Are pros cheating over spike marks?

'isn't there a little too much 'repairing of pitchmarks' going on when a pro is sizing up his or her putt?'

Bob Warters's picture
Tue, 27 Mar 2007

Are pros cheating over spike marks?
Are pros cheating over spike marks?
Spike marks on the green: Isn't it time we made it fair for all?

I'm not convinced the players on the Tours around the world are playing fair with the Rules of Golf.

The game has a reputation for self policing and no other sport has players who call penalties on themselves. But when it comes to those inevitable imperfections on those pristine greens we see on the world's best courses, I reckon there's an unwritten agreement among players and officials.

Are pros cheating of spike marks?
You can repair damage from ball impact like this

I have no evidence to back up my claim of cheating and no players or officials would ever admit it, but isn't there a little too much 'repairing of pitchmarks' going on when a pro is sizing up his or her putt?

It will be particularly in evidence next week at the US Masters at Augusta, which many claim has become a putting contest since the slightest blemish from a dragged foot can change a putt's direction.

As we all know (or should know), the Rules of Golf (Rule 16-1c) state that a player may repair old holes or damage to the putting green caused by ball impact (pitchmarks), whether or not the player's ball lies on the putting green...any other damage (presumably spike marks left by previous players) must not be repaired if it might assist the player in his subsequent play of the hole."

Penalty for breach of Rule is loss of hole in matchplay - two strokes in strokeplay.

Next time you watch a televised event, note how players inspect the lines of their putts and almost inevitably spot 'pitchmark damage' and stick a fork in and then tamp it down.

They never call another player over to justify their potential action, merely carry on 'gardening'.

Even though we're shown close-ups of the ball rolling towards the hole, the cameras never focus in on any damage that might have been previously repaired. Are we then to accept that every repaired blemish on the line of a putt is made by the impact of a ball landing on the green and therefore fair game for repair?

Are pros cheating over spike marks?
The agony of a missed putt

Surely with at least 300 pairs of feet (including caddies) trampling around every hole almost every day, there are bound to be tears and grooves which can effect the roll of the ball. And it's rare to see players tidying up after themselves as they leave the green, apart from the occasional absent-minded prod around the hole on the way to the next tee.

The rule makers (the R&A and USGA) have long resisted the opportunity to change the Rules to allow golfers to repair spike marks on the line of a putt.

I'm sure, their view is that to change would take away the concept of 'playing the ball as it lies' and all derivations from that. They fear the mere changing of this rule would cause a landslide of requests for other changes.

After all this time and golf having built a reputation for fair play, don't they trust us not to jab the sole of a putter along the line of a putt creating a gully towards the hole?

Anyone who did would be rail-roaded from the course.

With so much money at stake in the professional game and millions of pounds and dollars hingeing on one stroke, I don't believe there isn't already some illegal tampering going on and if a pro spots an imperfection between ball and cup, a blind eye will be turned as long as the process of identifying it as a pitchmark is followed.

Either come clean or change the rule. Let's stop tampering with fair play.