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Open Mic Night: Sandbagging

From time to time our website will post a relevant golf topic for comment (slow play, Dustin Johnson/PGA Ruling, etc.) and members are encouraged to offer their thoughts in an open and relaxed format. One recent topic of

discussion certainly brought out a number of spirited, colorful and even emotional comments. That topic was sandbagging. The editor has asked that I respond to some of these comments in my next two columns. Perhaps the most common

“solution” offered by NCGA members who post is character- ized by the following: Post: Here’s the fi nal

answer...The NCGA needs to create two handicaps every month. One for the total of all rounds and one for tournament rounds. From the club level tourna- ments all the way up to the NCGA championships the tournament handicap will be used. The total handicap is merely informational and re- ally doesn’t have any bearing except for personal wagers or improvement progression. This makes the tourna- ment handicap much more valuable to the player. People are not going to sign up and pay for a bunch of tourna- ments, then play “bad” just to get their tournament

by Jim Cowan Director of

Course Rating & Handicapping


handicaps up for some future tournament. It wouldn’t make fi nancial sense. If a person doesn’t play in that many tourna- ments then it’s tough luck, that player needs to start getting involved. By playing in a tourna-

ment there is complete verifi - cation of the round and the score because it is going to be entered by the club’s board or the NCGA, ensuring the score gets posted properly. Answer: Sorry, but you lost me at hello. There are all sorts of holes in such a proposition beginning with the obvious fact that most golfers do not play in tournaments or play in very few per year. Casting them aside with a dismissive “it’s their tough luck” isn’t going to cut it. But here’s a more

practical concern. The goal of handicapping is to issue a Handicap Index which best describes a golfer’s “poten- tial” ability. For a golfer who plays perhaps three or four tournaments a year, which of the following is a better gauge of potential: a tourna- ment round from fi ve years ago or a casual round of golf played last week with friends for a couple of bucks? I don’t know about you, but my game today does not even resemble my game of 2005. I will take last week’s round every time and so will the Handicap System. The other major problem

concerns exactly what con- stitutes a tournament score. What one club considers a

66 / NCGA.ORG / FALL 2010

tournament worthy of a “T,” another may not (the T should be reserved for “sig- nifi cant” events, not routine weekly or monthly events). You simply cannot jump “all in” on such a system when there is no consistency in the sole ingredient to that system. I am all in

favor of dissect- ing T-scores further and providing better data to Handicap Committees, but I cannot support a proposal that leaves most golf- ers on the outside looking in. Here’s another passionate

comment left on our doorstep: Post: NCGA, please pay

attention to these posts. The one most common de- nominator here is the fl awed Equitable Stroke Control (ESC). Read what so many in here say about this. In an 18-hole round of golf a 10 handicap can adjust his score 18 strokes higher than a 9 handicap. This is insane. Under this fl awed system many players, once they get to a 10 or more handicap, never get back under 10 because they can post 18 shots more than a 9 handi- cap. Go back to the system we used to have...maximum double bogey for 0-18 hand- icaps. This won’t solve the problem of people cheating, but it will level the playing fi eld to those of us who play the game with honor and integrity. Answer: Not even close.

Yes, it is true that on a

standard par-72 golf course a 10-handicapper can post a score 18 strokes higher than a 9. But when was the last time you heard of a 10 shoot- ing a 126 (18 @ max score of 7 = 126)?

Most complaints

about ESC attack the idea that a 10 can record a quad on a par-3, but can- not “take” a triple on a par-5. I admit, this just doesn’t “feel” right. But the fact is that 10-19s seldom score a 7 on a par-3 which ren-

ders much of the point moot. Likewise, the idea that a

10 cannot get back down to a 9 (or a 20 to a 19) because of ESC does not hold water. The 10-handicappers just don’t record hole scores of 8 very often, let alone multiple times per round. And when they do, guess what, that round of golf tends to be one of the golfer’s worst 10 of 20 meaning that it has no bearing whatsoever on the handicap calculation (a handicap is based on the best 10 of 20 rounds). The “sway” that people

feel different forms of ESC have on handicaps is grossly exaggerated. The impact of the old ESC system versus the current (or any other proposed system) is measured in tiny fractions of a stroke— that’s all. And given the sim- plicity of the current system and the fact that more golfers use it, no change is in sight. I’ll tackle more comments/ suggestions in the next issue.

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