Viet Nam News
by Robert Bicknell
Halloweeen, which is one of my favourite holidays is right around the corner and I had planned to write a column about Halloween golf tournaments back home in New England, but after the meeting this morning with the Vietnam Golf Association (VGA), I decided to focus on something a little more important…
The VGA has been pushing hard to get a nationwide handicap system – using “slope ratings” – in place, but as you might expect, nothing in Viet Nam is ever easy so why should this be any different?
The biggest problems include a total misunderstanding of how handicaps work by most of the players in Viet Nam, different handicap systems and formats that players from different countries are used to and, of course enforcement.
Having set up the Handicap Systems in VGCC (Vietnam Golf & CC) in 1998 and Kings Island in 2002 (both of which were known to be the most accurate and trusted in the country during its time, I think I know more than the average person, so let me give you a quick basic facts:
Fact 1 – If you almost always shoot your handicap, your handicap is not correct. The USGA handicap system is based on 96 per cent of the best 10 of a golfer’s last 20 rounds, not simply average score. According to the USGA more than half of your scores should be within three strokes of three over your handicap. In other words, using a 16-handicapper as an example, more than half of the rounds should be between 87 and 93. The player will better the handicap -- shooting 87 or lower -- only about 20 per cent of the time, or once every five rounds.
This one will really ruin your day… The odds of someone beating their handicap -- if it’s an honest handicap -- by eight strokes are 1,138 to 1 and the odds of beating your handicap by eight strokes twice are 14,912 to 1.
Fact 2 – If you have a 10 handicap from the Blue Tees, you do NOT have a 10 handicap off the White tees as well. For that matter, if you are a 10 Handicap at VGCC off the Blue Tees, you are not a 10 handicap off the Blue tees at The Bluffs in Ho Tram because the degree of difficulty of each course is very different. This is where “Slope Ratings” are important.
Fact 3 – There are people known as a “reverse sandbagger” (cheater). Only one to two per cent of golfers are sandbaggers believe it or not, and about 10 per cent fall into the vanity-handicap category (also called "reverse sandbaggers"). Sandbaggers typically post very few scores -- only their worst rounds -- or add strokes to their score or intentionally play a few bad holes near the end of a round. They usually play better than their handicaps in tournament – which is why, here in Viet Nam, we include the 4-under par maximum net rule with lowest handicap winning all ties. Vanity handicappers, on the other hand, typically post only their best scores, or scores better than what they actually shot, then usually complain in a tournament that they’re having an “off day.”
For the record, Sandbaggers are the scum of the earth, and Reverse Sandbaggers are harmless. They never win events and only hurt themselves.
The biggest single weakness with any handicap system is the integrity and enforcement of the Handicap System Rules by any club in the system. It only takes one club to screw it up for everyone else.
Look, if the guy entering the scorecards into the system is not honest and can be “bought”, then players can manipulate the system to get an incorrect handicap. This does happen if the supervisor isn’t paying attention and running checks.
In addition, if the club knows a member played 10 times this month and only posted five scorecards, and doesn’t do anything about it, they are allowing a player to possibly manipulate the system.
I have never been thrilled with clubs allowing players to post scores from home because there is no verification system. Someone could sit at home and dump 20 fake scorecards into the system over a few weeks and raise his handicap.
Bottom line – if you want accurate handicaps, you must hold your club accountable and if you know someone’s cheating, let the club know. — VNS