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Is This Club Blatantly Sandbagging?


Big C

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A bit of background.

The Southern California Golf Association (SCGA) runs an annual event known as "Team Play." It is a wildly popular match play competition where Men's Clubs across the region put together teams of 20+ golfers together to compete against other clubs in a 16 vs. 16 match. In any given year, approximately 80-100 clubs will participate. Each club is grouped into "pods" of 4, and will play 6 total matches - one home and one away match against the other 3 clubs. The winning club from each pod advances to the Team Play Playoffs - a single elimination format - until a winner is crowned. 

Antelope Valley Country Club just advanced to the championship match for the 3rd consecutive year. They won the championship in both 2022 and 2023.  Based on my review of the match history from the past 3 years (linked below), they have won 21 consecutive team matches. Keep in mind, these are handicapped matches, so this is not just a case where a group of sticks bands together to dominate the poor amateurs other SoCal clubs. Even if these guys are grinders who never quit, play their best under pressure and routinely putt the lights out, the law of averages still say that a streak of that nature is mathematically impossible. 

Is there any plausible explanation beyond institutionalized sandbagging throughout the club?

Team Play Page

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Do you have examples of exceptional scores versus their established handicap indexes?

Erik J. Barzeski —  I knock a ball. It goes in a gopher hole. 🏌🏼‍♂️
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No, I did not dig into individual scores. But it seems to me the odds of a team winning 21 straight matches in a fairly handicapped competition are quite remote. Maybe not exactly like flipping heads 21 times in a row on a coin but close. To my mind, those odds go beyond explanations such as good play or even good fortune. 
 

Do you think I am off base?

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14 minutes ago, Big C said:

Do you think I am off base?

No, but… you need more than just "it seems highly unlikely."

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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27 minutes ago, iacas said:

No, but… you need more than just "it seems highly unlikely."

I don't know about that. Put another way, if a guy beat you 21 straight times in a handicapped match, would you think his handicap was legit? Or would you call him a cheating sandbagger?

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This is a long shot but I believe some courses run their greens  exceptionally fast leading up to certain events which run up every one's scores and handicaps. Technically it is not sandbagging

 

Vishal S.

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3 minutes ago, GolfLug said:

This is a long shot but I believe some courses run their greens  exceptionally fast leading up to certain events which run up every one's scores and handicaps. Technically it is not sandbagging

 

That is true but, theoretically wouldn't that be factored into the Playing Conditions Calculation that was recently added to the handicapping system?

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17 minutes ago, Big C said:

I don't know about that. Put another way, if a guy beat you 21 straight times in a handicapped match, would you think his handicap was legit? Or would you call him a cheating sandbagger?

That's still not actual proof. So I say again: you need more than "that seems highly unlikely."

Start sharing some differentials from the event versus posted scores 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
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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7 minutes ago, iacas said:

That's still not actual proof. So I say again: you need more than "that seems highly unlikely."

Start sharing some differentials from the event versus posted scores or something.

It's pretty close. The odds of a 50/50 shot going your way 21 times are greater than 1 in a million! 

I guess your point is, that simple fact is not enough to declare these guys dirty rotten sandbaggers. I disagree, but fair enough. I posted it here on the message board to get different perspectives, after all. 

I probably won't be digging further into specific scores. I have no dog in this fight beyond a generalized contempt for sandbagging. With that said, it would not surprise if a lot of clubs shared my concern and were grousing about it to the SCGA.

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1 minute ago, Big C said:

I guess your point is, that simple fact

What simple fact? A golf match is not a coin flip. Humans are involved — it's not just luck.

I'm trying to help you develop some evidence and you're throwing out what could easily be called sour grapes. Come with FACTS, not weak analogies about coin flips.

1 minute ago, Big C said:

I probably won't be digging further into specific scores.

Then you've got nothing. 🍇

1 minute ago, Big C said:

With that said, it would not surprise if a lot of clubs shared my concern and were grousing about it to the SCGA.

Hopefully they've done a better job of making their case. 😛 

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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I would think that 3 in a row with the same players might get some behind the scenes examination from the SCGA if they were suspect.  Are there any clubs questioning the results?

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Let us be clear, unless you have proof of cheating, you just sound like a case of sour grapes.  In our club we have a guy who won club titles for many years.  Yes, he was a low single digit handicapper, but there have been quite a few others who played at his level.  Yet his mental strength and experience helped him win in many years when he shouldn't have.  Did he sandbag.  DEFINITELY NOT.  Did he just minimize his mistakes and pull out shots as and when needed.  Definitely.

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I’d also be curious to see their home course’s rating compared to others.

Basically, again, you need data, not assumptions and “coin flip stats.”

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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Both @DaveP043 and I play in our interclub matches every year, and have been team Captains as well.  There are always a few courses, mine is one, that win a lot of matches (we've won twice in the last 7 years), and we've been labeled as sandbaggers.  However, I really think that our course was rated too low (our greens just never seemed to get factored in enough), and thus our Handicaps were always a stroke or maybe 2 above, what they would've been if the course was rated higher.  And then when we went and played other courses, their slope and rating were much higher than ours, and sometimes I would get a 2 or 3 stroke bump on top of that.  It was definitely an advantage.  However, this past year, our course was rated again and the slope has gone up, so we'll see if we continue to have the same benefit.  Season starts this Sunday for us.

 

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Do you know what their handicaps are? The handicap system isn't perfect and given the higher variance from higher handicaps, I think low handicap players would be expected to win maybe 60% of their matches? I'm not exactly sure what that number is and it will vary with the handicap difference, but if they're generally very low handicaps, then they might be at 60% likely to win a game. Given it's 16 vs 16, that's a lot of games to win. If it's 60%, then that's around an 80% chance that they'll win a given match. At 80% chance of winning, 21 wins in a row is about 1 in 108 times. Pretty unlikely, but not unheard of. It's pretty sensitive to what that individual win percentage is too. If it's 65%, then 21 wins is about 1 in 9. If it's 55%, then 21 wins is 1 in about 5,700.

Clearly it's not as simple as this because that win likelihood is going to change match to match as they play lower handicap teams or higher handicap teams, but I don't think it's a "yes they're cheating" thing at all.

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(edited)
15 hours ago, Big C said:

That is true but, theoretically wouldn't that be factored into the Playing Conditions Calculation that was recently added to the handicapping system?

Yes, but not always the case. IMHO, green speeds are a huge variable and can effect score variation from week to week or month to month significantly. Our own course that is running at about 8-9 depending on the week/day, can run up to 12 (no kidding) in peak months around certain event, and most like me score 3-4 shots higher on an average, missing a lot of 3-4 footers. There are any PCC adjustments that I am aware of.

Have you every played their course? I am betting $20 you will find some answers if you haven't already.

 

Edited by GolfLug

Vishal S.

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I'm on the side of thinking that something is not right here and should be reviewed.

Let say that their course rating is pretty low, so their index is higher than it should be. But if they always play at their home course they are probably going to play bad away from home so it should even that advantage out or at least lower it down. 
Also you can say that they are amazing players under pressure and very skilled in match play format, but at the end of the day variance and luck is always going to play a big role between 2 players of similar handicap.

Let's assume that player A have 75% chance of winning a match over player B that only have 25%, there is no way that a player's skill in match play can make such a difference in a match outcome but I prefer to use a number that is hard to argue. (For me.. 60/40, or 65/35 at most)

The odds of winning 21 straight matches with that  generous odds are less than 1% (or 1 in 420). Is this proof that they are "cheating" or something, of course not but is evidence enough to note that something is not right and should be reviewed further.     

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28 minutes ago, p1n9183 said:

Let say that their course rating is pretty low, so their index is higher than it should be. But if they always play at their home course they are probably going to play bad away from home so it should even that advantage out or at least lower it down. 

Why does the second sentence have to be true? If they're used to playing a tough course that's improperly rated, they're going to both have inflated indexes and have higher skills relative to them. If their home course features a variety of different challenges, I don't see why their game wouldn't travel well.

And on the flip side, some courses and their members take pride in how hard their course is and how tough it's rated, and that bit of vanity ends up hurting them in these kinds of competitions.

Bill

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