I still don't understand why anyone really cares if someone carries a "vanity HC".....Other than bragging rights it's only going to hurt that person in the end. It's kind of like stuffing a sock in your shorts trying to impress the women. At some point you might have to expose yourself for the fraud you are.
Specific case for me here. A guy I work with claims to be a 3. It's unofficial and he states he doesn't need an official HC because he doesn't participate in competitions. He fits probably 95% of golfers in that regard. Every time I ask how he played he shot somewhere between a 71-75. So I of course assume he's got some game.
Last year we played together for the first time. We played the course he belongs to which is rated 68/117. In the course of our 18 holes of recreational play I saw him fluff almost every ball for the perfect lie, take 3 mulligans of which one was OB off the tee and another was a lost ball in tall grass. I saw him pick up 3 foot putts that were cross slope and probably broke 8" in that 3ft. He carded a 75 at the end of that day. I didn't care because he didn't turn cards in for HC and we weren't playing for money.
But I knew that with a course rating of 68 his 3 over converted to a 7HC right away and the slope at 117 didn't affect it. I also knew that he saved at least 4 strokes of stroke/distance on 2 of his mulligans and another stroke on the 3rd mulligan. Couple that with improved lies, a footwedge behind a shrub and gimee putts and he's lucky to be a 10-12HC. The guy does have some good ball striking and his wedge game is very impressive but when he gets in trouble he can blow up a hole really fast.
I chatted it up with a co-worker who plays regularly with him. He laughed and said that's how this guy plays every round. He said if you really want to piss him off make him putt everything out. He said he will miss 70% of his 3ft putts.
A few weeks after this the guy asked me to play again. Since we've played cards together for years and have always had a good time at it he wanted to play for money. I was actually shocked he didn't want to gamble on our first outing but I figured he wanted to size me up first on the course.
I told him I was a mid 8 HC and he said he was a 3. I then recalled a card game with a newbie that brought $500 to the table and started drinking heavy right away. When we play cards for that kind of money we have fun but it's also business in a sense and none of us drink more than a couple. That guy learned a hard lesson about heavy drinking and playing cards with guys that don't get stupid.
Since we both took advantage of a drunken card player to teach him a lesson, I figured it was time to teach this guy a lesson about handicaps and betting.
He gave me the 5 strokes I was due. I then made it really clear up front that when I play for money there are no mulligans, foot wedges, improved lies and all putts see the bottom of the cup unless conceded. He agreed and we set off.
Well, I proceeded to beat the heck out of him and take his money. The stakes weren't very high and I doubt I even made $15 but his ego was deflated. He chalked it up to a bad round and afterwards over a beer I casually told him that I used to think I was pretty good years ago until I started counting every stroke playing by the rigid rules of golf. I told him it humbled me to some extent but now I embrace it. I told him that had he actually kept legit scores in the past I would probably owe him 5 strokes instead of him owing me 5. He understood and it was a good conversation with me buying rounds with his money.
We don't play much golf together and I still hear him tell people about being a 3HC and I just grin. It's very important to him that people have the perception that he's a good golfer and he is a good golfer, just not a 3. He continues to golf and gamble but limits it to the same playing partners that keep score the same way he does so it works for him.
We still play poker regularly and that works for both of us very well.