Golf's dreaded c-word "cheat" is not one any of us use lightly, yet we have all witnessed some questionable conduct on the golf course.
Without the officials and referees other sports can call on, golf is a game of honour, integrity and self-governance. It requires each golfer to be honest with themselves and, importantly, with their fellow players.
It's important to note that not every rules infraction is cheating. In the perfect world, every golfer would know the laws of the game inside and out - but, of course, that's fairytale stuff. It's perfectly possible to cheat 'accidentally', but experienced golfers can generally identify those who knowingly seek an unfair advantage.
High-profile allegations of cheating in golf have been directed at a few professional golfers over the years (Patrick Reed springs to mind) as well as the likes of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-il.
Now, few of us would have ever called BS on Kim Jong-il's 38-under-par 34 (at least, not to his face), but if you catch any of your buddies engaged in any of the shady acts below, it's probably worth having a word in their ear.
The 'foot wedge'
One of the most common forms of cheating on the golf course is the good old 'leather wedge'. Sometimes referred to as the 15th club every golfer takes to the golf course, a golfer may use their foot to give the ball a friendly nudge away from an obstacle or to trample down the grass behind it to ensure a cleaner contact.
Outside of competition, it might not be the worst transgression. Between consenting playing partners, it could be something that helps each player to better enjoy their day on the links.
During any round that counts towards a golfer's handicap, though, it's purely and simply cheating.
Miscounting the score
"Put me down for a par", your buddy might say. You come back with, "You sure?" A cringe-worthy few seconds follow as he counts back before finally announcing that it was his mistake and finally accepting his bogey.
'Golf is a game where you yell fore, shoot six and write down five'.
If it happens once, you'll give the benefit of the doubt. When it's happening multiple times per round, that's not cool.
Is a mulligan really cheating? Well, technically yes. It is not and never has been legal under the laws of the game, and is absolutely off the table in any form of competitive golf.
Still, you and your buddies might consider them during social rounds, making it acceptable as long as everyone is on the same page. Perhaps a pre-agreed breakfast ball on the first tee is permissible now and again, but should we be requesting do-overs on other holes? Surely not.
The extended search party
Back in 2019, the new rules of golf saw the old five-minute rule replaced with a shorter period of three minutes to search for a lost ball.
If you locate your ball after the allotted time limit has passed and continue to play the hole to its conclusion, it might not be the worst on-course violation, but it's still cheating.
Not only will the other golfers in your group have noted your flagrant disregard of the new rule, but the group behind will now be seriously peeved after their extended delay on the tee. Best get your skates on!
Most of us have come across a bandit at some time or other. Those golfers who carry an artificially inflated handicap to help them win weekly comps and land the spoils in on-course bets with their buddies.
They might throw in a couple of double bogeys at the end of a round to avoid a cut, or not play enough counting rounds to earn the cut their skill level warrants. Pretty questionable behaviour all things told, but the truth will eventually catch up with them.
Non-members with no official handicap can equally display this form of 'sandbagging'. If you falsely declare an inflated handicap and easily beat it, eyebrows will be raised. It may be hard to prove (because we can all have a day where everything clicks), but playing partners will be immediately suspicious.
Relief from a fairway divot
In last week's piece on the rules of golf that have to change, we zoned in on the lack of relief from a fairway divot. Just because most golfers think it's an undue punishment, that doesn't mean you can go ahead and lift and place.
On the other hand, you and your buddies may agree to defy the governing bodies' stupid rule and make sure good shots get the reward they deserve. If that's the case, who are we to judge?
Other clandestine capers
There are many ways to cheat in golf, but the ones that happen secretly and away from the eyes of other golfers are arguably the worst. We're talking dropping a ball out of your pocket when others aren't looking, using the foot wedge in the woods, greasing the clubface of the driver - the list goes on.
Keep a keen eye out for wayward playing partners who tee off with a Titleist and roll a Callaway into the cup. That follow-up chat is going to be pretty awkward.
We read an amusing story about a golfer who hit his tee shot on a par-3 but was a little annoyed when he couldn't find his ball on the green. As his fellow players helped look for it, they heard a shout, "Found it lads. Just off the back here". He proceeded to chip his ball close to all but guarantee his par.
When one golfer went to grab the flag, there was the first ball nestled in the cup for what would have been a first ever hole-in-one. Ouch! But we reap what we sow.
How common do you think cheating is in golf? Do you have any amusing stories of cheating golfers to share? Put them in the comments below.