Integrity in golf under siege as betting craze picks momentum

By Vincent Wang'ombe: Friday, August 2nd 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Golf
Nyali's long-hitting golfer George Munyao makes a swing. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

A few years ago, Tony and his family were on holiday at the Leisure Lodge Resort in Diani. Tony’s family have never fancied playing the game of golf but he had been allowed one round on one of the mornings when his wife and daughters were visiting the beauty parlour.

As Tony walked to the first tee, planning to play the round alone, he bumped into Aaron, a friend from his home club who was also preparing to play.

“Are you playing alone?” asked Aaron. “That was my plan,” replied Tony.

Aaron was delighted to hear that Tony was alone and recruited him as his partner in a four-ball match against a duo that Tony had not met before then. Tony was very apprehensive since Aaron was known for placing hefty bets. Tony was not averse to a little wager during a round of golf just to spice things up but he was not going to place a big bet.

Aaron, on the other hand, is one of those people who don’t enjoy a round of golf without some mind-boggling bets. He was known to have called his driver to drive off his friend’s Mercedes Benz after his friend was unable to raise cash to cover his golf bet.

“How much?” asked Tony. “Don’t you think that I can play without a bet?” Aaron responded trying to feign displeasure at the assumption.

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“How much?” insisted Tony. “Okay. Give me one thousand shillings,” Aaron responded.

To cut a long story short, Tony and Aaron won the match. Aaron gave Tony Sh40,000 as a token of appreciation. The amount of money at stake for the round was Sh2 million. Aaron had ended up forking out Sh1 million to cover their side of the bet after his previous partner had bailed out on him.

This kind of betting may be too extreme for a vast majority of golfers but gambling on the course is on the rise. Many golf clubs today have a casino every week and betting is the glue that binds a majority of fixed groups on any golf course. In golf, there is a clear distinction between professional and amateur golfers. Amateur golfers are not allowed to win cash unless it is for a hole-in-one which is incidental to the round of golf.

The Rules of Amateur Status do not outlaw informal gambling or wagering among individuals or groups as long as they meet certain conditions. Some of the conditions are that the players generally know each other, the money won must be advanced by the participants and the amount of money must not be excessive.

Some of the amounts being wagered on golf courses are anything but moderate. The fact that the leadership at clubs are now getting involved in organising casinos makes the competitions formal and since they are open to all including non-members, the players can’t claim to know each other.

These conditions are definitely in contravention of the Rules of Amateur Status. Other than the breach of the Rules, betting is increasing golf cheats and handicap sandbaggers. The cheating has also permeated to caddies who are increasingly being reported to be using “foot-wedges” to give their masters a favourable lie.

The game of golf is generally played without referees and it is probably the easiest to cheat at. This is why integrity is the most important quality expected of all golfers.

If uncontrolled betting changes this, then we will have destroyed the game of golf in Kenya.

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Related Topics: Betting Gambling