The PGA Tour is holding the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am this week. Not only will pros be competing against each other, they'll be alongside some rank amateurs. Needless to say, there may be some nerves on the part of the higher-handicappers, who will be playing with some incredible golfers...in front of crowds.
Believe it or not, this could affect your next golf vacation.
Have you gone on a golf vacation as part of a twosome or threesome? I have a number of times, and that has meant I've been paired up with an incredible range of characters over the years, from all across the spectrums of age, golf-seriousness and handicap.
My current handicap index is exactly 0.0. I could not possibly be more of a scratch golfer than I am right now. And I've been one for a while - my handicap has hovered between 1 and +1 for a number of years.
This is not to brag, but rather to say that I've been a low-handicap golfer for long enough to make some observations about how higher-handicap players tend to perceive me and others of my approximate skill level.
I've joined groups that ranged from threesomes of fellow competitive amateur players to triads of ladies who all shot 100 or higher, and every permutation in between. I've gathered a lot of intel over my years of playing golf.
So, here are 7 "confessions" from a scratch golfer that might surprise you.
1. We don't care if you have a high handicap. Seriously.
I've heard numerous times some version of "Oh, you're scratch? You definitely don't want to play with us." And, yes, there are a few scratch golfers out there who look down on anyone with a double-digit handicap. But they're jerks whom you wouldn't want to play with, anyway - I certainly don't. Yes, we can tell pretty quickly what kind of player you are, but we're not judging you. If anything, we're looking for ways you might improve.
The truth is that most scratch golfers just want to have a good time on the course. Sound familiar? Enjoyable company is far more important than just seeking out low-handicap players. I've had a blast playing with 30-handicappers, and I've been miserable playing with mini-tour pros.
2. We do care if you play slow. (But you probably care about that, too.)
Everyone hates slow rounds of golf. Sure, all else being equal, it's a little easier for low-handicap players to get around the course quickly simply because it takes less time to hit 70 or 75 shots than 85 or 90. That said, I have played with numerous bogey golfers who know how to be ready to hit when they're away, and who know how to keep play moving. And the longest round of golf I've ever been a part of - more than 6 1/2 hours - was in a college event. Again, this is mostly to say that scratch players tend to have the same concerns and flaws as other golfers.
3. We couldn't care less which tees you play from.
Because I play in a few amateur tournaments per year, I generally like playing from the back tees at most courses I visit. I don't expect any higher-handicappers I might play with to join me, and it's always funny when other players sheepishly say "Uh, we'll be playing from these [shorter] tees." That's fine! The great thing about golf is that there are lots of ways to even the playing field between players of disparate abilities. Speaking of which...
4. We're easier to beat than you think.
This may seem counterintuitive, but double-digit handicappers will take a plenty of money off their scratch counterparts at courses around the world today, tomorrow and every other day, as long as golf exists. That's because higher-handicap players - especially those who play a good amount of golf - will tend to beat their handicaps by four or five shots somewhat more often than scratch players. I've shot even par or 1-over and lost money to 8-, 10- and 18-handicappers more times than I can count. Wily golfers who know how to use the strokes they're given in matches to mitigate the gap in raw skills.
5. We get frustrated at our bad shots and rounds, too. They just look different.
If a scratch golfer is 100 yards away and hits a wedge shot 35 or 40 feet from the hole, he or she is likely to be pretty disappointed, while a 20-handicapper is probably going to be okay with that outcome. Likewise, after shooting 76 on an easy course, a scratch golfer isn't likely to take much solace in hearing a 15-handicap playing partner say "Man, I'd kill to be able to shoot that low." That 15-handicapper has shot plenty of 92s before - that's how a 76 feels to a scratch player in most cases. It's all relative.
6. If you want swing advice, just ask.
Trust me - you won't be the first to pick our brains about the golf swing. We're not generally going to give any unsolicited tips, but we're happy to help in any way we can. But take it with a grain of salt, since amateurs can't get paid for dispensing swing advice. Just wait until the back nine to start asking for a tip here or there - we probably will won't be terribly helpful after only seeing a few shots. At least to this scratch player, it's never a bother to be asked for my thoughts on another player's swing - I'm all for everyone getting around in fewer shots.
7. Bottom line: we're just like you.
A lot of higher-handicap players seem to walk on eggshells around me because I'm a lower-handicap player. But in reality, I and most of my handicap-peers aren't looking for any special treatment. If you're wondering how you can "get out of our way" when you get grouped with one of us, I'd suggest that you needn't worry. Have fun on the course like you normally do, and we'll get along fine. Just don't sandbag us in a match.
What are your opinions of and experiences with scratch golfers? What observations have you made about the differences (and similarities) between them and higher handicappers? Please share your thoughts below!