Handicap Management

For those who play in tournaments where handicap matters do you ever go to new courses or play back a set of tees because you find that your scores go up when you do? Is this a legitimate form of handicap management or is it unfair?

As I’ve aged and lost some distance I find that if I play the white tees all the time my handicap will be a couple strokes lower than if I play the blue tees all the time. The course rating and slope difference between the two doesn’t reflect the difference in my scores. Similarly, after playing my home course for so long I know where to miss and not to miss and my scores reflect that. If I play a lot of unfamiliar courses my handicap rises.


Handicaps are definitely an imperfect system, but I think for the incredibly difficult problem it attempts to solve, it does just about the best possible job. On the “management” question, I think as long as you are following the rules and posting all your legitimate scores while attempting to play your best, then there isn’t anything particularly wrong with choosing courses/tees that you believe will send the handicap in a particular direction. That said, it’ll be fairly difficult for a golfer to raise their handicap this way unless you commit to only playing unfamiliar courses or ones not suited to your game for several months as the index is going to pull the best 8 differentials out of your 20 most recent scores. You’ll likely need to post a bunch of rounds before it pushes the white tee/home course scores out. Additionally, the system will look at if you’re posting more than three strokes above your low index for the year, so it’ll be a marginal difference at best.

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So the question becomes what’s a “fair “ handicap for you to keep and play in tournaments?

You obviously know what to do to raise or lower it.

I’d suggest trying to play as many rounds as you can from “tournament “ conditions… that way your score and handicap will be an accurate representation of tournament you.

At least, that’s what I think would be “fair”… or just enjoy playing the white tees and don’t worry about being at a disadvantage in tournament play.


Funny thing is, I am total opposite of a sandbagger, if I play outside of my handicap in the bad side, I generally won’t post that score. I will generally only post when u match my handicap or better. I’m trying to improve and I don’t see the benefit of working backwards.

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I think it comes down to how many tournaments you play in. If it’s a lot, carrying a handicap that’s too low will cost you money and the friendship of your teammates.

I’ve thought about this too, but I’m the opposite of you. My handicap is lower from the back tees. I don’t have a desire to play in handicapped events partly because I’ve realized how easy it is to game the system - even without outright sandbagging.

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It’s something that will never go away, they guy that is getting 17 strokes and has his round of the year shooting 76. It could happen…

There is certainly a minority of golfers who would rather be seen as a great winner rather than a great golfer.

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At a lot of Clubs, Sandbagging equals Wins.
And a lot of people are just fine with that.

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We have a number of sandbaggers at the club but enough events they either have to pick their spot or lose their advantage… multi day tournaments also adjust handicap on the fly.

We don’t have anyone truly egregious, it’s mostly a couple of strokes…

At my club, I have found that lower (6 or lower) handicaps are generally sigificantly more accurate than those in the 7 - 14 range, where the sandbaggers at my club tend to reside. In our club championship, the net winner in the first flight (under 6) is usually -2 at best over 2 days while the second flight winner tends to be -10 or better over the same two days.

You sure that’s a result of more sandbagging or just that higher handicappers naturally have more variability in their scores?

Sandbagging. I have played plenty of rounds with them and know their capabilities and what their handicaps should be. Other courses have banned them from playing in their tournaments.


I believe you but statistically the higher handicap flights will have lower scores. It’s math.

I can sympathize with this comment, I tend to post only those scores which are less or around my current handicap.

I am out of the old school where in Scotland we had a handicap secretary who would adjust the standard scratch +1 or 2 shots on a competition day depending on the weather conditions. Playing a round in a strong wind or wet day (not unusual) made playing to your handicap much more difficult.

The current mechanical arithmetical method of establishing the slope and sticking to it despite playing in much more difficult weather conditions provides a basis for lifting people’s handicaps for a poor weather dependent rounds if they return all scores despite the differing conditions.

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I just feel like it’s more legit this way. Welcome to the community.

The new WHS does attempt to account for this with the PCC (playing conditions calculation). The system doesn’t look at the weather and make adjustments or anything, but instead will look at all the scores posted for that day. If the scores on the whole are higher than or lower than expected based on the handicap (this could be bad weather or the tees playing further up than normal), then the system will make an adjustment of a stroke or two.

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In about 30 rounds this year, my score was only adjusted twice by PCC.

Glad to hear that there is a built in correction system
I wonder how often this occurs and where does the change point apply. Eg when 25% or 50% of returned scores are higher that standard scratch after your current handicap is applied.

I still believe that the handicap system in golf is one of its unique features which allows players of different abilities to compete together.

What’s a reasonable range for net results?

In a 2 day net best ball event I saw the results for, a 12 and a 9 shot +11 gross & -11 net. Good ham and egging or questionable handicapping? 22 shots between gross and net is about the combined handicap so seems reasonable but I can never figure out how to best gauge reasonable play vs. handicap questions.