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’re just starting out and have big plans of becoming a professional – then you’re likely to hear someone being referred to as a “scratch golfer” sooner or later!

While we’re sure that many seasoned golfers and longstanding players are well aware of what this term means (alongside all of the other confusing golfing jargon) welcomed newbies may have some difficulty trying to wrap their head around what the term means, and luckily, we’re here to lend you a helping hand.

In this article, we’re going to be talking you through what the meaning of a scratch golfer is, why their game is different from other types of golfers, as well as a few tips and tricks to becoming one yourself. So, whenever you’re ready – let’s jump right in!

What is a scratch golfer?

In common usage, 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. 

It 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.”

Need more help breaking that down?

No problem at all. A golfers course handicap is worked out using the following equation:

Course handicap = handicap index x (slope rating/113)

So, seeing as the absolute highest slope rating works out to a rating of 155 (which is otherwise classified as being in the difficult percentile) and the lowest slope rating being placed at a more generous 55 (which is otherwise classified as being in the easy percentile) then technically speaking, a scratch golfer’s handicap index should mean their course handicap will always fall below +0.4 using the equation above.

To give you an idea of what that looks like on the course, the USGA go further:

  • If a standard male player is rated as being a “scratch golfer” then it will essentially mean that they’ll be able to hit tee shots at an average distance of around 250 yards, while also being able to reach a 470-yard hole in two shots.
  • An average female “scratch golfer” will most likley be able to drive the ball off the tee consistently around 210 yards. They’ll probably be able to reach a 400 yard par four in two shots too.

With all of that being said, if you were to look at that from a technical standpoint, then it would mean that the overall course handicap of a “scratch golfer” would work out to a grand total of zero.

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. 

For this reason, if you’re interested in working your way up the ranks and gaining the coveted title of being a “scratch golfer”, then besides a little bit of natural talent, you’re going to need to make sure that you are taking a variety of steps to level up your technique while out on the golf course.

Though it might seem a little daunting, it’s very important to keep in mind that becoming a great golfer is no different than becoming an expert in any other type of activity or sport.

The secret to success is to set goals, work on your technique, take advice from people who are currently at the level you aspire to be, and above all else? Make sure that you’re having fun while doing it! 

So, to help you along the way to becoming a scratch golfing pro, below we’re going to be talking you through some ways that scratch golfers differ from regular players so that you can gain a better understanding of what it takes to become a better golfer.

Scratch golfers know their distances

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.

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.

Scratch golfers use the right clubs and have a strategy

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.