Activities Sports & Athletics How Did 'Sandbagger' Become a Golf Term? Share PINTEREST Email Print Sally Anscombe/Moment/Getty Images Sports & Athletics Golf History Basics Gear Golf Courses Famous Golfers Golf Tournaments Baseball Basketball Bicycling Billiards Bodybuilding Bowling Boxing Car Racing Cheerleading Cricket Extreme Sports Football Gymnastics Ice Hockey Martial Arts Professional Wrestling Skateboarding Skating Paintball Soccer Swimming & Diving Table Tennis Tennis Track & Field Volleyball Other Activities Learn More By Brent Kelley Brent Kelley is an award-winning sports journalist and golf expert with over 30 years in print and online journalism. our editorial process Brent Kelley Updated July 26, 2018 "Sandbagger" as a golf term would make a little sense if it had something to do with sand bunkers. But it doesn't. In golf, a sandbagger is a nasty species of golf club vermin who lies about his true playing abilities, making himself seem worse than he is in order to gain advantage in tournaments or bets. But why is "sandbagger" golfers' term for that? And how did it enter the golf lexicon? Think Offensive Sand Bags, Not Defensive Ones We all know what a sand bag is, but how did bags of sand enter the golf lexicon? First, the word doesn't derive from the type of sand bags we're most familiar with. It's not the defensive sand bags (those used for flood control, lining foxholes, and so on) but the offensive sand bags that give us the golf word "sandbagger." Gangs and street toughs of the 19th century used sand bags as a weapon of choice. Take a sock or small bag, fill it with sand, wrap it tightly, and wail away on someone (well, don't actually wail away on someone, but imagine that you are) and you'll see how effective a weapon a small sand bag can be. Gang members used such weapons to intimidate their foes or average citizens. To threaten and bully the populace. This original definition of sandbagger as a person who uses a sand bag as a weapon can still be found in many dictionaries; it's the first definition for the word in most older dictionaries. 'Sandbagger' Went Through Poker to Get to Golf But the word didn't go directly from its gangland origins into golf; there was an intermediary step in its adoption by the sports world, and golf, to mean someone who misrepresents his ability to gain an advantage. According to the website Word-Detective.com, that intermediary step was poker. Say you're in a poker match and you're dealt a fantastic hand. If you place a huge bet right off the bat, you might scare most of your poker mates into folding. Instead, you might choose to bet small amounts, hoping to keep your opponents in the hand, increasing the pot, up until the moment you show your cards. As Word-Detective.com puts it, the poker meaning: "... described a player who held off raising the stakes in order to lull the other players into a false sense of security. The poker sandbagger would pounce late in the game, clobbering the other players with his good hand." The poker player, in other words, misled his opponents about how good his hand was, until it was time to whip out the figurative "sand bag" and beat those same opponents with it. Golf and gambling have always gone together, and the poker use of the term eventually allowed it to cross over into golf.