What Is A Scratch Golfer?

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Regardless of whether you’re planning on picking up golf as a recreational activity, or you have big plans of becoming a professional – you’re likely to hear someone being referred to as a “scratch golfer” sooner or later!

In this article, I’m going to be talking you through what the meaning of a scratch golfer is and why their game is different from other types of golfers.

I’ll also give you a few tips and tricks to becoming one yourself. Whilst I haven’t quite made it to scratch myself, I have worked myself down to a 1.1 handicap. So, whenever you’re ready – let’s jump right in!

What is a scratch golfer?

When someone is referred to as being a “scratch golfer” it essentially means that they have a playing handicap of 0 or below. 

Scratch golfers are able to consistently play to level par or below par across all kinds of rated golf courses – regardless of difficulty or complexity. 

In basic terms, it means they are very good at golf! The USGA does have an official definition of the term in their USGA Handicap System Manual defined as “a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any and all rated golf courses.”

Why do they call it a scratch golfer?

The origin of the name “scratch golfer” comes from way back in the 18th century. 

At the start of running races, a line would typically be scratched in the ground to denote the start line. 

To make the race fairer, the fastest runners would start from scratch (the scratch line), while slower runners were given other advanced starting points in front of the scratch. 

It was an effective form of a golf handicap system used for running. 

Scratch golfer stats

So what does a typical scratch golfers game look like? 

Well, a study from ShotScope analysed the data on 0 handicap golfers and found that the typical scratch golfer stats are as below:

Avergage Scratch Golfer Stats
Average Score71.35
Par 3 Scoring3.16
Par 4 Scoring4.09
Par 5 Scoring4.76
Birdies per Round2.67
Fairways Hit49.9%
Driving Distance (yards)260
Approach Proximity60.7ft
Putts per Round29.3
1 putt %37%
Up and Down %56%
Sand Saves44.3%

What is the difference between a scratch golfer and a tour pro?

Given the average scratch golfer stats above, you may be wondering how they stack up vs. a PGA Tour Pro.

Well, the following table shows how the average scratch golfer compares to the average player on the PGA Tour. 

PGA Tour AverageAvergage Scratch Golfer Stats
Average Score70.9571.35
Par 3 Scoring3.083.16
Par 4 Scoring4.054.09
Par 5 Scoring4.664.76
Birdies per Round3.632.67
Fairways Hit60.7%49.9%
Driving Distance (yards)296.2260
Approach Proximity37.1ft60.7ft
Putts per Round2929.3
1 putt %39.3%37%
Up and Down %57.9%56%
Sand Saves50%44.3%

Whilst the average scores 1.4 shots difference, the main takeaway here is that PGA Tour pros generally drive the ball 36 yards further. Their proximity to the hole is also some 30ft better on average.

The two go hand in hand. 36 yards further off the tee would generally mean you’re hitting 3-4 clubs less into the green! This can have a huge difference in how close you hit it to the flag, and thus you overall score. 

A study from Shotbyshot.com also found that if you take the difficulty of the golf courses into consideration, PGA Tour players are some 5.5 strokes better on average per round. 

They also reported the same, that 4 of the 5.5 strokes would be gained from the tee (2.5) and in approaches to the green (1.5).

So, how do you become a scratch golfer?

Now, even though we’d love to say it, there isn’t a magic secret that will help you to become a scratch golfer overnight. 

Instead, the process of becoming a scratch golfer is both a lengthy and difficult one – and will require plenty of determination and grit. 

But there are some ways that scratch golfers differ from regular players. Below we’ll give you a better understanding of what it takes to become a better golfer.

1. Scratch golfers know their distances

golfer using a Bushnell rangefinder

If you’ve got plans on becoming a scratch golfer, then you’re going to need to make sure that you’ve got your distances nailed.

One of the best ways that you can feel how far you are hitting your balls is to monitor this at the driving range. If you’re not really a fan of the driving range, you could invest in a GPS device or rangefinder that will help you work out your distances whilst on the course.

2. Scratch golfers maintain a constant tempo

As we’re sure you’re already familiar with, there’s no set recipe for becoming a scratch golfer. However, one thing’s for sure – all scratch golfers have a 3:1 full swing tempo, and this goes for both men and women golfers.

By ensuring that you’re able to get your swing to this tempo, it will mean that you’ll have smoother swing transitions which should result in more consistency on the course.

3. Scratch golfers use the right clubs and have a strategy

Teeing off at a golf course in Portugal

Scratch golfers play smarter rather than harder. They make sure that they use the right clubs throughout their round. 

As above, it’s worth getting familiar with how far you hit each club in the bag. Once you understand this, get a feel for the different types of options available to you, and how they can come in handy throughout the different stages of your game. 

In addition to that, you’ll also want to make sure that you have a clear understanding of your course and playing situations so that you will be able to form a clear on-course strategy.

A lot of amateurs will automatically whip out the driver on every hole! But to become a better player, think about the trouble on the hole and whether that’s the best thing to do. 

Likewise, don’t shoot at every flag! Sometimes, it’s best to play safe to the middle of the green, take your two putt par and move on to the next hole.

Frequently asked questions about scratch golfers?

Below we’ve answered some of the most common questions we face about scratch golfers.

How many putts does a scratch golfer average?

On average, a scratch golfer will have 29.3 putts per round. 

What percentage of scratch golfers get up and down?

An average scratch golfer will get up and down 56% of the time. However, from the sand or bunker, a scratch golfer will typically get up and down 44.3% of the time.

How many greens should a scratch golfer hit?

The average scratch golfer will typically hit 62% of the greens in regulation. Over the course of an 18-hole round this means they should hit 11 of the 18 greens.