As vain as a vanity plate gets!
Confessions of a Vanity Handicapper
By bkuehn1952 on 9/14/10
We asked for readers to send in blog posts- and Brian Kuehn didn't disappoint. He kicked off our reader-writer series 3 weeks ago, checked in a week later - and now he's contributed his 3rd article. I'm starting to worry a little about my job security... :)

Most of us have a self-image and try hard to match reality with that image. Unfortunately, there is often a considerable gap between how we see ourselves and the truth so we create elaborate schemes to fool ourselves. Some resort to the "comb-over" to create a full head of hair. Others try to work unusual words into their conversations to appear more erudite (oops, caught me!). Right now I am working on pretending my waist line is not showing the start of a pot belly (suck that gut in, keep that shirt untucked!).

We golfers are especially susceptible to self-deception. Reliable authorities state that the average male golfer reports they hit their drives 250 yards yet the actual measured average is 200. Most of us fail in our attempt to hit a green by under-clubbing and coming up short. Why? Because we want to believe that we can hit that 7-iron 10 yards further than we really do. The best way for most of us to maintain the illusion that we are competent golfers, however, is through our handicap index.

Eons ago, when "woods" were made of wood and one could put a "smile" in a golf ball with a thinly hit 3-iron, I signed up for a handicap. My memory fails me but I think my first handicap was around 16 or 17 (no index back in those days). It became my overwhelming ambition to lower my handicap, so much so that I resorted to cooking the books, so to speak. Hit a ball out of bounds? What the heck, let’s give ourselves a mulligan. Hit another out on the back nine and already used a mully? A mulligan-a-side sounds fair.

We all know how we rationalize going easy on ourselves by not counting casual missed 3-foot putts (“Oh, if I had taken time to line it up I would have made it”), improving lies in the sand (“If the guy before me had raked this, my lie would be perfect - I’ll just nudge the ball over here”), and manufacturing rules (“Ball lost in the woods – drop in the rough and take a stroke”). I was guilty of all these and more. Frankly my only goal was lowering my handicap. Whether it was through practice or liberal interpretation of the Rules of Golf, I was determined to go low. And I succeeded.

My handicap slowly moved downward. I was actually getting better but some of the improvement could clearly be traced to my moral lassitude in relation to the Rules and the fixation on my index. About 5 years ago my index reached the point that I was almost eligible to attempt USGA Senior Open qualifying. Unfortunately, when I played golf without bending the rules, it was almost impossible to play to my handicap. It was embarrassing when people found out I was a “4” that couldn’t break 80 regularly. The handicap index became a little black cloud that followed me around on the golf course. I was the golfing equivalent of a comb-over hairdo; I was a vanity handicapper.

We have all met the vanity handicapper. His handicap says 5.2 but his play is 10.7. There is rarely the round where he can’t be heard saying to anyone that will listen, “I don’t usually play this poorly.” We witness all the tools of denial, from taking 4 foot gimmee’s to improving a bad lie in the rough.

Well, I am happy to say that several years ago I was finally cured of my affliction. Playing in tournaments will do that. My 7.5 index typically works out to an 8 or 9 course handicap. I can actually play to or beat my handicap 20 or 25% of the time. My ball is played as it lies, whether in a divot-hole or in a foot print in the bunker. The Rules of Golf are adhered to at all times (except for the occasional 12 inch putt).

Don’t get me wrong, I love vanity handicappers. They are good guys, even if slightly deluded as to the quality of their game. There will always a place for the vanity handicapper, preferably in my flight!

This was written by Brian Kuehn, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo source

[ comments ]
TeT says:
Kurt the Knife says:
I hear ya.
When I began playing I started fudgin a little bit here and there but after starting to record my stats I felt like it means nothing if the data is not clean.
Mulligans in, Mulligan out.
dottomm says:
What they call a mulligan in Ireland? Lying three.
ForeKris says:
I'm a vanity handicaper. I say it's a 30, but it's really a 30.7.
birdieXris says:
Great post!
Banker85 says:
i know i was guilty, and probably still a little here and there. For the most part though i am with Kurt. I feel shame when i enter in a score i know is fudged. what is the point in that? My handicap is just above 10 now but really i feel like my scoring avg. 85 is more close to what my hcp should be 13.
Mr VanityHandicap says:
I propose an anti-vanity movement.......
lcgolfer64 says:
I'm with ya Banker, also playing on a 'home' course has it's advantages at least for my handicap. My GHIN is a 10.2 (Oob says I'm an 8) but I know reality is probably a 14-15. At 'home' I play in the 80's and have broke into the 70's because I know the course very well. Courses I have not ever or rarely ever played I'm pleased with mid 80's.
lcgolfer64 says:
In fact my last 4 scores on my home course (Par 71, 118 slope): 78-82-90-75
I'm actually almost the opposite, while I have yet to play a tournament, I'd rather NOT be a 10, yet alone an 8 handicap! I don't want to sandbag, but I sure don't want to be playing with guys that shoot 70's regularly on any course because I can do it on one course I've walked 30-40 times and know well, to make me a 10.2 handicap.
cjgiant says:
@lcgolfer - I have not found oob to be far off from a proper HC. I wonder if the 2+ stroke difference is a failure to use ESC when posting to GHIN.

Also, keep in mind your HC is not meant to measure your average, but your potential. There was a post about it recently (someone could provide a reference I am sure) describiing how HC appears to be skewed to benefit lower HC players (those 2 HC players averages are probably closer to their best 10 than yours or mine).
cjgiant says:
I have found myself almost apologizing for my index recently. I had a run of good scores less than 20 rounds ago, followed by a run of really ugly rounds. During the ugly run, my index didn't move, as no scores counted towards HC, and I hadn't dropped any of the good scores. I was in no way playing to an under-6 HC. So, I ended up truthfully indicating my HC, but saying I am playing worse at the moment. Guess that could be taken in a couple different ways, but most golfers who know about the HC system should understand.
MJKern44 says:
To be honest, I preferred when I didn't try and keep my handicap and just went out to play. Ever since myself and the guys I golf with started to keep the HC, it's all anyone talks about. As @cjgiant said, if you say you're a 9 and then go out and shoot an 88, you always have that feeling that someone is thinking you"re bulls***ing. Easier back in the day to say what you usually shot in terms of score than indicate a handicap. To that note, most people don't understand how the HC works, so if you say you're a 9-10, they think that means you should shoot 80-81-82 on every course regardless of slope or rating.
lcgolfer64 says:
You are absolutely right on point. This is my first year of officially keeping a GHIN handicap. And again you're correct, I didn't follow the procedure of using the ESC (something in me just didn't feel right typing in a '6' when I truly scored an '8')
Appreciate the follow-up - I'm pretty I recall reading the article you were referencing above on HC and its meaning of 'showing your golf potential.'

I think in short I was trying to say - I'm a completely streaky player and I think that a 13-15 HC would reflect my true golf game.

I joke and tell the regulars I play with when they notice I'm having a good round - Hey, you know me, I can blow-up at anytime! ;)
cjgiant says:
@lcgolfer - OOB will automatically ESC adjust for you, obviously. Do you record hole-by-hole on GHIN also? I kbnow they offer this and if so, they should adjust for you as well.

I think GHIN has some serious issues as a site from a usability point of view, I only wonder if they lack as well in the "business logic" behind the scenes. If you post totals in GHIN only, you can look on OOB at your score, and scroll down to the ESC Score row and grab that total. If you ever plan on using your HC for competitive reasons, it's the fair thing to do.
lcgolfer64 says:
@gjgiant - Oob is great, I like the scoring system and all the stats here.

On GHIN I only enter the total. I did not know that hole-by-hole was even an option on GHIN - I'll have to check in to that. Agree on the usability, had issues trying to enter scores on several occassions.

I'll start grabing the ESC totals here, as I would like to try and play in a couple of smaller local tourneys here this fall.
Thanks again for the insight.
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