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Are handicaps unfair?


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Posted (edited)

I play 3 skins games a week, and the Saturday morning group is a long standing group that is invitation only, It is a $10 mandatory buy in, plus an additional $1 for a carryover hole that can only be won with a 3/2 … it’s the hardest hole on the course so everyone has a stroke and that pot can easily build to $100 before it’s won. The group averages 60/40 low to high handicappers in a group of up to 24 golfers … with 18 as the max handicap allowed. In years past evidently, there wasn’t a handicap limit, and a guy with 26 strokes was winning too many skins, so they lowered it.

Over the years the approx recurring breakdown on winning skins is that some low handicapper will be hot and win 3-4 skins that day, while 4-6 high handicappers will win 1-2 each … so the bulk of the winnings seem to go to high handicappers. There are several mid-to-low handicappers who haven’t won a skin in years, while several of us higher players seem to win several times a season. 

So things came to a head at the start of this season, when it was announced that any straight birdie, would now cancel a stroke birdie. Since this is kind of a private group with a small core who control it … they made the decision and if u disagree then piss off. This is only my 2nd year at the club, so my opinion doesn’t matter, but I pointed out that the high handicappers were not being penalized. It was the skin winners of the day who would be splitting their winnings with someone who would otherwise have pushed the hole. There have been few grumblings, but like I said, everyone knows that if u don’t like it, leave.

Using myself as an example, I’m 64, have an 18 handicap, and a very bad back … but I am capable of shooting par on 4-6 holes, (not every week) … then I get into a lot of trouble and will have several 6s & 7s, which keeps my handicap up. I hate to say it, but I shot 98 Thursday and won 2, 4/3 holes … my back was so tight. I completely understand the stink eye I feel if I win a skin several weeks in a row. And when you consider that there are 5 or 6 other high handicappers capable of playing just like me, it really looks like the handicap system is not fair and stacked against low handicap golfers. We all turn in scores every round. No one has been accused of sandbagging. But I see it. I understand their feelings. But that’s the system we have.

It’s worth $10 to me just to be a part of the group every week. But it’s a shame to see someone claim that they deserve a skin and you don’t count. What do y’all think?

Edited by B_R_A_D_Y
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In certain scenarios like this yes the high handicaps have an advantage and will come out on top more than low handicaps. It’s why you won’t find many low handicap golfers playing in net events.

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Apologies to the OP I'm not directly responding to your question, but .. your post outlines good reasons why I don't maintain a handicap and why I won't play any betting matches.

But that's just me - I know it's a popular thing to do.

As long as _you're_ enjoying these skins games!

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Thanks guys. 

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High handicappers generally have an advantage in skins.  The group might consider "half stroke" skins, that tends to spread the money more evenly.  

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In my Skins Game, we split the pool.  1/2 gross and 1/2 net.  You can win both skins. 

I try not to play in all net skins games.  I don't make enough eagles..  In our game, there are more than a few players that make birdie on stroke holes each week. I'd have to hole a shot from the fairway to tie.    

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I don’t think handicaps are unfair as a whole, but in this scenario it seems that they are. I’ve never played skins with handicap, but it would definitely be advantageous to me. Like the OP I usually have 2-4 holes that are a series of unfortunate events that keep me as a mid handicap, but the rest of the holes are pretty consistent. I could definitely see high handicap golfers getting hot for a few holes and having a big advantage in skin format.

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Generally speaking I think handicaps and various tee boxes do a great job of making golf fair, but I agree that skins games are the exception and give a big advantage to a high handicapper that can mix in a few birdies with their doubles.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, chisag said:

As a low single digit index player the chances of me shooting 7 under my index is so rare I have never done it as 66 is my low score. But a bogie golfer can easily shoot 7-10 under on any given day and especially on a course with wide fairways and few hazards. 

That same erratic bogey golfer can just as easily shoot 105, and you'll win just about every single time  against that, even on your worst day.  If each of you has an "average" day, you'll have a 1 to 1.5 stroke advantage over the bogey golfer, that's what the system does when it takes the best 40% of the scores.  It gives an edge to the more consistent player, and lower handicappers are (generally, not always) more consistent.  But when that less consistent golfer goes low, he'll go a lot lower than you'll ever go.  I think this is a pretty common bias among better players, they remember the (relatively) rare time when they played really well, but lost to a high handicapper who also played really well.  They tend to forget the average or poorer rounds that won a match due to the higher handicappers poor play.

 

Edited by DaveP043
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14 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

That same erratic bogey golfer can just as easily shoot 105, and you'll win just about every single time  against that, even on your worst day.  If each of you has an "average" day, you'll have a 1 to 1.5 stroke advantage over the bogey golfer, that's what the system does when it takes the best 40% of the scores.  It gives an edge to the more consistent player, and lower handicappers are (generally, not always) more consistent.  But when that less consistent golfer goes low, he'll go a lot lower than you'll ever go.  I think this is a pretty common bias among better players, they remember the (relatively) rare time when they played really well, but lost to a high handicapper who also played really well.  They tend to forget the average or poorer rounds that won a match due to the higher handicappers poor play.

 

 

... If you are talking about Match play, yes the erratic golfer will be good and bad although the consistent high index player may have several good holes and his 9 on a par 4 is irrelevant. But many of us have been to outings and it is very rare for a low index player to win anything because one or more of the higher index players are going to have a really good day. Sure under peer pressure some also blow up and shoot way over the index. When I set up outings it didn't take me long to learn I had to redistribute the money in the pot to include longest putt made, closest to the pin and always a surprise category like most strokes over par on one hole or "longest drive" as in who drove the longest to get to the outing. Having a larger portion of the pot that almost always went to someone the shot well below their index and that always caused some mumbling and grumbling about sand bagging. 

... I go back to my high and mid/high pards that I give a shot to both on every par 4 and I expect to tie or lose most of those holes. On top of the occasional birdie they can usually craft at least one par between them on all but the longest par 4's and that means I need a birdie just to tie. No money involved and I came up with the idea when one or both of them started feeling like their score didn't matter because they were playing poorly, and this keeps their head in the game after a bad hole because they can win the next one. 

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I'm a low handicapper, and I refuse to play in our club's skins games. The guys are great, and they have a blast, but everything is net, and most of the guys are carrying handicaps that range from 8 to 25. It's just about impossible for me to win a skin in that environment unless I birdie one of the "difficult" holes (and even there, the guy getting two strokes only needs to make par to tie it), or eagle an "easy" par 5.

The guys who run the game keep asking "what does it take to get the low handicappers to play in the game with us?". They don't like the answer, which is "play gross skins only".

Sadly, the club for many years had a gross skins game on Fridays, which EVERY low handicapper played in. No low gross / low net prizes; skins only. The game played fast because you didn't have guys grinding over a 5 footer for bogey, or even par, and it was truly a birdie-fest!

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15 hours ago, cksurfdude said:

Apologies to the OP I'm not directly responding to your question, but .. your post outlines good reasons why I don't maintain a handicap and why I won't play any betting matches.

But that's just me - I know it's a popular thing to do.

As long as _you're_ enjoying these skins games!

Exactly the same for me on maintaining a handicap. Now I do not high stakes gamble any more but will play small time games on occasion. I know when I joined my current club 3 years ago before I was hurt I had an unofficial 4 and was told my handicap was too low to play in any of the seniors mens groups. What is a barrel of laughs you can sit on the patio and listen to them settling up during the week most of them supposedly in the 15 20 handicap range. Now some of those same groups of guys seem to shoot -10 -11 in the Saturday Shootouts. Makes one wonder. Some of us have like a $10 game against other teams but we know the players and none of the Mens League group guys want to tangle with us. 

I do not keep a legal USGA or GHIN handicap for a couple of reasons. First off I do not have AM status to play AM handicap events. And second and this is a slippery slope my front line irons are not "tested and approved" by the USGA. I do have a friend of mine who is physically handicapped but is a computer whiz. He has the software etc and does it for several of us as a hobby. I keep a 'handicap" for my own evaluation. I also have 2 handicaps one for my signature somewhat modern stuff and one for my strictly vintage stuff which includes persimmon woods.

Now the OP if that is what you want to do and are having fun then go for it---- Our Saturday Shootout I no longer take seriously because in any scramble unless it is a big money Calcutta there is cheating going on. And like one of our owners who is the head pro said one day after hearing some crap "Anyone who takes the Saturday Shootout seriously should maybe find another venue to play in" For me it is fun even if we do not get any side action going on. 

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3 hours ago, goaliedad30 said:

I'm a low handicapper, and I refuse to play in our club's skins games. The guys are great, and they have a blast, but everything is net, and most of the guys are carrying handicaps that range from 8 to 25. It's just about impossible for me to win a skin in that environment unless I birdie one of the "difficult" holes (and even there, the guy getting two strokes only needs to make par to tie it), or eagle an "easy" par 5.

The guys who run the game keep asking "what does it take to get the low handicappers to play in the game with us?". They don't like the answer, which is "play gross skins only".

Sadly, the club for many years had a gross skins game on Fridays, which EVERY low handicapper played in. No low gross / low net prizes; skins only. The game played fast because you didn't have guys grinding over a 5 footer for bogey, or even par, and it was truly a birdie-fest!

I agree 110% with you. And LOL they do not like the answer of "play gross skins only". Maybe you could get enough guys together to play straight up. Run a skins pot plus maybe a $5 $10 throw in winner take all stroke play blitz pot.

No one around here wants to play a straight up skins pot or any skins game for that matter much less a winner take all stroke play pot. Yep that Friday game you described would be right up my alley

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9 hours ago, goaliedad30 said:

I'm a low handicapper, and I refuse to play in our club's skins games. The guys are great, and they have a blast, but everything is net, and most of the guys are carrying handicaps that range from 8 to 25. It's just about impossible for me to win a skin in that environment unless I birdie one of the "difficult" holes (and even there, the guy getting two strokes only needs to make par to tie it), or eagle an "easy" par 5.

The guys who run the game keep asking "what does it take to get the low handicappers to play in the game with us?". They don't like the answer, which is "play gross skins only".

Sadly, the club for many years had a gross skins game on Fridays, which EVERY low handicapper played in. No low gross / low net prizes; skins only. The game played fast because you didn't have guys grinding over a 5 footer for bogey, or even par, and it was truly a birdie-fest!

100% agree.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Riverboat said:

When you have a large group or full scale tournament, the chance that one of the high handicappers will have an unusually low round goes way up. Makes it difficult for a low handicapper to win in those situations.

 

16 hours ago, chisag said:

But many of us have been to outings and it is very rare for a low index player to win anything because one or more of the higher index players are going to have a really good day.

One factor that I think gets overlooked is the "demographics" of any large group of golfers.  Mid- and high-handicappers vastly outnumber low-handicappers.  I just took a look at the USGA statistics here:

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/handicapping/handicapping-stats.html

About 10% of golfers who keep handicaps have an index of 4.9 or less.  If your group makes up 10% of the players in the field, you should expect to take home 10% of the prize money.  "Worse players" will take home 90% of the money.  This is fair, you're going to lose to a worse player in a larger field event damn near all the time.  There's a much larger population of guys getting a fair number of strokes, its completely logical that a larger population has a better chance to produce a winning score.  

13 hours ago, goaliedad30 said:

The guys who run the game keep asking "what does it take to get the low handicappers to play in the game with us?". They don't like the answer, which is "play gross skins only".

We play "half-stroke" skins as a side game in our men's league, an 18-handicapper will get a half stroke on every hole.  Your birdie will beat a par with a half stroke, but if that high-handicapper ties your birdie, he wins.  It evens things out pretty well.

Edited by DaveP043
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On 5/7/2022 at 7:08 AM, cksurfdude said:

Apologies to the OP I'm not directly responding to your question, but .. your post outlines good reasons why I don't maintain a handicap and why I won't play any betting matches.

But that's just me - I know it's a popular thing to do.

As long as _you're_ enjoying these skins games!

Likewise for me.  With the exception of playing "Wolf" for a dime a hole and .25 for birdies and fewest putts, my experience has been that once real money gets involved, the pissing matches ensue and I have no interest in that.  In our AZ Wolf games, we kind of have a handicap in that several of us cannot choose each other as partners and several have the option to move to the senior tees if they choose.  It seems to work out well with the same dimes and quarters being pass back n' forth all season long.  I know, because I purposely marked a few 😆.

@B_R_A_D_Y, not really sure what to say about your question other than I more often hear folks complain about "handicap systems" not being fair than being fair.  Those winning more often than not will say the "system is fair" and those that are losing more often, won't.  Ideally, a really fair system would distribute the money evenly over a period of time... but then some say "what's the point"? 😆  

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Lots of great comments here - the one that I might add has been danced around a bit so I will add it plainly - the handicap system was not designed with skins in mind.  It's designed to identify a players potential and it is as fair as possible.  Like many of the other lower handicappers here I would never play in a "net" skins event.  After all handicaps come in all shapes and sizes.  Even when I was a 1 I didn't make a lot of birdies, my handicap came from consistency. 

 

During a season I took very few penalties, rarely got into any serious trouble and made tons and tons of pars.  A healthy, strong 14 handicap, of which there would be a large number in most fields, might well have hit the ball farther than I did and all he needed to do was put 3 shots together on one hole, a hole where I would never even consider shooting at a pin because that could bring double bogey into play.  My good course management was going to eliminate me from birdie on a number of holes.

 

Ideally any league or tournament with skins should have both a gross and a net pool, then I'm always all in.

 

So I suppose the handicap system is "unfair" by the OPs definition of fairness.  But as an 18 it's stilted towards his group.  The mitigation that he's seeing is unfair as well that's for certain.

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2 hours ago, revkev said:

Lots of great comments here - the one that I might add has been danced around a bit so I will add it plainly - the handicap system was not designed with skins in mind.  It's designed to identify a players potential and it is as fair as possible.  Like many of the other lower handicappers here I would never play in a "net" skins event.  After all handicaps come in all shapes and sizes.  Even when I was a 1 I didn't make a lot of birdies, my handicap came from consistency. 

 

During a season I took very few penalties, rarely got into any serious trouble and made tons and tons of pars.  A healthy, strong 14 handicap, of which there would be a large number in most fields, might well have hit the ball farther than I did and all he needed to do was put 3 shots together on one hole, a hole where I would never even consider shooting at a pin because that could bring double bogey into play.  My good course management was going to eliminate me from birdie on a number of holes.

 

Ideally any league or tournament with skins should have both a gross and a net pool, then I'm always all in.

 

So I suppose the handicap system is "unfair" by the OPs definition of fairness.  But as an 18 it's stilted towards his group.  The mitigation that he's seeing is unfair as well that's for certain.

That is exactly like the structure of our Mens groups people in the mid to high double digit range. The course owners which are the management too stay out of it. We have 4 different men's groups and 2 different ladies groups. All of them for lack of a better phrase have their own "governing bodies" and do their own thing. And yes there are a lot of sandbaggers in all the men's groups but hey they do their own thing. And from what I understand most of the traveling groups operate the same way. As for me we have a informal small group that plays up for low stakes either team matches or round robins. On teams we will play a $1 Nassau On the round robins we play a $1 match. And sometimes we do not play for one thin dime. One of my scramble partners is 80 yoa and is a darn good player for his age. We play sometimes during the week from the super senior tees with me hitting persimmon. We do not play for one thin dime but it is priceless for the kicks and giggle factor. 

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On 5/7/2022 at 9:08 AM, cksurfdude said:

Apologies to the OP I'm not directly responding to your question, but .. your post outlines good reasons why I don't maintain a handicap and why I won't play any betting matches.

Echoing apologies as this will not directly respond as I don't bet because of lessons learned long ago.

3 hours ago, fixyurdivot said:

not really sure what to say about your question other than I more often hear folks complain about "handicap systems" not being fair than being fair.  Those winning more often than not will say the "system is fair" and those that are losing more often, won't.  Ideally, a really fair system would distribute the money evenly over a period of time... but then some say "what's the point"? 😆  

Just like "ask any 10 people what they saw or think and it is usually 10 different responses" (some completely unrelated to anything), handicapping is another well intentioned construct to meet one need that cannot possibly be everything in every situation.  The lesson I learned long ago is if you don't like all possible outcomes of a game then don't play the game.  Life is so much better at rewarding with lemons instead of brass rings.

Handicap on my SwingU app works just fine for MGS profile and conversation with golfers.  Beyond that it is meaningless because I just golf to golf preferably with friends, and if some challenge is in need of a reward custom has always been to buy the next coffee.  

Did have a guy put in my twosome on Friday who at one point wagered who could pitch onto the green closest to the pin and I must say it just felt wrong and an invasion of my enjoyment of playing the game and soured the round, but I am sure that was only my own reaction.  To each their own 🏌️‍♂️⛳

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Verified Hack, 23 handicap 🙂  Golfing for exercise and peace of mind.

|> Big Dogs: First StrikeTM Rattlesnake (10.5),  Ginty Trouble Club (29)

|> Blades: First StrikeTM DeliveranceTM 3(20) 4(23) 5(26) 6(29) 7(33) 8(37) 9(41) P(45)  |> Wedges: Worx (55) 636692430_worx30.png.0a353d81efc141276fcad4aac6d519f4.png 

|> Flatsticks: Pinemeadow Z-ON M1 (3), testing L.A.B. Golf DF 2.1    ⛳ 934372551_The-Club-Buddy-Rev-1-0120h.jpg.2e06db61797bee31ed27f49a3b801098.jpg 517658623_DrizzleStickLogo25.jpg.2d0acde35cce050d2a56a647437d1cfe.jpg  1944240139_ZeroFrictionLogo25.jpg.8c7f11d619e7390fdb8ccdfac6479d58.jpg

⛳.  :1590477705_SunMountain:C130 Supercharged 🌲  :Clicgear:3.5+  🌳   1435280570_COBALTicon25tall.jpg.31b6f5458d409c6539d66b88e728a841.jpgQ6 Slope   🏌️‍♂️  572101405_SwingUicon25.jpg.ef5d6308ca59444daedc3e24214e87d9.jpgSwingU Looper  

💻  1308581734_EPLogoxsm.jpg.93b58a256c00a74e47a35314305b477f.jpgMGS Logo  🌐  1590215503_dghLogo30.jpg.f5abb718a74e4d05c07131656bb13e78.jpgBall mark   |>   IGBRC   [International Golf Ball Rescue Committee] -Founder-

1231925043_PGAHOPE_H_4Ch30.png.f5b3c2e4a88708f6a6b5d3e143d9cba8.png PGA HOPE Graduate Member     2138091835_StickHackLogo2021(3)20pixelstall.png.47a28d11828bd99f0147b9eee5c17ec4.png "The World's Greatest Golf Club Without The Course" Member #334 

2020 Official Tester - PuttUp mat logo_full_331d238c-3cab-4f84-ac72-d09e86f448c5_300x-25.png.11580987b80d9d26da7f04a31eadac9d.png  2021 Official Tester - Inesis Waterproof Grip Golf Shoes 1398724741_Inesislogo.jpg.34e215e2c1310a7b31d310ab89f4c188.jpg

2022 Official Tester - L.A.B.Putters  1578345221_L.A.B.Golflogo30.jpg.0cb89de95b28f0ebddcff53b59a16f08.jpg

It's all lies I tell you, everywhere the golf ball comes to rest!

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