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Who Wins This 30-year Bet (3 and 16 Handicap)?


iacas

3 vs. 16 Handicap 30-Year Wager  

34 members have voted

  1. 1. Who wins the bet?

    • The 3 Handicap
      4
    • The 16 Handicap
      30


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14K likes, 665 comments - golfdigest on February 12, 2024: "Who wins in this situation? 🤔 Vote below. ⬇️ (H/T: Reddit/ u/HenryRoenGardener)"

3 vs. 16 Handicap - who wins?

In an effort to motivate my buddy to get better and have a bit of fun, we established a 30 year competition. People who have heard about it are split on who should be favored to win.

Breakdown:

  • I am a 3 handicap, 36 years old and have played continuously since about age 10.
  • My friend is also 36 years old and has only been playing for 2 years. He is currently a vanity 16 handicap and has put in a lot of effort to get there.
  • My friend has to beat me one time, total gross score by the time we turn 65. Must be playing together in the same group. Winner gets $5k.

I think there is no chance he wins. Getting to a 16 is one thing. Getting from a 16 to a 3 is a different ballgame, in any time frame.


So, who do you think wins the bet?

Erik J. Barzeski —  I knock a ball. It goes in a gopher hole. 🏌🏼‍♂️
Director of Instruction Golf Evolution • Owner, The Sand Trap .com • AuthorLowest Score Wins
Golf Digest "Best Young Teachers in America" 2016-17 & "Best in State" 2017-20 • WNY Section PGA Teacher of the Year 2019 :edel: :true_linkswear:

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I voted for the 16….but also forgot to weigh in how many chances you’ll play together over the 30 years. If we’re talking less than 200x I would take the 3

Kyle Paulhus

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I find this bet pretty funny. A 16 can beat a 3 tomorrow if the 16 has a great round and the 3 has a terrible one. The odds are low, but it's possible. What happens in five years if the 16 improves to a 10 and the 3 regresses to an 8? The odds get better. 29 years is a long time to have a running bet.

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Bill

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Just now, billchao said:

I find this bet pretty funny. A 16 can beat a 3 tomorrow if the 16 has a great round and the 3 has a terrible one. The odds are low, but it's possible. What happens in five years if the 16 improves to a 10 and the 3 regresses to an 8? The odds get better. 29 years is a long time to have a running bet.

Yeah, that's the way I'm leaning. I'm surprised the poll is split. A 3 isn't that good that he can't shoot 85 now and then. All it takes is a case of duck hooks or something.

Erik J. Barzeski —  I knock a ball. It goes in a gopher hole. 🏌🏼‍♂️
Director of Instruction Golf Evolution • Owner, The Sand Trap .com • AuthorLowest Score Wins
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Just now, iacas said:

Yeah, that's the way I'm leaning. I'm surprised the poll is split. A 3 isn't that good that he can't shoot 85 now and then. All it takes is a case of duck hooks or something.

It's not quite the same gap, but I beat my friend who is 6 once this year, and I'm a 16. He shot 80 and I shot 78. Usually he beats me by at least 8 strokes. It happens.

Bill

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” - Confucius

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5 minutes ago, billchao said:

It's not quite the same gap, but I beat my friend who is 6 once this year, and I'm a 16. He shot 80 and I shot 78. Usually he beats me by at least 8 strokes. It happens.

BTW I didn't mean my poll was split, I mean the Golf Digest poll or responses.

Also, I just saw this somewhere:

Quote

Had a 14 shoot a 1 over 73 this weekend in my winter league. I've played with him over the years many times (I didn't play with him saturday) and his handicap is really accurate.

Erik J. Barzeski —  I knock a ball. It goes in a gopher hole. 🏌🏼‍♂️
Director of Instruction Golf Evolution • Owner, The Sand Trap .com • AuthorLowest Score Wins
Golf Digest "Best Young Teachers in America" 2016-17 & "Best in State" 2017-20 • WNY Section PGA Teacher of the Year 2019 :edel: :true_linkswear:

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5 minutes ago, iacas said:

BTW I didn't mean my poll was split, I mean the Golf Digest poll or responses.

Most people don't understand how handicap indexes work, or they presume that somehow both players will remain at the same exact skill level for the next three decades. But even if the latter were true, it can still happen.

Bill

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” - Confucius

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Providing the 16 handicap doesn't give up before the 30 years... they're going to win that bet.  

I play with a lot of different handicaps.  About 17 years ago, I was a really bad golfer with a handicap that hovered around 20 or so.  I got in a tournament at a local course where we had a qualifying round to flight and seed players... and then match play.  I made it to the finals in the C Flight which was supposed to be players who were between 8 and 12.  I was right around a 20 and was supposed to be in the D Flight, but they didn't have enough players, so my options were to play down a flight or not play at all.

It was flighted, so no strokes in the match play portion.  I beat a 12... a 9 and then hung around for about 24 holes in the final before I got beat pretty soundly by an 8.  Granted, that was match play... but in those matches, I'd have beat the 12 and the 9 in stroke play as well.  Granted... the disparity between a 3 and a 16 is WAY greater, but... bouncing back and forth over the last 3-4 years as low as a 5 and as high as a 13... I know how both of those players are capable of playing, both the good and the bad.

No doubt in my mind a good day by a 16 and a bad day by a 3 could see them on opposite ends of the podium.

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It would be helpful to know how often they played together. Weekly? Monthly? Few times a year?

My first instinct was to say a 16 would never beat a 3. But my 19 handicap dad has bested me on a few nines and come dangerously close to beating me over a full 18 (although I don’t believe he’s ever actually done it). 
 

For context we’ve been playing 10-12 times a year for the last 15 years or so. If the 16 and 3 play anything more than monthly than I think the high capper takes him down at some point.

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My dad and I played in a weekly golf league for 8 or 9 years together, during which time I was anywhere from a +3 to a 5 handicap and he was pretty consistently a 15-18 handicap (the league was the only time he ever played). We’d get about 15 rounds in together a year that way.


I know for a fact that over the course of that time there were plenty of instances where he beat me on 9 holes and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was one or two times he beat me for two sets of 9 holes in a row. The variance in scoring for any golfer who is shy of playing professionally is just so high that I’d never stake that kind of money on a bet like this unless I rarely played with the other person (and even then, maybe not).

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If these guys play 20 times a year for 30 years, it's hard to imagine the 16 won't get the 3 at least a few times. For one thing, you'd assume the 16 will improve at least somewhat if he sticks with the game. There is good odds in that time frame, the 3 will slump and as others have said, everyone has good days and bad days. 

The endearing thing is the assumption that you and your buddy will play regularly for the next 30 years. Life happens. People have kids, move away or simply hang em up. I guess I've been playing for roughly 13 years or so and the people I've played with changed over time. 

Ironically, life events should make it possible to play more often with the guy that got me started on this silly game all those years ago. I've had to move back home to take care of my mom and he's changed careers and has weekends off for the first time in a decade. I've managed to get the better of him a couple of times in the past when the big man's huge drive kept turning sharply right and mine, for once, did not. 

 

Edited by mcanadiens
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Another interesting thought experiment: At one point on the handicap axis would your vote shift to saying the low capper would never lose? For instance, I would feel fairly confident that a +6 (basically a tour pro) would never lose to a 7 handicapper, no matter how many times they played over a 30 year run. 

But what about a scratch golfer vs. a 13? or a +2 vs. an 11? At some point, the better player becomes so good that their "bad" rounds are still good enough to take care of business 99.9% of the time, given the skill difference.

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18 minutes ago, mcanadiens said:

The endearing thing is the assumption that you and your buddy will play regularly for the next 30 years.

That’s the other way to look at this: a $5,000 bet to both motivate your friend to play often and work on improving as well as to get him to keep playing with you. 

Bill

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” - Confucius

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As a 0.5 index player (been around 4 and +1 in the last 7 years) I revisited my rounds history and posted the following scores indexes in the last years:

21.6
17.6
12.9
12.7

and several +10 rounds. 

Everybody have off rounds, it just take 1 of them to your buddy to score better than you. 
I've had 1 really bad round per year. 30 bad rounds in 30 years, if he just manage to play well just one of them you are done. My bet is on the 16 index guy.  

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If, as it says, he is a 16 "Vanity Cap", then it's closer to 20 actual cap. Then you are in with a shot. 

However, if he really puts in the work and gets to be, maybe a 10, then he definitely pulls it off before time is up. There's always that "One day" when the gods align for him and against you. Also- YOUR numbers may creep up as you age out of those 270 yard drives as a 30 something. All the while, he is improving and possibly gaining distance.

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34 minutes ago, RayG said:

Also- YOUR numbers may creep up as you age out of those 270 yard drives as a 30 something. All the while, he is improving and possibly gaining distance.

It's also possible the inverse could happen. Maybe the 16 gets worse. Maybe the 3 is very driven to improve and is a better athlete than the 16 and is able to increase their speed and distance as they age while the 16 gets slower and loses distance.

2 hours ago, mcanadiens said:

If these guys play 20 times a year for 30 years, it's hard to imagine the 16 won't get the 3 at least a few times.

2 hours ago, p1n9183 said:

Everybody have off rounds, it just take 1 of them to your buddy to score better than you. 
I've had 1 really bad round per year. 30 bad rounds in 30 years, if he just manage to play well just one of them you are done. My bet is on the 16 index guy.  

The total rounds per year seems like one of the biggest unknowns here, IMO. Big difference if they play 3x a year for 30 years vs 20x a year for 30 years.

Obviously the more frequently they play together the higher chance the 16's "on" day syncs up with the 3's "off day"

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3 hours ago, mcanadiens said:

Ironically, life events should make it possible to play more often with the guy that got me started on this silly game all those years ago. I've had to move back home to take care of my mom and he's changed careers and has weekends off for the first time in a decade. I've managed to get the better of him a couple of times in the past when the big man's huge drive kept turning sharply right and mine, for once, did not.

The 3 could be a real scumbag and if the 16 gets better or the 3 gets worse, he could find all sorts of ways to dodge playing with him.

3 hours ago, Big C said:

Another interesting thought experiment: At one point on the handicap axis would your vote shift to saying the low capper would never lose? For instance, I would feel fairly confident that a +6 (basically a tour pro) would never lose to a 7 handicapper, no matter how many times they played over a 30 year run. 

But what about a scratch golfer vs. a 13? or a +2 vs. an 11? At some point, the better player becomes so good that their "bad" rounds are still good enough to take care of business 99.9% of the time, given the skill difference.

I think the gap would have to get wider. This bet goes until they're 65. Though the +6 versus a 7 would be interesting… the 7 could become a 4 while the +6 becomes a +2 or something.

If you're holding their handicaps, somehow, the +6 probably wouldn't lose to the 7 in 150 to 300 times.

45 minutes ago, klineka said:

It's also possible the inverse could happen. Maybe the 16 gets worse. Maybe the 3 is very driven to improve and is a better athlete than the 16 and is able to increase their speed and distance as they age while the 16 gets slower and loses distance.

Possible, but less likely. For the two reasons you know:

  • The 16 has been playing for two years. The 3 has been playing for 26.
  • It's easier to shave 5 shots from a 16 than it is from a 3.

Erik J. Barzeski —  I knock a ball. It goes in a gopher hole. 🏌🏼‍♂️
Director of Instruction Golf Evolution • Owner, The Sand Trap .com • AuthorLowest Score Wins
Golf Digest "Best Young Teachers in America" 2016-17 & "Best in State" 2017-20 • WNY Section PGA Teacher of the Year 2019 :edel: :true_linkswear:

Check Out: New Topics | TST Blog | Golf Terms | Instructional Content | Analyzr | LSW | Instructional Droplets

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If two guys are going to have a 30-year wager, the assumption has to be that they play at least once a week for the next 30 years. The "16" has put a lot of effort into his game and the assumption is both players will continue to try to improve. I would say the "16" would have a great day against the better player at least once over 30 years. The "16" wins the wager.

 

There are all sorts of things that might occur (injury, move away, death, stop playing, etc.). My prediction is there are no deviations from the assumption I made.

 

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