Dear Molly

I play in a weekend league where the prizes are a little bit of pro shop money here and there. Now and then, after we putt out on a hole, my fellow competitor reports a score, but I count more. What should I do?

Tread lightly! After all, there are several reasons why we get our own score wrong. Yes, we may be trying to cheat. More likely, we are getting forgetful! And most likely, the score was so high that we quite honestly lost track!

In the latter case, we are probably already ticked off and will snap at you if you approach us in any way other than gently. After all, who makes 12 on a hole and longs to hear, “But I had you with a 13”?

However, I’m guessing you’ve traded scorecards with this person and are writing down the scores, and then in the end you are both responsible for signing the card to attest that everything is correct. Therefore, you must agree on each number.

There’s also the concept of “protecting the field” by making sure even players with whom you are not in direct competition record every stroke. Playing with a third-flighter in one league contest, my first-flight companion gave a “who cares” shrug when I whispered I had counted 10, not eight, for the third-flighter on a hole. Other third-flighters might care.

I like to combine a head scratch (maybe even with the pencil) with gentle recollection, “Let’s see – your tee shot went into the penalty area, then you dropped and went into the bunker, your next one went across the green to the other bunker, then you tried, let’s see, once, twice, three times, right?, to get out and then finally took a drop out of the bunker, put the next shot on the green, and then, how many putts?” And we count it all up together.

Sometimes, the lower number may be the right one. Maybe I thought there was a drop taken when instead the ball was found just outside the penalty area, for example.

Most likely, though, one of those attempts to leave the bunker has been forgotten and the player already miserable about taking a big number on a par 3 ends up apologizing for miscounting. Ouch.

Now, suppose you saw three tries out of the bunker but your fellow competitor insists there were only two? I asked Ashley Harrell, the CGA’s Chief Operating Officer, about this when we were randomly paired together in a recent fun round.

Ashley said score disputes are fairly common on the junior circuit, where some players lose track and others are still learning honesty and integrity.

“We’ll try going through each shot, including the other players in the group who might have observed on the hole,” says Ashley. “But if all else fails, we take the word of the player. Golf is a game of honor and integrity, and we trust golfers to uphold the spirit of the game.”

So whatever the case may be – cheating, senility, miscounting – remember: In competition, tread lightly.

In casual rounds with friends, of course, anything goes! “No way you had a six!” and “You WISH you had a six!” and “Six, plus two penalty strokes for that tee shot OB you conveniently forgot” are all perfectly appropriate admonitions.

Molly McMulligan, created by golf journalist and CGA member Susan Fornoff, is the CGA’s on-the-course advisor on how to have more fun on the golf course. You don’t want to take swing lessons from Molly, but if you’ve got a question about etiquette, relationships or the culture of golf in Colorado, Molly will find the answer. Send your questions along here.


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