Master criminal Willie Sutton said it best when asked why he robbed so many banks: “Because that’s where the money is.” Shaving putts on the golf course have the same obvious, irresistible appeal to some players. You probably know a golfer who would putt a putt if it meant winning the fourth round of best charity ball.
With that in mind, a killer row of major champions, World Golf Hall of Famers, legendary coaches and famous golf sharks were asked to share the best stroke stealing tricks they’ve seen. Use this guide to help spot bad behavior and capture these dark artists in the wild – or apply it in other ways (at your own risk).
Weeds for a better swing path
Navigating the soft grass around the ball–or the small, low-lying branches potentially in the back–can make it necessary to twist your swing like a rhythmic gymnast cranking a streamer. Or, if you’re in a sneaky mood, a series of powerful practice swings can clear the decks of most of the offending plant life, providing a clear path for the ball.
Give your lie a little love
Playing the wrong ball is bad, so a conscientious player should do everything he can to get a positive ID when the shot ends up blocked by a deep rough. However, the nefarious species may enhance this id process by pulling it out of a deep clump of grass and then replacing it on a wide-open shooting board. Now that’s a favorite lie!
Lob up for stronger tee shots
Hall of Fame player Gaylord Perry was famous (or infamous) for loading baseballs with anything from Vaseline to mucus to make his pitches move unpredictably. When you upload your driver’s face, it has the opposite effect. Swiping a flash of ChapStick, sunscreen or saliva across the driver’s face reduces friction on the ball – reducing the sideways roll that sends your shots off the map. You don’t have to worry about the problem on the left or right. You can take this cheat to the next level of cheating by scanning the clue from the mysterious inside of your hood as you exit the launch box.
Use the right ball for the right moment
Does the thought of hitting a punt with a hard distance ball that you use to gain maximum yardage off the tee make your hands ache? Keep a buttery multi-layered round ball in your pocket, and make a hangman after you mark the green. Even the most daring practitioners switch balls if they get some privacy away from the rest of the quartet. More spin certainly comes in handy.
bounce on the hole
The research is questionable about the benefits of shortening his putt by a few inches, but for a cheater, it’s more about mentality. If you intend to play the four-foot player near the cup, start by moving the coin aggressively under the ball when making a mark. When substituting, spread your thumb on the turf to obscure the space between the ball and your mark. In the round, this code is to “get crossed” with the labeling process.
Stand your ground in the lockers
Who says where is the line between taking a legally settled stand in a shelter and building one illegally? It looks very gray – so go to town. Sand digging with Softspikes such as a frantic groundhog is especially useful on difficult or sloping lies. Remember: It’s not a bad lie unless you do it.
Drop water in your drives
Want a more subtle kind of cheat where you put some kind of grease on the driver’s face? Stand in the taller grass on the side of the tee and swing one hand across the dewy grass as you anxiously await the group in the fairway to come up. Adding moisture to the face also reduces spin and turns the slice or hook into something that finds the right way.
Have some fun in the sandbox
The proliferation of HD broadcast cameras at professional events has increased publicity for this once obscure maneuver in recent years. When you spot a lie in a bunker with a large block of sand behind your ball, you can direct your swing path backwards to blast the block of sand out of the way before coming back for a bump. It’s a two-stroke penalty if caught, but it’s a big one if. In a casual home game, it’s pretty much undetectable unless your playing partners have binoculars and a healthy dose of skepticism.
Show your ball on the way home
One of the more satisfying old-school dark arts tricks is making physics your friend in tickling mode. When you replace the ball in front of the marker, drag it with some force along your preferred starting line for the shot. A depression made by the ball will keep it in the channel for a few inches, just like a gutter sheds a crooked bowling ball.
Put “Professional” temporarily
It was clear that Bobby Jones would mark a provisional ball differently than his first ball, so he would have known which one he found if he had hit them in the same area. Are you Bobby Jones? That’s your call, but some may temporarily bump into a label similar to the original. If they find one of their own, they must be the first one – every time.
He took two pounds
Photo by John Loomis
This may sound harsh, but you know the players who win by “low net” the most tournaments they play? They are not great golfers. Maybe they’re not great husbands; And I bet they are not good at their jobs. But they are good at manipulating the system.
Handicap is supposed to be what makes golf the greatest game in the world – a touring pro can have a fun match with a 100 shooter – but it only works if everyone is honest and consistent. I don’t laugh when after a poor run someone jokes, “I’m definitely posting these.” This pisses me off.
There is one person on my team who says he has a 4 handicap. I’m a plus 5, so I give it 4 hits per side. Every time we play for $100 he beats me. Then he will let me back into his wallet for $20. When the stakes rise again, it will be on par.