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How Many Plus Handicap Golfers in the U.S.?


Better-Than-Scratch Players in the U.S.  

79 members have voted

  1. 1. How many better-than-scratch (plus index golfers) do you think there are in the United States as of September, 2020?



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2 hours ago, iacas said:

Well, yeah… one is a range of 10 spots (0.0, 0.1, 0.2… 0.9), the other goes from 0.1 to… +6 or something. 60 spots.

Right, duh. 

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2 hours ago, Pretzel said:

I wonder how many of them are golfers like me, where they currently have a + index primarily because it's been a while since they last played and they haven't posted enough new rounds to fix that? Prior to this summer I hadn't actually posted a round since 2017, but now that I'm free from college I've started again and the results are ugly.

I find this really interesting. I voted 10k, but after reading the hidden comment and then this, I also wonder how many people are in this category. I am sure there are many people where life gets in the way, they start playing casually and stop keeping a cap. I also wonder if there are people that get to +1, then stop recording to preserve their cap (vanity capping but maybe was legitimate at one time).

I played with a guy today that swears up and down he is a 12 hdcp (and that he could be a 6-8 in no time). By his count, he shot an 89 on a 69.0/124 rated course. By our (me and friend) count, he shot a 93, tying my friend who is probably around a 24.

I think that this type of vanity capping is probably less prevalent at the scratch to + cap range, but wonder if it still happens (gimmies and the occasional uncounted stroke).

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8 minutes ago, Bonvivant said:

I find this really interesting. I voted 10k, but after reading the hidden comment and then this, I also wonder how many people are in this category. I am sure there are many people where life gets in the way, they start playing casually and stop keeping a cap. I also wonder if there are people that get to +1, then stop recording to preserve their cap (vanity capping but maybe was legitimate at one time).

I think if you don't have an active handicap, you're not included in that list.

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Just now, iacas said:

I think if you don't have an active handicap, you're not included in that list.

Makes sense. I am curious how many + cap golfers there are with inactive handicaps then, especially to see the ratio to active ones.

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Well, my somewhat educated guess turned out to be correct, 35,000.  I figured 7,000,000 US golfers with handicap indexes.  1% as very close to scratch based on some chart I seemed to recall.  Half of that was 35,000.  Of course, the entire "calculation" may have been based on incorrect information.

The impressive thing to me is that likely the majority of these pluses do it on difficult courses.  My guess is that typically if one is good enough to sport a plus index, the player is not playing from the "Orange" tees at 6,000 yards.

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I picked 10,000, but 35k makes sense. Off the top of my head I know at least 5 that have a better than 0. I don't think these guys keep vanity caps at plus because it would cost them way too much money. 

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I guessed 50,000.  No rationale, just picked a number.  The part that bothers me is not if "Vanity Handicaps" are included or not, it is that my HI is so far to the right on the bell curve.  At least I am still on the chart.

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9 hours ago, bkuehn1952 said:

The impressive thing to me is that likely the majority of these pluses do it on difficult courses.  My guess is that typically if one is good enough to sport a plus index, the player is not playing from the "Orange" tees at 6,000 yards.

Yeah but at the same time it’s easier to shoot 73 on a 74.2 course sometimes than 68 on a 69.1 course.

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20 hours ago, Bonvivant said:

I played with a guy today that swears up and down he is a 12 hdcp (and that he could be a 6-8 in no time).

We've never played golf before 😜

All kidding aside, I no longer think I'm just around the corner from being a single digit player anymore. I've realized that I've pretty much hit my ceiling based on how much time I have available to practice and play.

20 hours ago, Bonvivant said:

By his count, he shot an 89 on a 69.0/124 rated course. By our (me and friend) count, he shot a 93, tying my friend who is probably around a 24.

The details matter. Was he really vanity capping by not counting all his strokes, or are you not factoring in net double bogey?

Sample size matters, too. Comparing a bad round by a stranger to a good round by your friend isn't exactly the best way to assess a person's handicap index. I'm pretty sure I'm a 25 index based solely on the rounds I've played with @DaveP043 - I've never broken 90 playing with him. I've also oddly never shot over 90 playing with @jamo and @boogielicious.

30 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

i was well low as well, I guessed 10,000.

I did, too. There are a lot more people who are pretty good at this game than I thought.

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12 minutes ago, billchao said:

The details matter. Was he really vanity capping by not counting all his strokes, or are you not factoring in net double bogey?

I didn't really think about this. On the second hole, a 360 yard par 4, he was near the green in 2 shots (not bad right?), but told us that he got a triple. Post round when me and my good friend got together, we counted his strokes on the hole, and it was 9 or possibly even 10!

He claimed that it was his first triple in many weeks. For him, I think it really is an ego thing. He hits the ball a very long way compared to us (280-300 yard driver when he takes driver compared to our 220-250 depending on hole, irons feel like an even bigger gap with his 7 iron somewhere in the 170-180 yard range), and I think that he just can't bear to take anything worse than a double unless there are real golfers in the group that can actually count.

If I had to guess, his NDB score would have been about what he told us he got, which was an 89. Not very impressive considering the course. All of the strokes that he cheated were around the green, claiming gimmes and the like. We have caught him in other rounds before and spoken up about it....it's almost always a missed shot putt or a duffed chip that he doesn't think should count.

Sorry, this is completely OT and an anecdote. Just answering (in too much detail) the question.

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On 9/8/2020 at 2:09 PM, iacas said:

Yeah but at the same time it’s easier to shoot 73 on a 74.2 course sometimes than 68 on a 69.1 course.

This for sure. The tougher rated the course, the better my handicap gets.  The easier rated courses worsen my handicap.  Can't seem to score on easier ones, it sucks.

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On 9/8/2020 at 3:09 PM, iacas said:

Yeah but at the same time it’s easier to shoot 73 on a 74.2 course sometimes than 68 on a 69.1 course.

I would strongly agree with this statement. When I was playing my best I would generally shoot par +/- 2 shots at just about any of the courses I went to. My really good rounds would be a 69 on a 72-74 rated course, and my really good rounds would still be about a 69 on a 69-71 rated course.

It's because I wasn't the kind of golfer who made many birdies when I played. I might have one or two a round, but the only time I ever made birdies was when I hit a particularly good approach shot. I wouldn't ever make birdies from a chip in, and I definitely was below-average in my make percentage beyond 10 feet meaning I never got a "surprise" birdie that good/great putters might expect once or twice a round. Tour players make 30.1% of putts from 10-15 feet, 18.3% of putts from 15-20 feet, and 12.47% from 20-25 feet. My make percentage from 20 feet might have been 5% on a good day.

That's not to say that putting is important compared to other parts of the game, since it's much less valuable than approach or tee shots in most cases, but it does go to show how different strengths and weaknesses can affect your handicap. Course handicap ratings are very heavily affected by distance, and I happened to be a long hitter. Long course had high ratings but didn't bother me too much because I hit the ball plenty far enough to manage and still get my one or two birdies a round when I hit a particularly good approach shot. I just couldn't capitalize on the opportunities presented to me by short courses where my approach shots are 100 yards or less, because I still didn't hit my approach shots close enough (on average) to be able to make more than my usual one or two birdies from one or two particularly good approach shots.

Nowadays I'm a member at a fairly easy-rated par 68 course, but the course doesn't necessarily suit my game. It has no par 5's for me to take advantage of, and it is very narrow with thick trees making it more difficult for me to take full advantage of my length off the tee. It's a very fun course though, and one I grew up learning to golf at, so I just accept that my handicap will go up compared to if I was a member at a more difficult course. On the plus side, it does mean I'm in a good position for playing away matches with the men's club and in playing more there I've learned to sharpen my putting and partial swings that I never paid much attention to in the past.

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