5 key stats about scratch golfers that’ll help you manage expectations
Becoming a scratch golfer is an accomplishment that very few amateur players ever get to experience. That’s because it requires lots of factors in order to reach such a level — like having the mental fortitude, the discipline, the physical attributes and the time to practice and play enough to routinely shoot low consistently.
It’s believed that a mere 1 percent of players identify as scratch golfers. So, it’s clear that reaching this milestone is both rewarding and extremely difficult.
But what things truly differentiate a player with this type of skill versus a mid-handicapper? Are these golfers just head and shoulders better than your average weekend warrior, or is there a thin margin that separates them from the rest of the golfing population?
With the help of Jon Sherman, we have an idea — which can help all golfers manage expectations when it comes to their own game. So, take a look below at some key stats to help put things into perspective.
Important stats to know about scratch golfers
As mentioned earlier, becoming a scratch golfer is a rare feat — even for people who have played the game for decades. So, it’s important to set expectations when it comes to your own performances.
While many of us may never sniff scratch, Sherman’s stats highlight what the best players do compared to others. Here are a few things that stood out.
Per Sherman, the following is the putting make rate for scratch golfers from key distances:
10 feet: 33 percent.
8 feet: 41 percent.
5 feet: 66 percent.
Sure, making a 10-foot putt once every six holes per round would be nice, but, as Sherman points out, scratch players still miss a lot of putts — so don’t just assume they’re all snipers on the greens.
That said, those make rates are much higher than a mid-handicapper, so perfecting your putting stroke will (arguably) be the quickest way to shave strokes off your game.
If you’ve ever played with a scratch golfer, you may notice something: They don’t necessarily crush the ball off the tee or always hit the prettiest shot; they go about their business — and that’s part of what makes them score so low.
As Sherman’s stats show, scratch players average about 1.5-2 birdies each round. Impressive, sure, but not overwhelmingly high.
What these types of players do better than others is avoid big mistakes, with Sherman showing they average less than one double-bogey per round, and adding that “it’s not a birdie-fest; it’s a big-mistake-avoidance-fest.”
Greens in regulation (GIR)
This is the most glaring difference between scratch golfers and players of other skill levels, with Sherman saying that “hitting more GIR is one of the most significant predictors of scoring potential.”
Even still, he adds that a zero (0) index misses about eight GIR while playing 18 holes. That’s nearly half the holes in a normal round — so they’re far from automatic.
Dialing in your distance control is just one way to improve your scores. Make sense, right? When you know the yardage that you hit certain clubs, all you need to do is go out and execute it.
Despite scratch golfers doing this better than other golfers, Sherman’s stats show that these players still don’t leave shots just a few feet from the hole. Many often just worry about hitting the green rather than pinseeking, as the stats prove.
From 175-225 yards: 82 feet from the pin.
From 125-175 yards: 45 feet from the pin.
From 75-125 yards: 39 feet from the pin.
So forget about aiming for the flag and worry more about just getting on the putting surface — where, hopefully, you can make up some strokes without worrying about slicing or hooking.
Finally, when it comes to driving the ball, it’s funny how inconsistent a scratch golfer is off the tee — while other recreational players always emphasize fairways hit.
According to Sherman’s stats, a scratch player hits 50-60 percent of fairways with their driver. That’s good, but hardly great. In fact, I’m a mid-handicapper who typically hits all but one fairway during a round — and I’m not flirting with breaking 70 regularly.
The key is eliminating mishits or bad decisions after missing a fairway — which scratch players do at an elevated rate compared to other players. They dial in their second shots better than the average player, which allows them more opportunities to shoot low.
You can work every single day on your golf game and still never reach scratch status, so go easy on yourself and just try to improve as best you can. As you play better, the game will be more fun — and that’s the most important thing anyway.
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