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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 23, 2006

New system meant to cut sandbagging

 •  Honesty leads to true satisfaction
 •  Rules clinic scheduled for April 15
 •  Golf Tips
 •  Holes in one

By Bill Kwon


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With all this rain, many people appreciate having sand bags around.

It's a different story in golf. No one wants to be around a sandbagger, a term used for a golfer who inflates his handicap index, claiming to be a worse player than he or she actually is.

Winning a tournament or a side bet by sandbagging makes it even worse.

It's really cheating because having a legitimate handicap index enables golfers of all skill levels to compete on an equitable basis. By playing with inflated handicaps, golfers are getting more strokes than they deserve.

I remember in the Maui Open several years ago when pro Jerry Mullen could only shake his head after a 16-handicapper in his pro-am group beat him scratch. The guy went on to win his flight with net scores of something like 58 and 57.

Well, the days are numbered for tournament sandbaggers.

The Aloha Section PGA and the Hawai'i State Golf Association have formed an alliance to see that all golfers play to a unified handicap system.

The state's two leading professional and amateur golf organizations have endorsed the GHIN system, which is approved by the United States Golf Association, the national governing body for amateur golf.

GHIN, an acronym for golf handicap information network, can provide the process of verifying a golfer's legitimate handicap.

"We both basically agree that this is in the best interest of golf. You see so much abuse of the handicapping system," said Matt Hall, president of the Aloha Section PGA. "There are other handicap systems but with other systems, there's no peer review. With GHIN, we can monitor it with the HSGA."

Added Gary Wild, HSGA president, "We just want to level the playing field. You do it by having a valid and right handicap. It's the whole purpose of the handicap system."

By having a GHIN handicap index, the peer review is easy, according to Wild.

"The system is online. You can check your own scores. You can check anyone's handicap," Wild said.

You can indeed look it up. Just go to www.ghin.com.

Around 15,000 of the 21,000 or so golfers statewide belong to the GHIN system.

Beginning July 1, any golfer who doesn't have a USGA-approved handicap such as the GHIN system will not be eligible to play in any USGA or HSGA event, Wild said.

It's important in local amateur tournaments that have different flights such as A, B and C based on a player's handicap.

"The big problem in this state, according to those putting on tournaments, is that a lot golfers will carry several handicaps. You know which one they're going to pick. The higher one," Wild said.

"It's especially the flighted tournaments where you hear the most grumbling," added Hall, Turtle Bay Resort's director of golf.

With so many golf courses with Aloha Section members as head professionals hosting tournaments, Hall thought it was good to partner up with the HSGA, the local USGA affiliate.

The Turtle Bay Amateur will require a GHIN handicap for the first time this October, according to Hall.

"We're really proud of what we are doing," said Wild, adding that anyone with a GHIN handicap is automatically a member of the HSGA.

"We hope to start a publication online so that we can also update what our HSGA is doing."

The HSGA also conducts a series of seminars on the GHIN certification process for local golf clubs not belonging to the GHIN system. The next one is scheduled for April 15 at the Oahu Country Club.

As for Wild's golf handicap index, it's 11.2.

You can look it up.