Inviting a Known Sandbagger to a Tournament

aceinspace

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I belong to a club which we play monthly tournaments at different courses (and everyone has an official handicap.) We have about 30 members and typically we only have 12-16 players per tournament and these are regular players so obviously everyone knows everyone else's game.

We have a long term member (let's call him X) who is a known sandbagger. X is about 55, not a long hitter, average on iron accuracy/distance, but great at scrambling and seldom have any blow-up hole (so basically he knows how to score.) Right now his index is around 10-something but he regularly breaks 80 at our tournaments (FYI most of our members are 40-60 so we play off the whites or around 6,000 yards on different courses, which on the average would translate to a course rating of about 70 on a par 72 and a slope rating of about 125.

X is a relatively nice guy both on and off the course, not a super stickler on the rules during casual rounds both on himself or his playing companions. I have not seen him cheat on the course (e.g., improving lies, reporting lower score on the hole, move the ball closer to the hole on the green). I suspect he builds up his handicap when he is not playing in the tournament somehow.

We do get a foursome together once in a while and play a version of Vegas with rotating partners at 25 cents a point and X usually wins on the average about $20 (yes, he does lose sometimes but not very often.)

What I am saying is that he should be more around a 7 or an 8 instead of a 10 (BTW his lowest index since the beginning of 2020 when everyone's handicap was reset based on the new formula was a 6-something.) And he can shoot low scores consistently.

FWIW I am attaching a link showing the probability of shooting your handicap or better during a given round:


I understand the above data were taken before 2020 (based on the old formula) but the table should still be relevant. Basically, you should only be able to shoot your index about once every 5 rounds. If you do it more often than that (or more egregiously, a few strokes lower consistently, well...Bagger!)

With all that preface here is my dilemma: I have been invited to a golf tournament in AZ during the summer for the second time this year (I know the organizer for about 20 years and he has only played with 2 to 3 other players in my club, but not X yet.) There will be around 40-50 players (we had about 30 last year.) There will be 4 rounds with players getting 100% of their handicaps. The low handicappers will tee off from the blues (getting the corresponding course handicap adjustments) and others tee off from the whites (same, albeit not as much). Each player will be contributing about $100 to the prize pool to be paid as follows:

1. Place based on cumulative net score after 4 rounds: Everyone will get paid (if you consider $1 for last place getting paid). Based on my estimate first place can be as high as $1,000 and the next 2 are in the high hundreds. So obviously a player's handicap would greatly affect where he finishes.

2. Closest to the pin on every par 3: This would probably somewhat handicap independent because the lower handicappers will be playing from longer distances on these holes.

3. Net and gross skins (separate): On each round you can win a net skin and/or a gross skin on any hole where no one else ties you. Normally, there will be a few winners sharing equally the prize pool each round. Again, a sandbagger would get strokes on a few holes each day which he does not deserve so his chances on a net skin would improve.

4. Hole of the day: On each round one specific hole is designated prior to the round so if any player shoots net par or better on that hole will share the prize pool. For this one I don't think X would benefit because based on my debut last year the designated hole each round is at least the 4th toughest hole or tougher.

Now, I have invited a few players from my club including the our current and longtime president, but not X. For the record 2 members of my club attended last year's tournament via my invitation so technically either of them can invite people from our club for this year (and did) but again, not X. They seemed to be waiting for me to be the one to pull the trigger. Just recently I got a text from our president asking me why I had invited a few of the other members but not X. He and X are close and I guess he tolerates X (but doesn't benefit from X since they play with each other frequently.) BTW, the president is a really good guy and everyone likes him.

So, now I am kind of under a little pressure to invite X to keep our president happy but I also want to "protect the field". I know that X knows about the tournament but I am not sure if X is influencing the president to push me to get him invited knowing how lucrative it could be. I think the organizer is sensitive of letting any sandbagger into the tournament so I also don't want to jeopardize the other members' (including the 2 other who have played and this year's invitees) and my own reputation.

So far the best solution I have come up with is (which I have not executed):

Step 1. I will inform the organizer about X and see if he will even consider having X if we were to assign X a lower handicap despite what X's official handicap indicates (I feel comfortable at least an 8 but maybe even better at a 7.) If the organizer does not agree I can tell my president what transpired and it's not my decision.

Step 2. If the organizer agrees I can then extend the invitation to X but tell him if he accepts he will have to play to a specific lower handicap (I have no problem call him out.) Whether X accepts or declines at least I am off the hook.

Sorry about the long narrative. Any suggestions?
 

scott.french3

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Some clubs calculate a tournament handicap in addition to their regular handicap. If the tournament handicap is lower than the regular handicap, then the tournament handicap is used during tournament play.
 

Scorpion12

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This is just me but I wouldn't play for money with a known sandbagger.
 

Lions81

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If I were to invite him (which I'm not sure I would because I'm not a big fan of sandbagging especially when it could affect MY reputation), I think I would tell him now something along the lines of, make sure you are keeping very accurate scores from now until the event, its important to me and my reputation etc that we are all honest and have accurate handicaps as it will reflect poorly on all of us if someone doesn't. Can kind of say something without flat out saying it. Could address it to everyone too rather than just him. That would give you and him time to see what he claims to be as the event gets nearer. Then you could decide what to do next.
 
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Raiderboost

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I have seen some tournaments that use the low handicap index for the last year.

I do ask, how exactly is X a sandbagger? Does he go out and intentionally shoot lower scores, miss 5-6 foot putts more often than he should, et.?

I ask because we had a couple guys that people called sandbaggers at my club. The thing with them though was that the weekend group that they played with would play the gold tees (tips) at 6600 yards. For tournaments they would be playing the blues at 6200 yards. Our rating system says it's only a 2 shot difference but most of us agree that it's closer to a 4 shot difference. Once that group started playing most of their rounds from the gold tee box their indexes lowered a little and they no longer won as much. Could it be that X plays from longer tees that he doesn't have the distance for and it hurts his score more than the rating accounts for?

One last thing is that some people are just competitive gamers and focus a lot more and can eliminate those 2-3 bad shots that they usually have from lack of concentration.
 

BigDill

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I suppose if I was in this situation, i would just be truthful. I would say to the president that I had a concern hat X consistently played better than his stated handicap and you are concerned that if it happens at the tournament, it would impact your reputation, not his. I would also state that you like X, its nothing personal, and that if your concerns were addressed, then you would have no issue inviting him.
 

Smiter

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This is just me but I wouldn't play for money with a known sandbagger.
Yeah. This. And you have a duty to protect the field. Seems like you’re trying with the “7 or 8” stuff.

For all you know he’s a two. If he cheats, he cheats. And should be kept out at all costs of any HC money events.
 

bigskyirish

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I suppose if I was in this situation, i would just be truthful. I would say to the president that I had a concern hat X consistently played better than his stated handicap and you are concerned that if it happens at the tournament, it would impact your reputation, not his. I would also state that you like X, its nothing personal, and that if your concerns were addressed, then you would have no issue inviting him.
I like this advice. Seems like you're in kind of a tough spot. I don't necessarily love the idea of talking to the organizer first because then you're putting him a tough spot too--he doesn't know X, but now thinks he's a sandbagger and has to either ban him or adjust his handicap based on second-hand info. Plus, you'd be calling him out to someone at a different club before addressing it in the tournaments at your own club. But since the president brought it up and you said you don't have any trouble calling him out, I think I'd do just what @BigDill said. Tell the president that you really like the guy, but you have concerns about his handicap and you don't want it to reflect poorly on you for inviting him.

Also, can't say I love the idea of a handicapped tournament where everyone doesn't play from the same tees, but that's a totally different issue.
 

Sean

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Sandbaggers ruin amateur tournaments for all the other participants. With a known sandbagger in the field, I see no reason to play in the event.
 

Daddio

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I suppose if I was in this situation, i would just be truthful. I would say to the president that I had a concern hat X consistently played better than his stated handicap and you are concerned that if it happens at the tournament, it would impact your reputation, not his. I would also state that you like X, its nothing personal, and that if your concerns were addressed, then you would have no issue inviting him.
I'm in 100% agreement with this too. You can't make make everyone happy here no matter what. X probably won't take this well but ultimately he made his own bed. In fairness to everyone, most importantly you and your conscience, the suggestion above looks to be the best option available.
 

YukonLiving

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Some clubs calculate a tournament handicap in addition to their regular handicap. If the tournament handicap is lower than the regular handicap, then the tournament handicap is used during tournament play.
This was my immediate thought. Sounds like his previous tournament scores should be compared to that of usual game play.

But if I'm risking my name, I'm going to be honest. I'm not going to ruin my reputation and feel pressured into doing something I'm not fully comfortable with.
 

Snowman

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I like BigDill's approach also. It's a diplomatic way to go about it, and maybe if the club president is made aware of the situation he'll take a look at it in your club competitions also. There's not really a friction-free way to do it, but that will probably create the least friction. I don't blame you for your reluctance - I'd feel guilty if I invited the guy knowing what you know, and he went over there and cleaned everybody out. If X says anything to you about it at some point - well, then it's probably a good time to have a little conversation about the issue.

Are the rest of the guys in your club clued up on X? Do they see it as sandbagging, and how do they feel about it? Personally, I'm not much for laying money down when there's a sandbagger involved - it's basically just donating to him.
 

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I have a buddy that i play a lot with. He’s a much better player in tournaments and money matches than in a casual Sunday afternoon round. He does NOT pad his scores or intentionally play poorly to card a higher score. (He gets thoroughly annoyed if beat him during one of these casual rounds) I think it’s the larger competition and wanting to win “something” that gets him focused. He’s a very competitive player. I don’t know enough about your playing companion to make that judgement.... just relating some personal experience.... It seems like you may be on the fence as to whether this guy is a rock-solid sandbagger, or not....

The only consolation you might take is that he’s playing a new (to him) golf course. I don’t play with too many people that can go to a brand new course and shoot their handicap or better, unless it’s relatively easy...
 

ArmyGolf

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1) Don't call him a sandbagger unless you've factually caught him inflating his cap somehow.
2) If he is in fact a sandbagger, don't invite him, even at a lower number.

It really sucks when you legit show up and play better than your number - and nobody is happy for you. Just get accused of being a bagger. But when you show up and play like garbage nobody bats an eye.
It's why playing in a league where only league scores count is fun and satisfying. Golfers who can genuinely be happy for the guys that play well.
 

Snowman

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1) Don't call him a sandbagger unless you've factually caught him inflating his cap somehow.
2) If he is in fact a sandbagger, don't invite him, even at a lower number.

It really sucks when you legit show up and play better than your number - and nobody is happy for you. Just get accused of being a bagger. But when you show up and play like garbage nobody bats an eye.
It's why playing in a league where only league scores count is fun and satisfying. Golfers who can genuinely be happy for the guys that play well.
Stuff like the OP is dealing with makes a strong case for establishing/using league handicaps. The only way you can sandbag those is if you want to intentionally inflate your scores in actual competition, which is pretty self-defeating.
 

e1iterate

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What is his 12 month low? Make him play to that.
 

captaincaution

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Use of the new "low handicap" for the last year could help since it sounds like X is legit that lower handicap.

If you think he is a sandbagger for sure, I wouldn't invite him. Wrecks the fun for everyone and you're sticking your neck out for him.
 

wazzubrew

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This kind of happened with a buddy of mine. My buddy regularly plays in tournaments at his club and was playing at a 4 handicap. He was playing with another member and ended up shooting a -4 68 one day. He had a kid and his handicap dipped after some rounds fell off, and he left it there. They were just honest and leveled with him that they didn't think it was fair he played at a 4 handicap but obviously wanted him to keep participating so he agreed to playing at a 2 handicap (which is what he was before the kid).

The "league handicap" seems like the most fair solution here. Personally, I would want someone to have a conversation with me about it instead of just tiptoeing around me and having to wonder why I wasn't invited.
 

ATRannals

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I think any conversation should include BOTH the club president AND Player X. You’re concerns about a possible negative reaction would affect all three of you plus the entire club. Better to address them openly and honestly with everyone before it might cause issues for everyone. It might also be an avenue to address the concerns that seem to be an issue with club members already.

Certainly don’t envy you. 🙄
 

Snowman

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1) Don't call him a sandbagger unless you've factually caught him inflating his cap somehow.
I think this bears discussion, if even only in a general sense. If I was going to call somebody out as a sandbagger, I'd have specific articulable evidence I could point to as proof before I ever so much as uttered the word to anybody. That's a pretty serious allegation, you're essentially calling them dishonest and a cheater. It could end a friendship, and cause division within your group/league from people choosing sides - and if you don't have any proof to back up your accusation, you could come off looking like the bad guy.

I know some guys whose games just get better and more focused when there's something on the line, even if it's a $2 Nassau or a beer after the round. Having something to play for just makes them lock on. I know other guys who seem to conveniently "forget" to post their good rounds to GHIN, but always seem to remember to post the bad ones. There's a difference, and one of those two is pretty easily verifiable.
 

tequila4kapp

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If it’s me I’m absolutely never giving in to the pressure from the club president to invite X. Who I invite to play with me is my decision and mine alone. I’d politely but honestly tell him my reasons if I was forced to, but honestly it’s nobody’s business.
 

WMac19

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For me, the very reasonable doubt alone would be enough. I wouldn't need proof, I simply wouldn't ever invite someone who I doubted and who was likely (in my mind) to be a cheat, to any event.

All the extenuating stuff is just static. If my decision would be one way without any interference or urging from others, then it should be (would be) the same with.
 

blugold

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If a person has the personal deficiencies to sandbag in order to win a few dollars from his friends, he has deeper issues that need sorting out. He obviously needs to emotional gratification enough to be deceitful. If it bothers you that much, you should tell him that he is sandbagger and not welcome in the game. After that, he probably will no longer be your friend. You need to weigh if that is worthwhile to you.
 

annsguy

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I have seen it. My reaction was not to be as upset with the sandbagger as i was with the member who brought a ringer into a tournament with friends. I don't need to win that badly. In my case the member owned a local place to eat. Several of us took our business elsewhere
 

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