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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Sandbaggers

The man, or woman, who invented the handicap system did us a big favour. That system has made it possible for everyone to enjoy this game and some friendly competition, regardless of their skill level. Golf is unique in this regard. Hell, if I have a legitimate handicap, I can have a game with anyone, even Rory McIlroy, and still have a chance to win. That is, provided I get to play from a different tee box, and he gives me enough strokes.

Now, the idea of me beating Rory sounds silly, and it may be, but that's what the system is there for. It's designed so that you can have a competitive, fun match with anyone. I have noticed over the years that some better players tend to stick to playing with other players of their skill level, rather than branching out and playing with those less skilled. I think this hurts them as much as it does the duffers they tend to avoid.

Some of the best people to play and associate with may not be scratch players, but they're great company. Bobby Jones, the greatest player of his generation, if not all time, was more than content to play with his father and his cronies. And he played hard and enjoyed himself. I imagine he probably had to give them a stroke a hole or better and played his ball against their best ball. But, both Bobby, and his father and friends no doubt had a great time. And, if the strokes were applied correctly, Bobby probably had to dip in to his pocket and pay up on a regular basis.

Golf, or any sport for that matter, is no fun if the outcome is a foregone conclusion. It's the competition that really makes it fun. I noticed that some of the better players at my old club avoided playing the handicapped competitions, complaining about the sandbaggers and all the strokes they had to give. As for me, I wouldn't have missed them for the world. Many of the matches I played, some where I had to give as many as twenty four strokes to my opponent, were really fun and exciting. Many of them came down to the last few holes to decide the winner. That's what it's all about. 

True, every club has its sandbagger or sandbaggers, guys who almost inevitably win the handicapped prizes. A guy with an inflated handicap is not only cheating the rest of us, he's cheating himself, because he's missing the fun of having to really compete. In some cases, however, these guys aren't sandbaggers at all, they are just damned good competitors who play their best when there's something on the line. If they are, we shouldn't resent seeing them win, we should celebrate the fact that they are able to compete well and play their best when it counts. That's what handicaps are for; to let a weaker player give a better player a run for his money and make it exciting and fun for both of them, if they have the right attitude.

So, Rory, I'm going to work real hard, and if the strokes are right and you let me pick the tee, I'm ready to try to take your dollar Nassau. How about it?