Scratch Golfer – What Is It And How Do You Reach This Level

You enjoy your golf and have steadily improved to become a single handicap golfer. Have you ever thought about what does it take to be a scratch golfer?

Playing scratch golf, or even par rounds is only achieved by a limited number of golfers that are dedicated to practicing and playing often enough to get to that level, and by the way, some serious talent will go a long way towards achieving that target.

Scratch golfer is a term that’s bandied about regular at the golf course during competition play and after the round when golfers are in retrospection of their achievements.

What Is A Scratch Golfer?

USGA scratch golfer definition defines a scratch golfer in rule 14370 as “a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any rated golf courses. A male scratch golfer, for rating purposes, can hit tee shots an average of 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots at sea level. A female scratch golfer, for rating purposes, can hit tee shots an average of 210 yards and can reach a 400-yard hole in two shots at sea level.”

What handicap is considered scratch and how is it defined by the governing bodies?

The R&A scratch golfer definition simply describe a scratch golfer as “A player with a Handicap Index of 0.0.”

📢 Need To Know: To become a scratch golfer, you should be able to play to a course handicap of zero on any rated golf courses, most of the time. No golfer, not even professional golfers, can play to par or better at all times.

Why Is It Called Scratch Golfer?

What does scratch mean in golf?

According to dictionary definitions, the term scratch in golf and other sports is founded from athletics where a scratch was the starting line in the ground. Runners starting from the line were called scratch with no head start.

Scratch refers to individuals that do not need to adjust their scores through the use of a handicap.

📢 Need To Know: In 1890 the secretary of the Coventry Golf Club, Mr. Hugh Rotherham, initiated the idea behind setting a standard score for good golfers on every hole called the “ground score”.

The term “par” was used in the USA to denote a ’perfect’ score on a hole while the UK denoted this as a bogey score.

It was left up to every golf club to assess and define bogey or ground scores which varied between golf clubs.

Most holes had an equal number for par and bogey scores but for the most difficult holes where the bogey score would be one more than the par scores.

Scratch Golfer Calculation Using Golf Handicaps and Course Rating and Slope

Course Rating is a term trademarked by the United States Golf Association indicating the difficulty of a golf course for bogey golfers relative to the course rating. It is an essential part of handicap calculation.

It indicates the score you can expect from a scratch golfer under normal course and weather conditions.

📋 Keep in mind: Although a Course rating is stated up to decimals, only whole numbers are used in the final calculation of your net score.

The Slope rating is rated by the governing bodies of golf and specifies the difficulty of the course compared to other golf courses. This varies between 55 and 155 with a standard golf course rating of 113. This number will be seen as a constant in the handicap calculation formula.

Average Stats For A Scratch Golfer

As described above, one of the key areas to become a scratch golfer is tracking your stats to identify areas for improvement. Some of the key stats for a scratch golfer is:

  • Average driving distance of 251 yards or more
  • Find the fairway 53% of the time off the tee
  • 67% of greens in regulation
  • Average 1.67 putts per hole with zero three-putts
  • Scrambling to get up and down 54% of the time
  • Up and down from a bunker no less than 59%

Average Practice Time For A Scratch Golfer

Not every golfer is willing to commit to the time and effort it takes to become a scratch golfer. There is a general belief that you have to spend at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in any field.

To achieve this is golf, you would need to practice and play 5 days per week for 5 hours per day (25 hours a week). This would enable you to achieve mastery after a mere 8 years of playing/practicing 5 hours a day.

Practicing and playing this much will require some sacrifices from your side. Watch less TV, spend quality, not quantity, time with your family to free up some extra time for golf.

📋 Keep in mind: If you are unable/unwilling to commit to this, 10,000 hours of practice will become a lifelong journey.

What Does A Scratch Golfer Usually Shoot?

A scratch golfer is expected to shoot level par or better on any golf course on most occasions. Scratch golfer should card no more than a cumulative level par over several rounds.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Scratch Golfer?

The time it takes to become a scratch golfer varies depending on your ability, talent, and commitment to reach the apex. On average golfers will take approximately 8 years to become a scratch player and to maintain that level.

What Percentage Of Golfers Get To Scratch?

Becoming a scratch golfer is not what everyone strives for or is willing to commit to.

Getting from a single-digit handicap to a scratch golfer requires some serious investment of time, commitment, and practice. Without this most golfers are unlikely to reach that summit.

📋 Keep in mind: Only 1.85% of male golfers and 0.69% of women golfers are a scratch handicap or better.

Tips On Becoming Scratch Golfer

To become a scratch golfer requires commitment. For a humoristic look at what it takes to become a scratch golfer look at the 1963 work by Patrick Campbell.

The key areas that scratch golfers work on are:

  • Practicing and playing regularly. Practicing and playing twice a week will not cut it. You need to strike a balance between practicing and playing, only practicing will not get you to a scratch handicap.
  • Know the distance you hit every club and devise a way to have more than 1 club available for a distance. Use a rangefinder for accuracy.
  • Track your stats to determine what area of your game requires more work. Areas to track are Fairways hit, Greens in regulation, and putts per round.
  • Tweak your tempo and stay at one tempo.
  • Having a healthy and fit body will enable you to practice and play enough to become a scratch player.
  • The mental game is equally important to your physical fitness.
  • Get the right clubs to enable you to get the most out of every shot. Doing a club fitting (driver, fairway woods, irons, wedges, and putter) will maximize your talent.
  • Know your misses and plan your strategy on every hole and around the course on where you may miss.
  • Play with better players and compete to put pressure on your game for improvement.
  • A consistent pre-shot routine is important whether your shot is being played with a wood, iron, wedge, or even more so on the putting green.
  • Master the short game, this is where most golfers lose shots. A scratch golfer generally knows how to get up and down from within 60 yards.
  • Avoid getting emotional after a bad shot, rather concentrate on hitting a great shot next.
  • Get lessons, after all even professional golfers have coaches to point out faults.
  • Self-belief/confidence plays a significant role. If you don’t believe you can do it, you won’t

Scratch Golfer vs Pro: Key Differences

While a scratch golfer shoots level par, a professional golfer will generally shoot 5 or 6 shots better on the same golf course and conditions.

Statistically, professional golfers outperform scratch golfers as follows:

Greens in Regulation – scratch golfer hits 67% of GIR while a professional golfer hits 70.33%.

Fairways Hit – scratch golfer hits 53% of fairways while a professional golfer hit 66.4%.

Putts Per Hole – – scratch golfer needs 1.67 while a professional golfer needs 1.57 putts per hole.

Professionals can scramble up and down 63% of the time while scratch golfers can only do it 54% of the time.

Sand saves is the one area where professional golfers do not outshine scratch golfers by much. Professionals achieve 58.73% of sand saves while scratch golfers get up and down out of the sand 59% of the time.

📋 Keep in mind: The biggest difference between professional golfers and scratch golfers is the distance off the tee. Professional golfers average 305.7 yards while scratch golfers average 251 yards. This difference can add up to 2.5 shots a round to a scratch golfers score.

Can Anyone Become A Scratch Golfer?

Not every golfer can achieve the dream of becoming a scratch golfer. You may be able to get to a low single-digit handicap but without the commitment to practice and playing nearly every day of the week, you will struggle to close the final chapter in getting to a scratch golfer.

Final Thoughts

Scratch golfers are admired globally for their ability and sacrifices to achieve this level of golfing without making a career out of the game.

Are you willing to go through the effort of becoming a scratch golfer? Add your feedback in the comments section below.


Is a 2 handicap a scratch golfer?

No, a 2 handicap is not considered a scratch golfer. A 2 handicap is very close to a scratch player’s handicap but not the same. A scratch golfer is someone who has a handicap of zero or below, which means the player will shoot right around par on any course.

What is the opposite of a scratch golfer?

The opposite of a scratch golfer is a bogey golfer. A scratch golfer has a 0 handicap, whereas a bogey golfer has an 18 handicap. This means that the “bogey golfer” will bogey every hole on an 18-hole course to maintain 18 over par. So the handicap is 18.

How rare is a scratch golfer?

A scratch golfer is very rare. Popular opinion suggests that only 2% of golfers have a handicap of zero and are considered scratch golfers. This is because it is extremely challenging to have a handicap of zero or lower and it takes a great deal of time to accomplish that level of expertise.

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Charl is a full-time writer who has been with Golfible since 2019. He is an avid golfer and tech enthusiast. When not writing, he tries to squeeze in a round of golf or escape to the mountains.

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