The Honest John Game and Golf Handicap Explained

There are two versions of Honest John in golf: There is a golf game (or, really, a honey pot) called Honest John, and there is a one-day handicap estimate for tournament use called Honest John. Let's break down both of them now.

The Honest John Side Pot

This version is a side game for a round of golf between golf buddies. Before the round starts, each golfer in the group antes up the agreed-upon amount of the bet. Five dollars each? Then you have a pot worth $20. One dollar each? The pot is $4.

Step 2: Each golfer writes down his or her guess of what their score will be at the end of the round. If Golfer A believes he will score 85, that's what he writes down.

And the final step: When the round is over, each golfer compares his actual score to his predicted score. Who came closest to being right? That's the winner: the golfer whose actual score came closest to the score they predicted at the start of the round. That golfer wins the Honest John pot. (An old name for this game is Kickers Handicap.)

Honest John is an easy bet for golfers of varying skill levels who enjoy playing together, because you don't have to play great to win it. All you have to do is have a good knowledge of your golf game and honesty about the score you are likely to shoot.

Honest John Handicap

Say you are in charge of organizing a golf tournament whose purpose is to raise money for a charitable cause. You want to hand out prizes for both gross scores and net (using handicaps) scores. But not everyone who signs up for such a tournament will have an official handicap index.

Using an "Honest John handicap" in such a situation lets those people compete on net score and helps raise additional money. The Honest John handicap is as simple as the Honest John side game: When golfers sign up for the tournament, they estimate their handicap. Then they use that number to play the tournament.

When the round is over, the golfer's estimate of her handicap is deducted from her stroke total to produce her net score. Here's the catch: If the golfer's actual score is lower than the handicap she estimated, she has to pay a dollar for every stroke it was lower.

Let's say Golfer A claims to be an 18 handicap. In this situation (you're not using any fancy official handicap formulas here, just asking golfers "how many strokes above par do you typically score?"), that means she is guessing she'll shoot around 90. But then she goes out and shoots an 80. That's 10 strokes lower than the handicap she gave herself, so she owes your fund-raiser another $10.

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