How Honest Is Your Golf Handicap?

Just how big a hypocrite are you, anyway? Or me too, for that matter?

I used to believe that I could look at my golf handicap and then look at others and say to myself (and hopefully, only to myself): “mine is as right as I can make it; theirs may or may not be.”

I now know that I was mostly wrong. I guess you could have called me a handicap snob, for a while, anyway. Oh, I still have doubts once in a great while about the veracity of the handicaps of some people I compete against.

But, there’s more to the story. Isn’t there always?

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I admit this: I used to think that my golf handicap was totally and brutally honest. I counted each and every stroke for every round of golf I played. I recorded (and still do) every score, using Equitable Stroke Control as per GHIN guidelines.

What’s not to like about that? That’s what the USGA expects! Right? Right!

But, the truth is: that’s not always how we always play. Is it?

I play the ball as it lies, or “down”, as called for in the Rules of Golf,  quite often, most of the time, actually. But there are a few groups I play with that use what is referred to as “winter rules” all the time. I play with a few golfers that have never not “noodled” the ball, or rolled it, or whatever you call it where you live. Some people just call it cheating.

We do play for money; it’s not much, I admit. It’s definitely not enough to warrant reporting to the IRS, either wins or losses. But who wants to put themselves at a disadvantage while competing for stakes, even if it’s just who buys the beer?

Oh, one could take the high road and always play strictly by the Rules of Golf, regardless of what others did or regardless of any competitive disadvantage, but that would go somewhat against human nature. I mean, and I repeat, who wants to give everyone else an edge in any sort of competition, even a so-called friendly game? So, we do what everyone else does.

And that brings us back to accurate handicaps.

I learned a while back that the USGA, while still adhering to, and administering the Golf Handicap Information Network (GHIN) guidelines, determines handicaps not recorded strictly by the Rules of Golf to be inaccurate.

That is to say that what I once thought was almost above reproach, was in fact, incorrect in the eyes of the USGA. I guess I never really thought about it that closely. But scores could really be off a little by giving one’s self an improved lie once in a while.

I can almost hear some purists in my head saying: “you mean you actually move the ball and think that’s okay?” “You don’t think that’s cheating?”

So, there’s the first reason handicaps may or may not be as accurate as they could be. Yours or mine. People do move the ball around from time to time, whether you want them to or not.

The second that comes to mind is the handicaps that are inaccurate due to incomplete or selective posting.

This reason has two components, really. Some people have artificially high handicaps. They post only the highest of scores and clearly “forget” to post those rounds when they shoot a low score. Sandbaggers are in their element here, of course. Artificially high handicaps are in the clear majority in the artificial numbers game.

The ones who have artificially low handicaps are clearly in the minority, and for good reason. That practice does them no good, whether they know it or not. The only benefit is to their ego; that can be a costly ego trip (to somebody).

I once played a 2 man better ball match with a blind draw for partners. I drew a partner who claimed to be “a four”. He did not break 100, and probably couldn’t without benefit of an eraser. He wasn’t even embarrassed; he just cited excuse after excuse for his high score.

I was not upset at his play; he actually tried quite hard to shoot his best. I was rankled, instead because his artificially low handicap was far outside of his ability. He was only hurting his own chances for success (and mine, somewhat).

There are obviously more than two reasons for an inaccurate handicap. They may include:

  • Not using Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) when posting
  • Not turning in scores for unfinished rounds where at least 14 holes were played. (there is a way to record that score using GHIN allocated strokes)
  • Thinking 9 hole rounds cannot be recorded
  • Not recording tournament rounds
  • Not recording rounds played away from your home course

The list goes on.

And I have not even mentioned “gimme” putts (You know, the ones people give you when you aren’t even involved in match play). How many of those strokes go by the wayside?

It may be tough to remember everything all the time. Everyone will forget something, sometime. And, it’s not only easy, but okay, to excuse ignorance of proper procedures most of the time. This is supposed to be a friendly game. Right?

But, it’s harder to accept when there is a purposeful avoidance of having an accurate, honest-as-can-be handicap. I just wish we all had one. Don’t you?

Why worry about this? The question does come up once in a while. My humble opinion is that as we travel, whether it is to another country, state or city, our handicap goes where we go, along with all our other baggage (pun intended). Shouldn’t our Hydeout be worry free?



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