak or palm tree. Likewise, throwing the ball out of a deep bunker while your playing partners wait on the green above, blind to the crime is unequivocally banned from the realm of respectable cheating strategies. If you can't get the ball out on the second try, toss the ball behind the bunker and play over it. If you hit back into the bunker while attempting this, quit the game of golf immediately.

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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