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Open Mic Night: Sandbagging, Part Three

“ ” This represents my

third and final installment in response to various comments/suggestions posted by NCGA members regarding the topic of sandbagging. Post: I agree with an

earlier comment about the rating/slope system being broken. The rating/slope system, in its current form, could easily inflate handicaps, even if the golfer is ethical. Let’s assume every golfer

is honest and does not post incorrectly, or take “extra” strokes on a certain hole they are already out of in stroke play (I know this is not realistic, but let’s play along for argument’s sake). You can play an easy course (local muni) from the white tees, and then you can play, let’s say, Spyglass Hill, from the tips (blue tees). An aver- age golfer would get maybe three or four extra strokes added to his or her handi- cap playing Spyglass from the blue compared to the local muni from the whites. Any average golfer who has ever played Spyglass can tell you it is more like 10 to 15 strokes harder. So under this example, the golfer who plays all his rounds at a Spyglass “type” course from the blue tees will have a much higher index than

By Jim Cowan Director of

Course Rating & Handicapping


another similarly-skilled golfer who plays all his rounds at the local muni from the white tees. Did the golfer who established his index at Spyglass cheat? Is he a sandbagger? Or does the rating/slope system need to take into account that hard

20 strokes of the Course Rating at Spyglass Hill on a consistent basis than to do the same at Pacific Grove, the old system would have issued identical handicaps to both golfers. Who do you think would have fared better in a head-to-head competition? Me too. . .the easy-course player did not have a prayer. Now fast

forward to the present. These

days we have a two- dimensional Course Rating System; one that views

courses need to be treated MUCH differently than easy courses in establishing an accurate index. Answer: Your comments

are right on the mark. They are just a bit late. . .like 25 years late! Before the advent of

the Slope System, every- thing you mentioned was pretty much true. In fact, it represented the motivation to change the way that golf courses are looked at. Back then, the Course Rating System was one dimen- sional. . .that is, it only looked at a golf course’s difficulty through the eyes of a scratch golfer. And even though it was perfectly obvious to everyone that it took a much, much bet- ter golfer to score within

70 / NCGA.ORG / SPRING 2011

the difficulty of a course through the eyes of both a scratch golfer and a bogey golfer, thereby generating a Course and Slope Rat- ing. And this has proven to make all the difference in the world. The current system

recognizes how stagger- ingly more difficult Spyglass Hill is than practically any other course (especially for high-handicappers) and “adjusts” scores played there accordingly. How much so? Try this on for size. A score of 98 from the blue tees at Spyglass Hill actually works out to a better performance than an 85 from the white tees at Pacific Grove (right in line with the “10 to 15 strokes harder” comment in the

post). The 98-shooter, in this instance, would actually be issued a lower Handicap Index than the 85-shooter at Pacific Grove. I am not about to

pretend that the current system is perfect and that every easy-course player can make the transition to Spyglass Hill as the models would suggest, but Slope has taken a big bite out of the glaring discrepan- cies that once plagued the system. Instead of having to play his Spyglass Hill counterpart “straight up” like he did before Slope, our Pacific Grove friend scoring 20 strokes above the Course Rating on a regular basis would now find that he is the beneficiary of four to five pops wherever they play. And that is the way it should be. This concludes our

series on suggestions to curb sandbagging. And to be honest with you, they all seemed to call for massive systematic changes (develop a tournament handicap, change ESC, get rid of Internet score posting, make everybody post hole-by- hole, change the Course Rating System), as if it were the System to blame for the sins of the dishonest golf- ers themselves. To me this misses the point. The best offense against sandbagging has and will always be a vigilant Handicap Commit- tee with the courage to rise to action. Thank you for your


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