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Is scratch golf as unachievable as we think?

Scratch golf is seen as something only achievable for seriously skilled golfers, who make no mistakes out on the course, but is that really the case?

 

Lots of us have aspirations to play scratch golf. But what does it actually take to get your handicap down to zero, and does it require almost the near-perfect golf we image? I took a look at the Shot Scope stats to find out what you need to do to become a scratch golfer.

scratch golfer

According to the latest stats posted by the R&A, there are 66.6 million golfers in the world. Less than 1% of them have a handicap that is scratch or better. Most golfers believe this 1% of golfers have secret skills, but actually, when we delve into the Shot Scope data, some of the stats are mind-boggling and can definitely give you more perspective on how to play like a scratch golfer and that you certainly don’t need the perfect golf swing to achieve this milestone.

‘Scratch golfers make tonnes of birdies’

A big misconception about lower-handicap golfers is that they make more birdies than the average club golfer. When we look at the stats, this isn’t really the case at all. In fact, the average scratch golfer only makes 2.67 birdies a round, which certainly isn’t the birdie fest most of us imagine.

A 15 handicap makes 0.4 birdies a round, so in the fifteen-shot handicap difference, only two of those shots are birdie-related. The real key to shooting lower scores is reducing mistakes and big scores on your card.

‘Scratch golfers never miss the green’

Hitting more greens in regulations is one of the biggest indicators of shooting lower scores. Scratch golfers using Shot Scope hit 62% of greens in regulation. That works out at eleven greens a round. They are still missing seven greens out of eighteen!

In fact, if a scratch golfer had 50 – 70 yards for their approach into every green on the course, they would still miss four greens in regulation.

Can we just let that stat sink in for a second?

From 50 – 70 yards, scratch golfers only hit 78% of greens, from the rough that drops down the 71%. The 1% of best club golfers don’t always hit the green from 70 yards. Maybe that can give you some perspective next time you miss the green from 150 yards and think you’ve hit the worst shot of your life.

From 90 – 110 yards, scratch golfers hit 71% of greens. That means with a gap or sand wedge in hand, they still miss the green one in three times! From 130 – 150 yards, they hit 61% of greens, and from 170 – 190 yards, just 41% of greens. Essentially, once a scratch golfer has a 5-iron or above in their hands, they are more likely to miss the green than hit it.

‘Scratch golfers knock the flags out’

Are scratch golfers hitting it next to the pin every time? Absolutely not. From 150 yards, the average proximity for a scratch golfer is 41.58 feet. If they are hitting from the rough, this jumps to 51.18 feet, and from a fairway bunker, it skyrockets to 113 feet. Only 18% of shots hit by players with zero handicaps from 150 yards end up inside 15 feet.

scratch golfer

‘Scratch golfers hole loads of putts’

How often do you get frustrated when you miss a 10-foot putt? It seems almost inconceivable that you didn’t hole such an ‘easy’ putt. When putting from 6 to 12 feet scratch, golfers miss more putts than they hole. Even a tour pro only holes 68.3% of 10-foot putts, so when you miss from the same distance, it isn’t the bad shot you think it is.

Obviously, getting down to a scratch handicap is hard, and only a small percentage of golfers do it, but looking at the stats should show you it doesn’t require perfect golf, and with lots of practice, it is perfectly achievable. So get yourself down to the practice ground.

Scratch Golfer FAQs

What is a scratch golfer?

A scratch player is someone who has a handicap between 0.4 and +0. This is your base handicap and not your course handicap.

The R&A, defines a scratch golfer as “a player with a handicap index of 0.0”. According to the USGA, a scratch golfer is defined as “a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any and all 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.”

Why scratch?

The origin of the word ‘scratch’ comes from a line that was scratched in the ground to denote the start line of a running race. To make the race fairer and more interesting, the fastest runners would start on the scratch line; while the slower ones were given an advantage and could start in front of the scratch. It was an effective form of a handicapping system, and at the end of the race, the result should be very close.

The common phrase “starting from scratch’ meaning you start with nothing comes from this. The scratch golfer has nothing while the weak golfers have the advantage of being able to subtract their handicap from their score at the end of the round.

Hannah Holden

hannah holden

Hannah Holden is the Equipment and Instruction Editor here at National Club Golfer. If you’re looking to improve your game, by changing your golf swing or upgrading your golf equipment she’ll have the answers.

As well as writing lots of features and reviews you can find her on our YouTube channel giving you insights on the latest rules, clubs and tips to improve your golf game.

Hannah is a member at Alwoodley golf club. You will either find her here or driving up and down the country playing in a variety of elite amateur events.

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