Who hasn’t bemoaned the existence of the “handicap managers”? Those who manipulate their handicaps – sometimes slightly, other times dramatically – have always existed. I’ve played golf for over a half century and I’ve never seen a tournament winner that wasn’t a sandbagger, at least in the eyes of a few disgruntled losers.
Frankly, it gets old watching as the same people seem to win over and over again while other golfers haven’t been spotted in the winner’s circle since the early Pleistocene era. If you’ve been a club member for ten years and have never taken home the trophy, someone’s got to be cheating, right? After all, the handicap system is supposed to level the playing field and statistically there’s a greater chance of a blowup doll named Naomi falling from the sky than there is of you going ten years without ever having a sniff of victory. You’re not winning because someone is cheating.
The cheater is you! That’s right; you’re cheating yourself out of victory. When you go out on the golf course and improve your lie, you’re cheating. You may save a stroke or so every round. When you give yourself the three foot putt, you’re cheating. Everyone misses one once in a while. If you take a putt, your scores are going to be a half to a whole stroke lower than they realistically should be. When you play a Mulligan, you’re cheating. Take an illegal drop and you’re cheating. “Oh, give me a double-bogey” when you’re already laying six and you’re not on the green yet. You’re cheating.
In all these cases, you’re cheating yourself. You’re consistently coming in with scores that are one, two or more strokes lower than they really should be. If everybody in your group plays by the same “relaxed” rules, you’re giving each other tacit approval for cheating yourselves.
Everyone wants to have a lower handicap (except in tournaments), but if you cheat at Solitaire, did you really win the game? If you’re carrying an ego handicap, you can brag all you want, but it’s not going to be about your winnings. You’re not going to have any.
I hate to burst your bubble, but there’s not a lot you can do when you’re competing against a guy with an “honest” handicap, i.e., he plays by the rules, when you’re spotting him two strokes because you’re too embarrassed to write down a triple-bogey when you get on.
When you’re handicap is artificially low, what chance do you have? This doesn’t even begin to take into account how to compete against those who “manage” their handicaps to make them artificially higher. Why worry about them? You’ve already lost the tournament.
Does that mean we shouldn’t be concerned with the more devious handicap managers? No, not at all. But that’s a topic for another column. (And it’s coming!)