Why You Should Always Keep a Handicap (Even if You Think You Don’t Need One)
I’ve never played competitive golf. Ever.
Handicap? Nope never had one of those either. I mean why would I? Golf has always been a game against myself, and I haven’t really gotten into the sport until the last 8 months.
To be honest, up until recently, just about everything related to the idea of a handicap was foreign to me. When people asked I usually told them I was an 18. The average of my last 20 or so rounds was about a 94, so I figured I was being generous giving myself an 18.
Course and slope ratings? Yeah no clue about those.
I know what you’re thinking: “You’re a golf blogger! How can you not know these things?”
Well I didn’t know about them because up until recently, they didn’t matter to me.
And that’s where our story begins.
A couple weeks ago I found myself the beneficiary in a fortunate series of events and was invited on a trip down to Bandon Dunes with a small group of guys from one of the most prestigious golf clubs in my area.
Being a young guy without a lot of local golf connections, it seemed like a great situation! I’d get to knock off 4 more courses on my Top 100 Quest, and hopefully meet some cool people along the way.
Beforehand they asked my handicap, as there would be a bit of a competition on the trip.
I said I was a 16, wanting to be sure I wasn’t the guy who was sandbagging. However, I still wasn’t really sure how any of this would come into play.
Fast forward a couple days and I’m sitting on the first tee of Pacific Dunes – “so you’re a 21?” The head pro asked me.
I’d told another organizer of the trip 16. He’d played with me before, they mentioned something about course ratings being more difficult, yada yada..”sure, 21.” Not thinking much about it at the time, as I was solely focused on not making a fool of myself off the tee.
Now, at any given time I can make pars and the occasional birdie – but I’m a terrible putter. I had more 3 putts on my golf road trip than I thought possible, so for all the pars, I’d have equal triples, quads and worse – which is one reason why I thought my handicap was so poor.
I knew nothing about equitable scoring – which basically means if my handicap is between a 10-19, the highest score I can take on any given hole is a 7…that would have probably changed some things.
I played my round and shot a very unimpressive 96. I saved my partner (who was a +1, and club champion) on a couple of occasions, but also had the obligatory blow up holes.
“Handicap check! Might need to adjust this after the round.”
Sure I made a few pars, but did you see that 5 over I just shot two holes ago??
Update: February 18, 2016
I’ve found the easiest way to keep your handicap and get a GHIN number if you don’t have one is to use Golfshot GPS. I usually use Arccos now, but I think Golfshot is the best GPS app out there, and they recently released a featured that lets you update your official handicap directly through the app. I’ve been waiting for someone to do this for years, so was stoked to see this happen.
So I didn’t think much of it. I played worse than my theoretical handicap, so it couldn’t have been that bad, right?
Until the next round.
I shot an 88. Every time the other team got close to scoring a point on me I’d take a bogey net par to tie it. Or I’d win with a par net birdie.
There was no way they could win when I’m getting 21 strokes per round.
At this point I wasn’t sure how to feel.
I for one, was stoked to be playing some of the best golf I’d played in awhile, but two, really didn’t want to be the guy that became known as the sandbagger and pissed off all the guys I was trying to make friends with.
I shot a 93 on our afternoon round to finish out the first 2 days, and found myself with a perfect score of 9-0.
I offered to give some strokes back, or have the handicap adjusted, but no one really listened to that.
The last day was the nail in the coffin. I would forever be known as the sandbagger amongst the 16 people on that trip.
We were playing singles matches on the Bandon Dunes course, most of the guys in my group were 12-16 handicaps. They were better than me, but not necessarily by a whole lot.
The guy I was up against I’d already played the day before, and I knew he wasn’t happy about it.
He wins the first hole on my double.
I don’t think he won many after that.
Dropped it to 2 feet on the par 3 6th for a birdie.
13? Wind at my back, driver, 3 wood to 15 feet away. Steve birdied. I birdie net eagled.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so guilty in my life about making a birdie.
2 holes later? 200 yard par 3 into the wind. Hybrid to 4 feet. I’d miss my birdie putt, but the damage was done.
I shot an 87 which was my best score in months, and gross? I beat everyone in my group.
I could tell everyone was pissed, even though they were friendly and joking about the whole thing to my face – I’m competitive, I get it. I’d be pissed too.
I never thought I needed a handicap. I didn’t think I needed to understand how it all worked.
Until I did.
Starting with my next full round I’ll be posting my scores. The last thing I wanted I wanted was to get on the bad side of all the guys I’d hoped to get to know and make friends with.
But until then, to everyone who was on that trip, take this as my apology. And as for that hundred bucks I won? Well, drinks are on me.
If you haven’t been able to tell, I now think even the most casual golfer should carry a handicap. I’ve always been a big fan of Golfshot GPS, but the fact you can now upload to your GHIN account directly from the app is a feature I’ve been waiting to see for a score tracking company for a long time.
Don’t have a GHIN number? They can hook you up with that too.
Trust me, start doing this. You don’t want to be that guy.