Our Top 5 Golf Controversies



With Christmas behind us and the days getting lighter many golfers are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with Spring slowly approaching.

The New Year has started off with two major controversies, one within our own government and Novak Djokovic causing controversy with the ongoing visa row and we are hardly into the New Year!

In 2021 there were a few golf controversies, from the rollout of the World Handicap System and players competing in PGA Tour Events no longer being able to use their highly detailed green-reading books.

Golf has had many more controversies of their own over the years and we are looking back at our top 5!

Number 5

Our first golf controversy takes us back to 2010 and Juli Inkster at the LPGA Safeway Classic. While waiting at the No. 10 hole on the Ghost Creek Course Juli was using a weighted training aid ‘The Donut’ on her 9 iron to stay loose. What makes this controversy even more interesting is that the rule break was noticed by a viewer watching the televised tournament who contacted tournament officials. Unfortunately, rules are rules and Juli was disqualified. This was even more heart breaking for Juli who shot 67 and was 8 under after the first two rounds.

Number 4

This is more of a player that had a huge collapse in form rather than a controversy but still hit the headlines back in 1999. It was at the Open at Carnoustie that saw Jean van de Velde who was leading by 3 strokes, needing just a double bogey 6 to claim the title and become the first player from France to win The Open since Arnaud Massy in 1907.

But for Jean van de Velde it wasn’t meant to be with a comedy of errors which ended up with him wading into the water considering a shot as the ball was barely submerged. Photos were seen around the world of him wading in the water trying to figure out if he could actually make a shot, before finally giving up. The result from this disastrous hole was he ended up playing in a four-hole playoff, which he eventually lost to Paul Lawrie.

Number 3

One of The Masters most famous controversaries, (well before our number 1 Golf controversy took place) happened in 1968 and involved Roberto de Vicenzo and what became known as the famous scorecard gaffe. Tommy Aaron accidently marked de Vincenzo down for a par when he had actually made a birdie. When de Vicenzo signed the card not spotting the error the score had to go through as a par rather than birdie despite millions witnessing the birdie.

Many felt that it cost de Vicenzo the Masters when in fact it cost him the opportunity of a play-off with Bob Goalby.

Number 2

The number two golf controversy takes us back to the Solheim Cup in 2015 where the match was all square at the par-three 17th hole. Alison Lee and Brittany Lincicome were in a close encounter with Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull when Lee missed the putt to win the hole and then picked up her ball. At this point she believed her close-range putt had been conceded. Hull was already walking towards the next hole when Pettersen claimed Europe had not conceded the ‘gimme’ that remained, leading the host being awarded the hole after the match referee intervened.

The impact on what some golfers felt was unsportsmanlike behaviour resulted in the US recording the biggest Solheim cup fightback and with a 14 ½ – 13 ½ victory      

Number 1

Speak to many golfers and those who remember this incident would have their own opinions on what should have happened.

Back in 2013 the number 1 golf story was Tiger Wood’s illegal drop at the Masters. On the par-5, 15th hole, Tiger’s ball hit the flagstick and the ball rolled back into the water. It was at this point that he had to take a drop and the start of the golfing controversy begins. After dropping a couple of yards back from the original spot and not the drop area, Tiger finished the hole, finishing 3-under for the day.

It wasn’t until David Feherty alluded to an illegal drop on a late night golf show that people started to pay interest and by the morning when media and fans could find replays of the drop that it became apparent that the drop could have been illegal.

By 7am the following day it had become the biggest story at the Masters and was moving away from a legal drop debate to a discussion about disqualification. The final outcome was no disqualification but a 2-stroke penalty due to a technicality from a new 2011 USGA decision regarding high-definition television. With this controversial result the talk then became, if it had happened to any other player would the final result have been the same.

The only plus was Tiger didn’t go onto win but still this controversy gets discussed even today.


Golf is all about rules but within this there should always be a spirit of sportsmanship, a prime example was Jack Nicklaus's concession to Tony Jacklin in 1969 with the Ryder Cup at stake, worth a quick google to see what happened.

Don’t forget to comment below if you have any other controversy that is worth noting, one thing for sure is there will no doubt be some more in the future.

Check out our Explore Page to find your local course or search for other courses to play in your area, and if you have any comments, please fill in the form below.

Written by Stephen Page

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