Practice Makes Better

I am playing in a golf tournament this weekend and was talking with a couple of golf pros about handicaps and rules. They were talking about people “sandbagging” their handicaps which to me implies directly trying to influence their handicaps by not recording good scores or intentionally scoring poorly. (Your handicap is basically how many strokes on average you score above par.) Since I only play 9-holes a week on average, my handicap hasn’t moved in the 3 years I have been tracking it although I have scored anywhere from an 86 to a 116 on the same course that I play. My average is 103.

I told the pro that my plan was to play two months worth of golf in the 10 days before the tournament with a hope of playing well below my handicap. He said that I would clearly get ridiculed for sandbagging if I came in 10 strokes below my handicap or something similar. It made me wonder. I don’t score well, but I play pretty well. For example, in my last round (adding two 9-hole days together), I shot +8 for 13 holes and +17 for the remaining 6 holes. (Which should play well to match play not stroke play.)

Let me compare my typical golf to my preparation this week for the tournament.



This Week



Two times

Arrive before my tee time to warm up



Holes per week

9 (weather permitting)


Time of day

1:00 (in St. Louis heat)

8:00 am


Usually eat while playing and play after doing my long run

Plan to run on other days and eat before warm up


To me, this seems perfectly legitimate. I know what messes me up mentally and physically when playing golf, but between work, kids, and other activities, I usually can’t control those factors. So, is it really sandbagging if I optimize the scenario to play well.

It made me think about the whole concept of practice makes perfect (as if perfect is achievable). I have seen this several times before:

  • When I went to Europe as an architecture student, I sketched all day long for 3-months. The initial drawing were horrible, but by the end, I had developed a much better eye and had improved my use of materials and colors. [Maybe I can find and post a few sketches.]
  • Running is very much the same for me. If I don’t have my warm-up and get mentally in the zone, it is hard to do well. For races, I plan everything out…what I eat, what I wear, when I want to get there, drinking stops, etc.

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