Women's Mailbag

How do you handle playing with someone who uses 'sketchy' math? Are there times when you don't have to play the ball is it lies? Your questions, answered

January 13, 2022

Erik Isakson

New year, new mailbag questions. Thank you to those who have been writing in with all of your quesitons about women's golf—and for the guys who've written in with quesitons, too. If you have a question you would like to have answered, you can submit it here. This week's first question is a tough one. Let's break it down.

Some ladies in our club have some difficulties keeping a correct score. I'm not saying it's intentional, but we do play for money from the Pro Shop, and 2 or 3 strokes off a round often means a big difference in who wins/places and how much. Any suggestions on how to approach? - CJ, San Diego

This is a tough situation, no question about it. But take some solace in knowing it’s, unfortunately, not uncommon. A lot of golfers have run into this, myself included. The first step is to make sure the other player is actually miscounting. If you feel like someone isn’t keeping track of all of their strokes, start paying closer attention. If it does end up being a trend, ask for the group’s scores on the green, or right after you step off the green. The further you get from the hole, the easier it is to forget that extra chip. So, instead of asking for scores on the next tee box or halfway down the next fairway, ask for them as soon as you’re done with the hole.

If you’re sure someone had a 6 and they’re saying it was a 5, say something like, “I think you might’ve missed a shot there, I think you had 5.” If she argues, ask, “Do you mind if we count it up?” This is where you have to be sure of your memory – start with the tee ball and count through the hole shot by shot, as specifically as possible.

The other players in your group then have a choice, to get involved or not. If this really is a trend with a certain player at your course, and you call a score into question, someone in your group is likely to back you up. I’m not saying you should gang up on the person in your group who needs some help counting, but it’ll make the situation easier on you if you don’t feel like you’re on an island.

If you go through every shot, you’re sure you’re right and she’s not relenting, and no one in your group says anything, for the sake of your sanity you’ve got to let it go. You’re not going to change someone’s mind in the walk between holes. It sounds like it’s a casual league event so it’s not worth making a scene on-course. You’ve asked her about it and calmly counted through her shots. If you go any farther, you’re going to end up not looking great. You don’t want the talk after the round to be about how you lost it at a player who forgot about a chip.

After the round, you have to ask yourself: How important is the pro shop credit to you? If it’s really important, you can talk to your pro or the chair of the women’s league, and get them involved. Honestly, I don’t think those are good options. Golf is a social game, and it gets more social the more casually it’s played. Which means, the social component in a casual women’s league is important. Personally, I wouldn't find the pro shop credit worth the social turmoil that would follow making formal complaints about a player in a league.

There's another aspect to all of this, which is the principle of it all. Why should you lose to someone who's not playing fair? Golf is a game of honor, shouldn't those unhonorable among us be punished? Again, this is a question of how much you're willing to put yourself through. Getting the moral high ground here could cause some dicey social situations at your club. That's your call if it's worth it.

If you chose not to pursue this issue beyond calling them on it on-course, sure, you’re losing out on pro shop credit, but they’re cheating in a casual game to win some extra pro shop swag—who’s the real loser?

You also might find that after talking through the hole shot-by-shot, the person who has trouble counting will start paying closer attention to their scores. And, you going through a hole shot-by-shot with the player might inspire someone else to do the same. Eventually, this player is going to figure out that they need to work on their counting, or they’re going to get a reputation for cheating.

It can be frustrating, but remember, this is for fun, it’s not your livelihood. Focus on your friends and your game.

At a public course, when is lift, clean and place accepted? When the ground is saturated? - Mark, Beaver Falls, Pa.

A much easier question! And from one of our male readers. Welcome, Mark. First off, a quick lesson in lift, clean and place for those who don't know what it is: Sometimes the course gets so wet, your ball will plug into the ground or pick up a lot of mud when it strikes the turf. On those days, the course will put a local rule in effect, allowing players to, when in their fairway, mark their ball, lift it up, clean it, and place it back "in the general area" from which you picked up the ball. So, if it's embedded into the ground, you don't have to put it back into the hole you pulled if from, just nearby.

When you check in for your tee time, you’ll likely be told if the local rule for lift, clean and place is in effect, or there might even be a sign out signaling as much. If you feel like it’s super soggy out there and you haven’t been told it’s lift, clean and place and there’s no sign out saying that it is, just ask in the pro shop.

If you’re playing a casual game within your group and it’s not formally lift, clean and place, but the course is totally drenched, you can make an agreement amongst your group to play lift clean and place.

As I was typing this advice, I had the question: If you do this, are you breaking the rules or are you still able to enter your score for your handicap? So I reached out to the USGA and was told you can, indeed, enter your score in this situation. That's because in this scenario, no individual in the group has gained an advantage and: "This is covered under Rule 2.1b in the Rules of Handicapping, which recognizes that golf is often played without the oversight of a committee.," the USGA rules team explained.