scratch golf meaning

Scratch Golfer: How to Become a Zero Handicap

One of the more interesting golf terms is “scratch golfer” and if you’re new to the sport you might not be aware that becoming a scratch golfer is one of the biggest accomplishments you can achieve as a non-professional.

In this guide we will break down what is the meaning of scratch golfer, what percentage of golfers world-wide ever achieve this legendary status, and golf statistics to know about these low handicap golfers.


A scratch golfer is defined as a golfer who can play as a zero handicap on any golf course according to that golf course’s rating. For example, if a golf course has a rating of 71.3 then a scratch golfer would be expected to score a 71 (even if par is 72).

Course Rating Explained

A course rating is a difficulty score assigned to a golf course using a complex formula. But in simple terms, it’s calculated as the expected score a scratch golfer would shoot based on the difficulty of the golf course.

A course rating of 73 would represent a more difficult golf course than one with a course rating of 70. The scratch golfer would be expected to score 73 on the golf course with a 73 course rating and the scratch golfer should score 70 on the other easier golf course.

Check this out: Breaking 90, 80, 70 Practice Plans + Golf Video Lessons

Course Slope Explained

Course slope is the rating for a bogey golfer to take note of. It’s the expected score a bogey golfer should shoot.

If the course has a slope of 90 and Par is 72, then the bogey golfer is expected to score 90 (+18 strokes over par).

Handicap Explained

A handicap is a score given to a golfer based on calculations of how many strokes above par that golfer is expected to score. A player with a handicap of 10 would be expected to score 10 strokes above par, which would be an 82 on a par 72 golf course.

A scratch golfer is a 0 handicap golfer, meaning they are expected to score par. If par is 72, a scratch golfer should score a 72 for that 18 hole golf course.

Handicaps help even out a competitive golf round between two players. A golfer with a 10 handicap can subtract 10 strokes from his score to get an adjusted final score to compare with a scratch golfer.

For example, if the 10 handicap player scores 82 then they would subtract their handicap of 10 from their 82 score, getting them a net 72 score which could then beat, tie, or lose to the scratch golfer depending on what score the scratch golfer achieves in the same round.

Check this out: Breaking 90, 80, 70 Practice Plans + Golf Video Lessons

How Good Are Scratch Golfers?

Scratch golfers are very good at golf. They can hit the golf ball farther than the average player and they can chip and putt really well compared to the average golfer.

For simple comparison purposes, a scratch golfer can do the following:

  • Hit a driver 250 yards or more
  • Reach the green of a 450 yard par 4 in two strokes
  • Average 36 putts or less per golf round
  • Hit over 50% of greens in regulation
  • 50% or better scrambling (save par when misses green in regulation)
  • Has the ability to make an eagle on a Par 5
  • Has the ability to make multiple birdies in a golf round
  • Very rarely scores large numbers (double bogey, triple bogey, etc.)

Check this out: Breaking 90, 80, 70 Practice Plans + Golf Video Lessons

Difference Between Scratch Golfer and PGA Golf Pro?

A scratch golfer can often get confused with a PGA Tour player but there are some differences.

For starters, a scratch golfer hasn’t necessarily given up his amateur status and can still compete in amateur tournaments while a professional golfer who has officially turned pro cannot compete in amateur tournaments.

To become a professional golfer, you have to have a golf handicap below 4.4 for males, relinquish your amateur status, and earn your way onto the tour by competing in various professional golf tournaments and qualifiers.

It’s very competitive to become a professional and most scratch golfers would still fall short of being successful professionally.

A study has been done to compare the abilities of the PGA Tour players and a scratch golfer. It found that there is still about a 5-stroke difference in scoring between these two elite types of players.

Tour professionals often gain an edge over the scratch golfer in driving distance and short game scrambling ability.

To be successful at professional golf tournaments, you have to have a short game skillset that is the best in the world to survive the difficulty of the greens on the PGA Tour.

PGA Tour fairway widths are often much narrower and the rough (grass) is grown much taller than your average golf course that a scratch golfer plays. This requires extra accuracy on tee shots and the ability to play long distance golf courses from thicker rough which will take away distance from your clubs.

Overall, there is still a skill difference between the PGA Tour player and the scratch golfer. But achieving a scratch golfer status in golf is still a remarkable achievement and puts you into the top 1% of golfers worldwide.

Check this out: Breaking 90, 80, 70 Practice Plans + Golf Video Lessons

How to Become a Scratch Golfer?

Step 1: Establish a Golf Handicap

To achieve “scratch golf” status, you must have a golf handicap setup and tracking your golf scores for each round of golf you play. We discuss how to setup a golf handicap in this article. You’ll sign up through the USGA and receive a GHIN number for account sign in purposes.

After each golf round, turn in your score to the pro shop to log it in the computer system or enter it manually if you’re allowed. The system will track course difficulty ratings and calculate your handicap taking the average of your best 10 rounds of golf out of your last 20 rounds played.

Step 2: Hire a Swing Coach

You’ll want to invest money into a swing coach. Someone who can help you perfect your golf swing and achieve long, straight golf shots on the golf course quickly. Amateur golfers can spend years trying to figure out their golf swing on their own and still have no success hitting the golf ball straight.

Let a swing instructor help correct your swing and save you time.

Step 3: Practice, Practice, Practice

Spend hours every week at the golf course practicing on the driving range as well as short game.

Set up various putting drills and chipping drills to help you improve in all areas of the short game. Lag putts, short putts, bunker shots, up & downs from the rough, pitch shots from 20-50 yards, and more

Treat it like a job and put in 20-40 hours a week to see fast improvement in your golf scores.

Step 4: Compete in tournaments

Learn how to handle pressure and play at a high level that it takes to be a scratch golfer by competing in tournaments and local competitions.

There’s a difference between playing par golf in a practice round and scoring par in a competitive tournament.

One of my favorite golf achievements was scoring a 1-under par, 71 to win a tournament, which solidified me as a scratch golfer. Not only could I score par and under par in practice rounds, but I had now achieved it in an official competition where pressure is high.

Overall, if you have the motivation and drive, you can improve your golf scores quickly in just 1 season of golf. While it took me two years to go from 130 scores to 72 scores, many golfers achieve scratch golf status in 1 year. It’s possible.

But golf is a journey. You’ll be playing for many years to come so give yourself a 3 year timeline to become a scratch golfer and go put in the work, practicing at least 20 hours per week during golf season.

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