You’ve probably heard the term “sandbagger” in your life, and you’ve probably wondered what it means — particularly in golf terms, if you’re visiting Golf News Net.
Generally speaking, a sandbagger is someone who disguises their talent level through some means, then turning out to perform much better in a competition than expected once it starts. In golf terms, a sandbagger is someone who claims a certain level of talent — typically through a false or misleading handicap index — and winds up playing much better, using the addition strokes in a handicap competition to beat their opponents. It’s incredibly frustrating to play golf with a sandbagger, and sometimes that frustration can lead to on-course fighting.
Golfers can sandbag pretty easily, really. While the USGA and most private clubs compel their members to enter all of their non-solitary scores for handicap purposes, not all golfers do that, meaning they’re not giving a total representation of their skill level and form. When golfers selectively enter scores to showcase their worse rounds, their index remains artificially inflated, giving those players an advantage.
So, how do you spot a sandbagger? Well, when a bogey golfer (someone who is about an 18 handicap) makes four pars to start a round, you might be clued in on things. However, the problem is that a golfer can have an out-of-the-ordinary good round and look like a sandbagger, then shoot a poor round the next time. This typically happens with players who tend to shoot around 85, as they can go in the 70s or in the 90s with ease.
Then there’s the idea of a reverse sandbagger. A reverse sandbagger, as you might surmise, is the opposite of a sandbagger. They’re a golfer that has an artificially low handicap — sometimes called a vanity handicap — one that doesn’t represent their current skill level.
Since a reverse sandbagger doesn’t benefit from extra strokes in a handicap competition — in fact, they get less — why would someone want to be a reverse sandbagger? There are two reasons, one purposeful, one not. A reverse sandbagger might simply want the ability to say they have a certain level of skill indicated by a handicap that they don’t have consistently or once had but don’t any longer. The other is that a golfer may play so rarely that they have the possibility of very good rounds and, from rust, can turn in the occasional very bad round.