Sand Baggers — Watch Out!

Tiffany Nelson
Director of Business Development
TPC Scottsdale
Scottsdale, AZ

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The other day when I was playing with a friend, we were paired up with another twosome. We were playing and by the 5th hole, one of the people we had gotten paired with, had picked up their ball after hitting 7 shots on one hole. We thought it was a little strange, but we finished out the hole.  At the next tee, they said, “I can’t take more than a triple bogey because of my handicap.” While, we thought this was strange, we let it go, but it got me to thinking – is this really how handicapping is supposed to work?

So, I did some research and thought I would share with you readers exactly what a handicap is and how it is to be used.  I’m sure you are saying, “I know what a handicap is,” but here is the official reason, quoted from, why handicaps were created in golf:  handicaps have made it possible for golfers of differing abilities to enjoy fair competition. 

When golfers post their scores for handicap purposes, the USGA invokes a system called Equitable Stroke Control that eliminates the exaggerated effect a “blow up hole” or a “sand-bag hole at the end of the round” can have on your score.  Have you ever played with anyone who is a couple over par going into the last few holes and they end up with a double, triple, triple? Well, it could be bad luck or it could be they are sandbagging their score so they don’t lower their handicap.  Or, if you end up with one really bad hole, let’s say an 11 on a par 4, this will not unfairly affect your handicap.  hese are examples of Equitable Stroke Control.

Equitable Stroke Control Maximum Number Course Handicap on any Hole
9 or less Double Bogey
10 through 19 7
20 through 29 8
30 through 39 9
40 or more 10







The main thing I found out is that people misunderstand the purpose and reason for this table. These directives are for handicap-posting purposes only. When you’re playing a friendly golf game or in a tournament, you need to finish out each hole and mark down your proper score. If you don’t finish out a hole and just pick your ball up or mark down a different score on the scorecard than what you actually made, you will be disqualified.

Handicaps are a tricky deal and most people (I’m not saying everyone, but most), add a few strokes to their actual handicap when asked. I find that handicaps are more of what potential that golfer has – it is not an average of what the golfer shoots. Because it holds on to your lowest and highest scores, people think it is an average, but it really tells you where you could be with your scores. I could be shooting low 70’s, then take off a couple months, come back and shoot in the 90’s, but my handicap will still be when I shot in the 70’s. It is the potential of what I could shoot. 

I hope this helps clear up the misunderstanding of handicaps and the next time you are out on the course and someone picks up their ball because they can’t have “more than a triple bogey”, you can explain to them why they need to finish the hole. 
Until next time, see you out on the course and hit ‘em straight! 

Tiffany Nelson is Director Business Development at TPC Scottsdale/ PGA TOUR located at 17020 North Hayden Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85255. You can reach her at 480.585.4334, ext. 226. Follow TPC Scottsdale on Facebook (The TPC Scottsdale) and on Twitter and keep up with all the action!