As golf milestones go, both carry plenty of cachet. To break 80 or get down to a single-digit handicap is to announce you've graduated from the legion of hit-and-hopers to someone who actually has a clue on the golf course. But which is the actual bigger deal? At Golf Digest, this began as an internal debate that generated enough
name calling discussion that we then tossed it to social media.
The response was mixed. Although most respondents agreed that breaking 80 provided the more memorable singular moment, deciding "what's the bigger deal" left plenty for interpretation. Is it a question of what you'd rather be? Of what you'd remember more? Below are two viewpoints on the debate.
Breaking 80 is a bigger deal: When you break 80—and yes I'm coming from the privileged perspective of having passed that milestone—it's a huge moment. You've proven that you're capable not only of shooting that score, but that you can withstand the pressure coming down the stretch. Likely, you know your score and your buddies are breathing down your neck. You're balancing that excitement and desire to play well with the patience necessary to convert shots. That's at the crux of breaking 80. That's what makes it such a big deal, what makes it so great. There's none of that with the moment you become a 9.9 index. That just happens one day when you're checking your handicap. Sure, it's great to be a single digit handicapper, but becoming one for the first time pales in comparison to that inaugural experience of getting to write 70-something on your scorecard. After you've done it once, you'll realize how easily it can happen again. It's a threshold necessary to cross en route to becoming a great player.No one has ever told me about that time they became a single-digit handicapper. I've heard a lot of first-time-breaking 80 stories. Which would you be more likely to talk about in the bar after the round: breaking 80, or your most recent handicap adjustment? — Keely Levins
Become a single-digit handicap is the bigger deal: Granted, handicaps are inexact, the byproduct of some convoluted formula most people don't even understand. But they remain the currency that most golfers transact in, and as someone who's spent his golf existence with his nose pressed against the proverbial glass, a single-digit handicap has long represented rarefied air. It reflects sustained proficiency, a level of mastery that can't be measured in a single round. Think about which is the more impressive description of a player? "He's a single digit" or "He once shot 79"? As singular events go, the update of a handicap revision can't compare to the poignance of holing a putt for 79. But if the question is which is the bigger deal, breaking 80 is a mere moment. A single-digit handicap is an arrival. — Sam Weinman