Umpires and managers for HonorThere are few sports where honor plays as prominent a role as it does in golf.  The reason?  There aren’t any rules officials – we’re on our own to call rules infractions on ourselves.  Even if we accidentally move our golf ball 1/16 of an inch, in the woods, 100 yards from our nearest competitor, we assess ourselves a penalty stroke.  And while officials are made available at some tournaments, golfers still call infractions on themselves when officials aren’t present.  This is why golf is known as a game of honor.

Compare this to other sports:

  • Football, where some say the mantra is “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge NFL fan and love football for its athleticism, power and speed.  But honor?  Not its strong suit.
  • Baseball, where even Derek Jeter (one of the classiest players ever and one of my all-time favorites – and I’m a Mets fan!) acted his way onto first base pretending he’d been hit by a pitch when a replay clearly showed he hadn’t. And where outfielders routinely trap fly balls between their glove and the ground but pretend they’d caught them cleanly.
  • Basketball, where one form of stretching the rules is so common it even has a name:  “flopping.”   Players intentionally fall down pretending they’ve been hit by a competitor in an attempt to trick the referee into calling a foul where none was made.

So I wonder, does the fact that golfers are trusted to enforce the rules make golfers more trustworthy?  I shudder to think what an NBA or NFL game would look like without referees, and the thought of baseball players calling their own balls and strikes is downright comical.  But I can’t help but think – without referees, would players in these other sports be more trustworthy and honorable?



  1. Julie Cole August 27, 2015 at 11:52 am - Reply

    Interesting question re: if the officials weren’t present, would players be more honest. I know that at my college, there was an honor code for exam taking…. no proctors were ever present, and each student had to sign an “honor pledge” stating that they had neither given nor received assistance on the exam. I believe this made us *more* trustworthy.

    Interestingly, after I left school, the pledge was changed so that it included a promise to REPORT an issue if you HAD seen someone cheating. This raises a whole other question…. does cheating also include inaction to “tell” if you observed cheating?

    Thanks for a great blog!

    • Patty Ellis August 27, 2015 at 6:27 pm - Reply

      WOW, Julie, your college experience seems to say that maybe people wouldn’t cheat as much WITHOUT refs. And what a moral dilemma about reporting! I guess the pledge really says if you see cheating but don’t report it, you’re an accessory to the crime.

  2. Butch August 27, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Nice post Patty, even if I took a 7 on a par 3 lol

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