The GUI’s #TheFairWay campaign is designed to target handicap manipulators across the country. Much has been written about it these past weeks and it has raised the issue of cheating to a new level.
I don’t think anyone is going to say ‘grand, job done’ and leave it at that. This is an opening salvo in what will be a long, tempestuous battle. I once wrote on my blog that somebody was a ‘bandit’ and there was war over it. The person in question was furious and it just emphasises the difficulties associated with the GUI’s March campaign.
But cheating is ruining a game built on integrity. I’m not going to waffle on about the rules and how it is up to us to monitor ourselves – you’ve heard it all before – but there are cheats among us and it is time we all did something about it. The GUI, the clubs, the committees, the event organisers and the golfers themselves… we ALL have a responsibility to stop this.*
Handicap manipulation is but one area where cheats can ply their trade. My personal bugbear lies elsewhere… and that’s the team event. It might be a charity day (in which case you should be ashamed of yourselves), or an Open Week competition or the increasingly popular three/four day golf classic. These are perfect environments for cheats. You get three or four mates forming a team, with no one to monitor their progress and they can make up their scores when they walk off the 18th green, or take mulligans, or decide that their missed two foot putt should have gone in, or say, ‘Hey Mick, you have two strokes there. I’ll put you down for a par so that’s four points. Nice one.’
With so many prizes up for grabs, including longest drives and nearest the pins, there’s an incentive to cheat, especially if you have no respect for the game and the self regulation the majority of us impose on ourselves. There seems to be a belief that because an entry fee has been paid there’s an entitlement to win a prize.
Cheating in these circumstances can be resolved almost immediately. The team won’t like it but the obvious solution is to split them up. A fourball arriving for a 10.30 tee time is split in half, with two of the team going out at 10.30 and two going out at 10.40. The team teeing off at 10.40 does a straight swap. Then you have golfers playing with people they don’t know.
It’s not difficult to implement and the West Coast Challenge (a four day event playing Bundoran, Strandhill, Enniscrone and Donegal) and the Causeway Coast Challenge (Ballycastle, Castlerock, Ballyliffin (Old) and Royal Portrush (Valley)) have this format instilled in the competition, turning the events into much more friendly and fair affairs.
Clubs and charity organisers will meet resistance (“I came to play with my friends, not people I don’t know”) but it is better for the competition in the long run and cements its integrity.
A second tactic is to lower the value of the prizes. There are some organisations out there who provide ridiculously valuable prizes and they really don’t care if people follow the rules or not. As long as they get their cut they’re happy. They should be ashamed of themselves but, alas, money talks! If you dangle a holiday to Bermuda or a brand new electric golf trolley (worth €700) then the cheats will crawl out from under their rocks.
A third approach is to inform every entrant that winning cards will be returned to home clubs AND the GUI. In a team format, where not every score on every hole may count, identifying and dealing with the cheats is made even harder but somebody, somewhere has to oversee these people and the threat of a GUI sanction (against player and/or club) should make cheats think twice.
Oh sure, clubs and events might lose a few teams of golfers aware that their behaviour will be uncovered but the honesty of the competition will be reinforced… which will attract other teams. After all, there are some events out there won by golfers from the same clubs year after year, and golfers are getting sick and tired of it… to the point they’ll stop participating. And there are already too many reasons to give up golf at the moment.
* The same is true of slow play, by the way.