Golf's Sand Bagger

Golf's Sandbagger isn't hard to identify. We all know at least one and he stands out as blatantly as the red figures he always seems to post at tournament time.

Is it possible though, for a golfer to Sandbag a Golf Tournament through sheer ignorance?

Find out at "The Accidental Sandbagger"

Share your Sandbagger Stories

Do you have any great Sandbagger Stories?

  • Is there the one guy you know who always shows up on the leader board?
  • Or maybe the guy who sweeps through the Match Play Tournament without even breaking a sweat because you have to give him 3 per side . . . and then he shoots even par for the round?
  • What about the Two-Man team that shoots 14 under in an 18 hole round . . . and then gets four more shots adjusted for their team handicap? C'mon Man!!

Use the form below to Share your Sandbagger stories of the outrageous scores your Sand Bagger had the stones to post and then proudly walked away with the trophy and a clear conscience.

Golf Sand Bagger

I knew a guy a few years ago who always shot in the low to mid seventies during our weekly rounds and occasionally scratched out a round in the sixties. But when you checked his GHIN (Golf Handicap Index Number), it mysteriously and continuously read in the low teens. 

How is that possible?  

The answer to that question is actually pretty simple. Your Golf Index is only as accurate as the scores you post. Failing to report those low scores leaves only the "blow-up" rounds to factor an index. 

It's hard to mask this deception though when tournament time rolls around. Yet, many Sandbaggers still post their "unusually" low scores with a straight face and just claim they're having a good day and a career round.

But that mask of deception falls off when those "career rounds" show up consistently during tournament play and the blog response below from Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping for the Northern California Golf Association explains how the Handicapping System handles these scoring "anomalies".

The "R" (some players see on their tournament index numbers) indicates that a Handicap Index has been automatically reduced due to exceptional Tournament Scores. The goal of the USGA Handicap System is to issue a Handicap Index which best represents a golfer's "potential" ability. "Potential," for these purposes, is measured by a review of a golfer's best 10 of 20 most recent rounds AND by a review of a golfer's two best T-scores of the past twelve months (or past twenty rounds, whichever period of time is longer).

Basically the System examines the size of the gap between a golfer's current best 10 of 20 number and the average of the two T-scores. If the System feels the gap is too wide, an automatic reduction kicks in. This is how every handicap in the country is computed.

Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping for the Northern California Golf Association.

We can also thank Jim for the great article below that colorfully illustrates the plight of Golf's Sandbagger.

Baggers of Sand - Beware!!

It's happened before, your game has suddenly caught fire, you are in "the zone." Remarkably, all three pieces of your back swing takeaway are, for once, in perfect harmony. You catch a good break here, a lucky bounce there. You sink a bomb on No.9 and chip in on No. 14. When all is said and done, you've just shot your best round in ages.

It couldn't have come at a better time, the first round of an important club tournament. As you scan the scoreboard with a sense of nervous, excitement and pride and dare to conjure up thoughts of a successful second round and possible victory, you see it - a sickening jolt of disbelief and dread overcomes you. You're in second place, three shots off the pace!

Carl Spackler Cinderella Story

Funny thing is, you've seen the leader's name before. Seems like you see it near the top of the leaderboard in every important tournament. Funnier yet, as your game sinks back into its normal state of futility in the second round, the leader is just getting warmed up. With all the suspense of the outcome of a Harlem Globetrotter's game, he has made a mockery, yet again, of the tournament, your club, and the Handicap System.

I've often wondered how Sand Bag­gers live with themselves. How they can possibly gain any sense of accomplishment when they do what they do? That subject is for another day, however. Sandbagging is a sad reality that has infected tournament play for years. sandbagger

Certainly, NCGA net competi­tions have not been immune to this infestation. Too-good-to-be-true net scores have become commonplace and certain faces seem to be popping up in the winner's circle all too often. Worse yet, certain clubs seem to be gaining reputations for harboring or breeding such golfers. sandbagger

Based upon such performances, you would think that scores that are several strokes under one's handicap are supposed to be everyday occurrences. They are not. In many instances, they are "once a decade" or even "once in a lifetime" types of scores, as illustrated by the table below.

Golf Score Odds Table

Handicap Index Ranges

Net Differential





Greater Than 30



































































As you examine this table, you will discover that the odds of a golfer teeing it up today and playing to his handicap are 5 to 1 against. On average a golfer actually plays around three to four strokes above his handicap. Don't believe me? Look up your own scoring record and you'll probably only find four scores in 20 where you played to your current Handicap Index or better. Four out of 20, that's it! Naturally, the odds of playing two, four or six strokes under one's handicap are even more remote.

These odds have a cumulative affect as well. The odds of a golfer playing to his handicap two consecutive rounds, for example, are 25 to 1 (the 5 to 1 for each round multiplied by each other), while three in a row is 125 to 1, etc. The odds of a five-handicapper playing five strokes under his handicap twice in a row are a whopping 143,641 to 1 (379 to 1 times 379 to I)!

It is these cumulative odds that we have zeroed in on at the NCGA. Beginning this season, those deemed to perform too well, too often will have their handicaps slashed in NCGA play. Those at the very top of the sandbagging food chain may be banned entirely.

How will we determine who makes this "hit list?" Simple, by reviewing net scores from previous NCGA competitions, including the Net and Senior Net, the Four-Ball Net, Senior Four-Ball Net and Associate Four-Ball Net, the Zones and Associate Club Championship, the NCGA Net competitions and all associated qualifiers. We'll even look at Team Match scores, since handicaps are a part of that competition.

What are we looking for? Simple, how did a golfer play in relationship to his handicap? sandbagger

Not, what was his handi­cap then, what is it now? Did the golfer play better or worse than his handicap...and if better, by how much?

There is a tremendous difference between an honest golfer catching lightning in a bottle one day and a habitual sandbagger. It all has to do with the frequency or regularity that each golfer plays to his handicap. Lay all the honest golfers' scores out and it is obvious that the one great round was an anomaly. Lay all the bagger's scores out and the pattern is plain to see score after score where the golfer blatantly played to his handicap or better. Let's call it male pattern boldness.

There is a tremendous difference between an honest golfer catching lightning in a bottle one day and a habitual sandbagger. It all has to do with the frequency or regularity that each golfer plays to his handicap.

So that's what we've done. We've collected all the net scores from NCGA net events that we could get our hands on from the past two seasons, laid them all out and identified who has been playing to their handicap too often. And we will continue to add new names and new scores to this monster-sized net score database from this point on.

Cumulative odds of the golfer's NCGA net scoring record will be computed. When the odds become too pre­posterous, the ax will fall and the golfer's handicap will be reduced for NCGA net play. If the golfer doesn't like it, he doesn't have to play. sandbagger

All Golfers are Liars

It is important to note that this new initiative will only apply to the handicap a golfer plays with in NCGA competitions. It will NOT impact the golfer's official Handicap Index that he uses elsewhere. There is one authority, and one authority only, that has the power to adjust a golfer's official Index, and that is his club. You can bet that we will be passing our findings on to the club and urging them to take official action.

Collecting and entering the thousands upon thousands of scores from the past two years has been a colossal project. Building the engine to compute the cumulative odds and dole out a reduced handicap has been even more difficult. The reward will come as repeat offenders are weeded out, opening up the path to good, fun, honest competition with an unstacked deck. That's the way it should be.

Jim Cowan - Director of Course Rating & Handicapping for The Northern California Golf Association.

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Tell us All About Your Sandbagger

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All in the Family Not rated yet
About 25 years ago I used to travel from Hawaii to Myrtle Beach SC for the World Handicap Golf Tournament. It was originally called the Dupont World Amateur …

14 year old sandbagger Not rated yet
I am a 9 handicap club golfer, 57 years of age and loves competition.i have come across a 14 year old player with a 13 handicap who plays 7/8 under in …

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