The Sandbagger In Golf: What It Is, Why You Should Never Be One

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In golf, "sandbagger" is a derogatory term applied to golfers who cheat by pretending to be worse than they really are. Think of how a golf bet often begins: With one golfer asking another, "How many strokes are you going to give me?" A sandbagger will misrepresent his playing ability (claiming to be worse than he really is) in order to get more strokes than he deserves.

Winning a tournament or bet in this fashion is called "sandbagging." A golfer who has won by sandbagging is said to have "sandbagged" his opponents.

The term did not originate with golfers. Rather, it came to golf after originating in the world of street gangs and toughs. And it passed through poker before finally getting to golf.

The term can be thought of two ways, one a general usage and the second a more specific usage relating to golf handicaps.

The General Usage of 'Sandbagger'

Generally, any golfer who misleads others about his ability level, claiming to be worse than he actually is at golf, might be a sandbagger. If the person is not trying to gain from that deception, no problem (he might not even be aware he is misleading others about his ability—maybe he just has low self-esteem or a sincere but incorrect view of his playing abilities). But a golfer who deliberately misleads others about his ability in order to gain in some way—to win a bet, for example—is a sandbagger.

In the golf lexicon, a usage example of this version of sandbagger is: "Don't bet with Bob - he's a sandbagger."

This usage of sandbagger is synonymous with hustler, and such golfers are also sometimes called bandits.

Sandbaggers and Golf Handicap Indexes

In a more specific usage, a sandbagger is a golfer who artificially inflates his handicap index in order to better his chances of winning tournaments or bets.

One of the ways a sandbagger can inflate his handicap index is by selectively leaving out his best rounds of golf when he posts scores for handicap purposes. Another is to, more simply, lie about the scores he is posting (claiming higher scores than actually shot).

In this way, the golfer drives up his handicap index. Then, when the sandbagger enters a tournament, he claims, for example, a handicap index of 18 when, in fact, his true handicap might be closer to, as an example, 12. In that way, the sandbagger has just bought himself six extra strokes off his net score, and improved his odds of winning his flight or the tournament.

This form of sandbagging is also known as "handicap building." As an example of how the term is used, one golfer might say of another golfer known or suspected of sandbagging, "Bob sandbagged his way to the second-flight championship last year."

A sandbagger is considered by many to be the one of the lowest forms of golf cheaters. Sandbaggers are, at base, cheaters and hustlers. Golfers who are found out to be sandbaggers are often ostracized and always looked down upon. Sandbagging can lead to the end of friendships and even to a golfer getting booted out of a club.