Cheating and gamesmanship among amateur and professional golfers

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To understand golf it is essential to realize its initial connection with class and amateurism. Organized golf began for upper-class males with the foundation in 1754 of the Society of St. Andrews Golfers, which became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland. Th e United States followed by emphasizing elitism and amateurism and in 1894 established the Amateur Golf Association of the United States, which became the United States Golf Association (USGA). Th e Royal and Ancient Golf Club and USGA collaboratively write, interpret, and govern the rules of golf with a lasting heritage that makes golf unique among sports. For example, only in golf does the first section of the rules describe etiquette and behaviors that demonstrate courtesy toward others. In playing by the spirit of the game, players are expected to demonstrate integrity and sportsmanship at all times.1 Th e rich heritage among upper-class males in Scotland, Europe, and the United States, along with the influence of the British amateur sport ideal of playing the game for the game's sake, shaped the rules of social and serious golf, and these rules apply equally to amateur and professional golfers. In contrast, media and anecdotal reports indicate that professionals in baseball, basketball, and football are more likely to engage in gamesmanship and cheating than are golfers. Th e cultures in these team sports, in comparison with that of golf, include greater acceptance of unethical behaviors. Th is chapter will explore whether, and to what extent, amateur or profess sional golfers cheat and engage in gamesmanship. A part of this examination will be to investigate whether individuals who choose to play golf for fun and recreation diff er in their demonstrated values from professional golfers. I will argue that amateur golfers tend to use a series of illogical rationalizations for cheating that, fortunately, professional golfers do not use.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGolf and Philosophy
Subtitle of host publicationLessons from the Links
PublisherThe University Press of Kentucky
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780813125947
StatePublished - 2010


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