A scratch golfer is a golfer who shoots par or better consistently and they have developed a 0.0 handicap or lower. For example, a scratch golfer could have a negative handicap below 0, meaning they score below par often.
My name is Nick Foy, a golf instructor at Foy Golf Academy, and I’m a scratch golfer myself having played several rounds this season under par. I’ll be speaking from personal experience in this guide along with using data from the USGA and PGA.
How Many Golfers Become a Scratch Golfer?
According to the most recent statistics published on the USGA website, only 2% of male golfers and 0.75% of female golfers have a 0 or less handicap.
The data also shows that there are now over 3 million golfers in 2023 who have established a handicap in the USGA handicap index system, up from 2.5 million in 2020.
So to become a scratch golfer is a huge accomplishment as you’re inside the top 1% of golfers worldwide which means you’re one of the best 50,000 golfers. There are currently 44,000 males and 3,700 females who have achieved scratch golf status.
What Does Handicap Mean in Golf?
Handicap indicates how many strokes above par you average and is an estimate that uses course rating and course slope as part of the calculation to determine what you’re estimated to score above or below par.
A low handicap means that you’re a really good golfer and as the handicap goes higher, the worse at golf you are relative to the average player.
Since some golf courses play really difficult and others play really easy, golf courses are assigned course ratings to adjust handicap calculations to be more fair since golfer’s playing a harder course would score higher.
If the par is 72 and course rating is harder like a 73, for example, then a scratch golfer would be expected to score 73 (+1 over par). Really easy golf courses would expect a scratch golfer to score below par.
Find course rating and slope on the scorecard for the golf course you’re playing to see difficulty level.
How to Establish Your Golf Handicap?
To become an official scratch golfer, you need an official handicap with the USGA.
You’ll need roughly 20 rounds of golf that get turned into the golf course club house that tracks your handicap.
If you’re not a member of a golf course then enter your scores manually online at the USGA website.
Once you’ve got a significant amount of rounds in the system, it can calculate your handicap and tell you how close you are to becoming a scratch golfer.
Remember, to be a scratch golfer you need a handicap score of 0 or less (negative).
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Scratch Golfer vs Pro Golfer
While scratch golfers and professional golfers can both score par or below par consistently, the difference between them is the professional golfer plays in tournaments for prizes and money.
A scratch golfer can be anyone and is just a golf term for a player who scores around par golf or better.
To be a professional golfer, you’ll have to be consistent at scoring low during competition and beat opponents to move up the world golf rankings and get access to more professional level tournaments.
The best way for scratch golfer’s to get more competitive experience is to join local and national level tournaments as an amateur until you get good enough to turn professional.
How Far Does a Scratch Golfer Hit the Golf Ball
Recent 2022 data shows that over 20 million drives have been logged and the average driving distance for the average male golfers is 226 yards.
The scratch golfer improves upon that with an average drive of a scratch player being above 250 yards.
Professional golfers average around 290 yards with Rory McIlroy leading the tour at 326 yards and Brian Stuard brought up the rear at 272 yards. See full PGA Tour driver distance stats here.
Speaking from experience being a scratch golfer, I hit the golf ball around 275 yards on average according to my Arccos data that tracks using GPS technology when I log my iron shots after a tee shot.
Scratch golfers will usually exceed the average male golfer in iron distances as well. For myself as a scratch golfer, I hit the following distances with each of my clubs to give you an example:
- 4 iron – 220 yards
- 5 iron – 205 yards
- 6 iron – 190 yards
- 7 iron – 175 yards
- 8 iron – 160 yards
- 9 iron – 150 yards
- Pitching Wedge – 140 yards
- Gap Wedge – 125 yards
Each of those clubs when swinging full speed can achieve another 5-10 yards but I prefer to play a more controlled swing with smoother tempo. Drives can go 300 yards occasionally if I make my best contact with the ball.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Scratch Golfer?
For myself it took 3 years to go from complete beginner to scratch golfer. I started off in year 1 scoring above 100 and by year 3 I was par or better scores consistently.
Since I was in high school and played golf competitively, I practiced golf for many hours per week, averaging probably 20-30 hours (3-4 hours per day).
This consistency over 3 years helped me to achieve a single digit handicap quickly and eventually scratch golf status.
The average person can achieve scratch golf within a few years if they practice frequently and depending on what handicap they currently are starting with.
If you’re already a decent golfer, you may be able to reach scratch golf much faster since you have a solid foundation of skill already to build upon.
Tips for Becoming a Scratch Golfer
Here’s my tips from experience on what it takes to become a scratch golfer:
- Practice Often (30 hours per week)
- Log stats to analyze and use for improving
- Track club distances so you know exactly how far you hit each club
- Get longer off the tee with your driver
- Make a high percentage of putts from 10 feet or less
- Make 90% of putts or better from 5 feet and closer
- Track greens in regulation and putts per round
Fairways in regulation are less important than greens in regulation but still important to hit drives and keep them playable so you have a shot to hit greens and make birdies and pars often.
To be a scratch golfer you’ll need to make pars on almost every hole. A few holes will cancel out when you make a birdie and make bogey to keep you around even par. Set a goal to make 14 pars and 2 birdies per round to give yourself a chance in case you bogey two holes.
Par 5’s should become birdie opportunities where you consistently score under par. You get 4 holes at most golf courses that play as par 5’s so that’s 4 chances to get under par and build some room into your scores in case you slip up and bogey a few holes.
Below I’ll share my golf training system that is helping golfers just like you work towards becoming a scratch golfer. They’re using my practice routines to score below 80 and get down in the low 70’s consistently.
Golf Practice System for Lower Scores
Learn the exact golf practice routines thousands of students at Foy Golf Academy are using to lower their golf scores.
Follow these step by step practice plans and watch video lessons to learn how to improve your golf swing, chipping, and putting fundamentals.
Get access to hundreds of golf drills to practice as well as content on the mental side of golf, fitness plans, worksheets, and many more resources. This is a complete golf practice system.
Nick Foy, Instructor