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The End of Sandbagging - Part II



This somewhat continues a blog posting from 2016.  If anyone is interested (Anyone?... Anyone?... Bueller), here is a link: https://thesandtrap.com/blogs/entry/91-the-end-to-sand-bagging/

Fast forward 4+ years and I now occupy the highly sought-after position of Handicap Chairman.  We modified the Knuth Tournament Point System for our club.  Members accumulate points over the course of the season but, rather than roll the points over to the next year, we start fresh.  One of the biggest drawbacks with a “rolling 2-year” computation was the recordkeeping involved.

We also moved to a “Competition Only” handicap for our members.  We develop a handicap index based solely on “C” (formerly “T”) scores.  Players continue to post all their scores to GHIN to maintain their GHIN index.  We pull the “C” scores out and calculate an index using the WHS calculation but with just their “C” scores.  An excel spreadsheet makes this process fairly easy.

The move to a “Competition Only” index has largely solved the issue of sandbagging.  Over the course of a season, few members are successful enough to “earn” a Knuth handicap reduction.  After 9 tournaments in 2020, three members currently have reductions of 2-3 strokes.  Most of our member’s GHIN indexes closely mirror their “C-only” indexes we use in our tournaments.  Only one member has won their Flight more than a single time.  The exception, surprisingly, has won 3 times in 5 tournaments.  That success has earned him 9 Knuth points and a 3-stroke reduction going forward.  When I gave him the news, he was not pleased.  Here is an excerpt from his response:

“… In using this system, it is not making (our tournaments) fair or equitable.   It is like anybody who plays should get a ribbon because they participated, make all feel good, nobody loses, SOCIALISM.”

I tied to talk to him at the next tournament but he did not want to discuss his situation.  If he had stopped a moment, he might have realized the entire system of handicapping is a bit of “socialism”.  He clearly would not fare too well even-up with his 10-handicap game against our scratch members.  The handicap system is designed to make it possible for everyone to have a chance at getting a ribbon, as he put it, but it does not guarantee a ribbon.

Still, he does somewhat have a point about our club’s efforts at leveling the playing field.  By using a “Competition Only” index, eventually even the worst choker will see his index rise sufficiently to make him competitive.  Why practice and try to become better when eventually poor play will result in a competitive index?

For example, “Rob” is a tall, strong individual.  He has a good swing and is capable of hitting the ball a long way, relatively straight.  Still, he seems to be a bit of a vanity handicapper.   A couple years ago he was playing in our “A” Flight (unsuccessfully).  While his current GHIN index is 7.1, his scores from his last 8 tournaments are: 89, 83, 88, 87, 93, 100, 92, 92.  The 83 resulted in a differential of 10.2 so the balance of the differentials are higher.  His “C-Only” index is 11.8.  Currently “Rob” is playing in our C Flight with guys sporting indexes of 11.0-15.0.  It is just a matter of time before “Rob” gets his “ribbon.”  In our efforts to weed out potential sandbaggers, we have promoted the also ran’s into contenders.

I am not going to lose any sleep over this situation.  After the season’s end, the Board can decide whether any changes are warranted.  I somewhat like the idea of using the lower of the GHIN and “C-Only” indexes.  If someone wants to have a low GHIN index, let him compete with it.


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How big of an issue is sandbagging at your club, for little club events, that you had to institute a competition only handicap?

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Our club is "senior only" with ages from 50 to 94.  We run 16 "net" tournaments (one is a 3-day event) over the course of the year.  Participation in each event runs 90 to 110 players divided into 4 flights.

One would think these guys wouldn't try to game the system since the winner's gift certificate is only $100. Still, there are a handful of players every year who play considerably better than their GHIN index.  There was a four year stretch where the same individual topped the "money list" 3 of the 4 years.  A lot of the members were grumbling.

Also, we had a huge problem with players not posting to GHIN and/or posting incorrectly.  As a club without real estate, we can't check the tee sheet.  

The Board started looking for ways to assure that the member's index reflected their play.  We now post all our competition scores for the members using Golf Genius.  Since we knew the "C" scores were posted correctly, a decision was made to calculate indexes for our tournaments using just the verifiable scores from past events.  Since the accumulation of "C" scores takes time, it was noted that the "C" index often lagged well behind the "potential" of some members.  Rapid improvement is often not that hard for a 25.0 index.  That is why the Knuth TPS process went into effect.

The entire process of calculating "C" only indexes and "Knuth" points takes me 30 minutes a week.  Still, I agree that our system of managing our members indexes is overkill.  

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Long before I ever signed up for a GHIN index I was playing high school and college golf.  For some reason my game always perked up for tournaments. I was not a sandbagger but my tournament rounds were almost always better than my casual rounds. I think back then I was a competition junkie. Loved it and thrived in doing it. I was more focused during tournament rounds.  I have several friends who almost always shoot better in a tournament but I don't ascribe it to sandbagging. On the other hand I see nothing unfair about a competition handicap.

Edited by Double Mocha Man

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4 hours ago, Double Mocha Man said:

...I have several friends who almost always shoot better in a tournament but I don't ascribe it to sandbagging. On the other hand I see nothing unfair about a competition handicap.

I totally agree.  While the title implies we have sandbaggers, we rarely have anyone intentionally manipulate the numbers.  We do have members like your friends who have better focus and course management when playing in a competition.  Our competition index reflects their play in tournaments rather than slapping it around with buddies.

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One of my clubs does the same thing, maintains a club only index after a first season (first season is based upon GHIN). The difference is the indexes are only used to determine flights whereas the competitions are gross within flight and overall. I think that avoids your socialism issue but IDK.

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I have played in "gross within the flight" competitions.  Great for the 10 playing in the 10-15 flight.  Unless the flights have a small range, like 10-12, there is quite an advantage for the lower handicaps.

There is no perfect system for handicapped competitions.  I accept the fact that I am not good enough to compete in a gross tournament.  If I want to play in competitions and have a chance to win, it will be a net event, flaws and all.

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Did I read this right? The guy with a 10 handicap is beating scratch golfers and he's screaming about socialism and participation trophies?

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