What’s the purpose of a handicap in golf? It’s not to measure your scoring average—that’s a common misconception–it’s to level the playing field against your fellow golfers.

That handicap exists is one of golf’s wonderful uniquenesses. Except in navigating the system, golfers often fall into one mistake. Myself included.

And it’s something we explore in a recent episode of the Golf IQ podcast, which you can check out below (or subscribe to here!)

Why you’re scooping up too many putts

It’s easy, wheny you’re out playing a casual round, to hit a par putt a little too hard, miss it, then scoop up your ball and move on. On the scorecard it’ll read a bogey, but was it really? Did you ever stop to consider what the make rate on that three-and-a-half footer you scooped up was?

Well, here’s the data!

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This, obviously, isn’t cheating. But in some ways doing this too often cheats yourself

First of all, it artificially lowers your handicap. When you’re playing matches with your buddies—when you need your handicap—those aren’t the kind of putts you’re going to be given. By scooping up the meaningless ones, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage on the meaningful ones. Worse yet, you’re making your handicap less accurate, which means it’s hard to use your handicap to improve.

Then, of course, you’re robbing yourself of important practice. As you can see from the stats above, one of the key differences between low, mid, and high handicaps is their ability to make short putts.

As we explain in this video, these putts from the innermost Scoring Circle is one of the fastest ways to lower your scores. And because getting good at these short putts requires good putterface control, it’ll improve all aspects of your putting.

So grind over the short ones. It’ll be worth it.

You can catch the full episode of the Golf IQ pod, where we talk about this, right here:

This article was originally published on golfdigest.com