Raise your hand if you played high school and/or collegiate golf. Keep it raised if you are still limber, aren’t paying three college tuitions and still knock that little white ball around 30+ times a year. I thought so.
Here lies the origins of the vanity handicapper, aka the reverse bagger. The beginnings of a vanity handicapper come from one of two places. It’s possible you were really good back when you had all your hair. Or the latter is you just want to fit in with the weekly dog fight at your home club. Regardless it’s going to cost you in the long run.. but by all means, let those guys keep taking your money.
I was a scratch player in high school. Admittedly in my naivety I assumed that meant I shot around par a lot. Alas, I was a vanity player in those days as well I just didn’t know it yet. Junior golfers only keep handicaps for the exact opposite reasons as adults. They want to be seen by recruiters. Unfortunately a self kept handicap means nothing until you prove it. That same rule still applies.
Not since high school have I played in a meaningful competitive event and is the reason I have yet to change my ways. And why should I? I feel better about myself when I ‘shoot 78’ than 82. Don’t you feel the same way if you scored that new big screen TV for 60% off even though they just marked up the original price?
How can you spot a vanity handicapper? Listen for the key phrases:
- “I get a free drop from this root, right?”
- “That was good.”
- “I’m gonna take my mulligan (for the fourth time).”
- “Just give me a double.”
That last one really hits home. It’s perpetuating the vanity nature. The USGA system only allows low handicappers to take a double (EDIT: 2020 WHS RULES HAVE REVISED THIS POLICY). A rule set up against the bagger. So even if you desire to change your ways you might not even be able to!
In short, it doesn’t bother me that on paper I’m a 7 but in reality it’s a 10+. To me keeping an index in the single digits is no different than lying about your weight on your driver’s license. It’s a projection of what you strive to be. If I think I am a good player, I will be a good player. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
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