Scratch Golfer: What Is It and How to Become One

A golfer is seen hitting a shot over the golf course who has a 0.0 or better handicap recorded.

A scratch golfer is a person who has a 0.0 or better handicap, or often shoots around even par. Read the article to understand the scratch golfer and how to become one.

People use different golfing terms over the course, and terms like “scratch golfer” can be confusing and intimidating to beginners.

Just because you can hit the ball at a decent distance doesn’t mean you’re a scratch golfer. To be classified as a scratch golfer, you have to be able to shoot par on every hole, which is no easy task.

This article will give you everything you need to know about becoming a scratch golfer.

I. What is a scratch golfer?

A scratch golfer is defined by the United States Golf Association (USGA) as a player with a USGA Handicap Index of 0.0 or lower. This means they can consistently shoot par or better regularly.

1. In layman’s language

Most people think that scratch golfers always play at level par or better, but that’s not technically true.

According to the USGA rules of handicapping, a scratch golfer is “a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any rated golf courses.” So basically, if you’re good enough to have a 0 handicap on any course, you’re considered a scratch golfer.

Note: As per USGA, a golfer’s handicap would need to be zero on every rated course. Therefore, only golfers at the level of touring professionals would qualify as scratch players. 

The following equation calculates the Course Handicap:

Course Handicap = Handicap Index X (Slope Rating / 113) + (Course Rating – Par)

2. As per USGA

The USGA reports that, on average, a male scratch golfer can hit tee shots an average of 250 yards. They also state that the same golfer could reach a 470-yard hole in two strokes at sea level. Meanwhile, the female scratch golfer can hit an average of 210 yards off the tee box while reaching a 400-yard hole in two shots under similar conditions.

3. As per the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, or “The R&A Club,” also states that a scratch golfer has a handicap index of 0.0. This means that a scratch player can shoot par on any course, regardless of the difficulty level.

4. Top-level stats on scratch golfers

A ‘perfect’ game does not exist, not even for the best professional golfers who play week after week. Looking at the stats, you’ll see that even scratch golfers (professional or amateur players with a handicap of 0) don’t have perfect games. They still miss fairways and sometimes need more than one putt per hole.

Statistics show that a scratch golfer has a highly consistent and reliable golf game. They aren’t making birdies or sinking putts on every hole, but they manage every part of their game with poise, steadiness, and great skill.

This video explains about “What is a Scratch golfer and how good they are?”

II. Origin of the word – “Scratch.”

The term ‘scratch’ originates from a physical line that was scratched into the ground to show where runners in a race should start.

To make the contest more equitable and engaging, those who were estimated to run the quickest would take their place at the scratch line. Although, slower competitors were given an edge by being allowed to start ahead of the scratch.

The system was effective in handicapping the race, and the result should be very close at the end. Starting from scratch means you have nothing, to begin with. The term comes from golf, where a scratch golfer has no advantage, while weak golfers can subtract their handicap from their score at the end of the round.

III. How many scratch golfers are there?

According to the USGA’s Handicap Index Statistics, less than 35,000 men and only around 3,000 women in the United States have a zero Handicap Index, which we define as a scratch golfer.

Just 1.85% of male golfers with an official Handicap Index are scratch golfers, while only 0.69% of female golfers have a zero handicap Index or better.

Below are the statistics that are specifically for golfers within United States:

Handicap index distribution for men as per USGA for scratch golfer.
Handicap index distribution for women as per USGA for scratch golfer.

If we take into account all golfers without a valid handicap, the percentage of men that are considered scratch golfers will dip below 1%.

IV. How is a scratch golfer different from a pro, PGA, and other golfers?

Professional golfers play in tournaments to earn prize money as their full-time job, which means they devote many hours to practicing. To improve their skill and increase their chances of winning, professional golfers spend time working out at the gym, hitting balls at the driving range, and playing rounds of golf.

Professional golfers typically possess plus handicaps that are lightyears ahead of a 0.0 handicap. For example, if someone had a +2.7 handicap in a tournament, they would be adding about three strokes to their total score–but when professionals play in actual games, they’re playing as scratch golfers with no handicap at all.

So while all professional golfers are scratch golfers, only some scratch golfers are professionals. The term ‘scratch golfer’ applies to a broader range of players, including amateur enthusiasts and those who don’t play competitively for money.

scratch golfer Vs. bogey golfer

A bogey golfer is a player whose average score for an 18-hole round falls between 90 and 100. A bogey occurs when a golfer scores one point over par. For example, if someone shoots a bogey on every hole of a typical par 72 golf course, their final score will be 90.

The USGA Course Rating System classifies a male bogey golfer as one who “has a Course Handicap of approximately 20 and hits the ball 200 yards off the tee, reaching a 370-yard hole in 2 shots. A female bogey golfer has a Course Handicap of around 22, hits the ball 150 yards off the tee, and can reach 280 yards in 2 shots.”

V. Average stats for a scratch golfer

If you want to become a scratch golfer, one of the most important things you can do is track your progress and stats to know where/how to improve. For instance, some key stats for a scratch golfer include:

  • Average driving distance of 251 yards or more
  • Find the fairway 53% of the time off the tee.
  • Hit over 67% of greens in regulation
  • Average 1.67 putts per hole (No three-putts)
  • Achieve a 50% success rate or higher when scrambling
  • Get up and down from the bunker no less than 59% of the time

vI. Qualifications of a scratch golfer

To become a scratch golfer, you need to master the entire game. This involves consistently delivering accurate tee, fairway, and approach shots aligned with each hole’s demands. Putting with precision and confidence is essential regardless of circumstances.

Additionally, mental and physical strength is crucial to sustain top-level performance throughout an entire round without any decline.

VII. How Long Does It Take To Become a Scratch Golfer?

It’s hard to say how long it takes to become a scratch golfer in purely arbitrary terms since all players are different. Numerous variables affect how long it may take you to become a scratch golfer.

For those aiming at scratch golf, an estimated timeframe is around five years of dedicated practice. However, this approximation is influenced by various factors like age, swing speed, access to golf facilities, and overall budget. It’s essential not to feel disheartened, if progress seems slow.

The key is to be disciplined and practice continuously with realistic expectations. Embrace the journey and enjoy the improvement process at a steady pace.

VIII. Tips to become a scratch golfer

It takes time, dedication and practice to reach scratch golfer status. Here are a few tips that can help you get there:

1. Work on your distance control

Scratch golfers usually know how far they can hit with any club on any given day in any weather conditions. To do this, you must spend hours hitting the targets over the driving range.

2. Track your progress

Tracking the progress allows you to improve your game and all the pinpoint areas.

3. Practice regularly and effectively

The key for  scratch golfers is to have an effective practice routine. This means working smarter, not harder, and varying the skills you are practicing to improve your overall ability.

4. Master your 3:1 full-swing tempo

Having a consistent tempo is extremely important for scratch golfers. Knowing the 3:1 full-swing tempo helps you develop consistency in your swing and ensure you get the most out of each shot.

5. Pick the clubs carefully.

Scratch golfers need to choose the right clubs for the course and situation. Knowing which clubs to use when can help you maximize your approach and score better.

6. Know your swing

Scratch golfers know their swing and understand what works for them. They have a basic idea of what to do to execute the shot, which helps them stay consistent each time they hit the ball. Developing an understanding of your swings is key to becoming a scratch golfer.

7. Play with a strategy

Skillful golfers can take advantage of the course and use strategy. Playing strategically is essential for scratch golfers, as it allows them to score better using different techniques and approaches. Understanding how the game works, what shot selection options are available, and how to control your ball flight are all vital skills for scratch golfers.

8. Play with a strong competitor

To become a scratch golfer, you must have the ability to compete. You must think like an athlete and know your opponent’s moves and opportunities. Professional golfers can read their opponents’ play and adjust accordingly to gain an edge. This requires practice, focus, and confidence.

9. Play logically and avoid emotions

Getting emotional on the course can be disastrous for scratch golfers. Learning to think logically and calmly, even in difficult situations, is essential for competitive golf.

Over time, you can become a scratch golfer by being patient, managing your expectations, and consistently working on your game. Dedication and focus are key to achieving.

10. Maintain a routine

Scratch golfers maintain a consistent practice routine and analyze their game regularly. They know what works for them and tailor their practice to fit the needs of their specific games. It’s essential to focus on areas that need improvement and keep up with the fundamentals of your game. With patience and dedication, you can become a scratch golfer.

IX. Strategies to play like a scratch golfer

There are various strategies you can utilize to uphold this level of play:

  • Maintain your performance standard by sticking to familiar equipment and utilizing tools like golf rangefinders.
  • Establish a consistent pre-game routine for readiness.
  • Keep swing mechanics steady, focusing on fundamentals like tempo and rhythm.
  • Thoughtfully plan each shot, choosing the right club for the situation. 
  • Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities rather than sources of frustration.


The path to becoming a scratch golfer is challenging but rewarding if done right. The journey requires plenty of practice, hard work, dedication, and the ability to assess your game and adjust accordingly. By applying the tips above, you can work towards becoming a scratch golfer in no time. You can reach your goal and become a top-tier player with patience and dedication.


1. Is A 2 Handicap A Scratch?

A 2 handicap is a good achievement but not equivalent to scratch. A scratch golfer has a handicap index of 0 and consistently shoots par or better. 

2. How Rare Is A Scratch Golfer?

Becoming a scratch golfer is a great accomplishment that requires ongoing practice and skill. Only 2% of golfers in the US have a handicap index of 0 or less, indicating they are scratch or better. Becoming a scratch golfer takes a lot of effort, but how difficult it is for an individual golfer can vary based on the golfer’s age, physical abilities, and the courses they play on.

3. How Long Does It Take To Become A Scratch Golfer?

Becoming a scratch golfer takes a lot of effort, and the time it takes can vary. It may take years of consistent practice. The style of playing, age, physical ability, and training access can also affect the timeline. However, on average, a golfer may take up to 5  years to become a scratch golfer.

4. Can anyone become a scratch golfer?

Absolutely, anyone can become a scratch golfer, but it requires regular and consistent practice. Expect to make mistakes and feel frustrated at times. Mastering a skill is a challenging journey. However, the difficulty doesn’t make it impossible. Dedication, persistence, and learning from mistakes are crucial to the process.

5. Can a scratch golfer make It to the PGA Tour?

Yes, a scratch golfer make It to the PGA Tour.  For men, a handicap score of 4.4 or better is needed, and for women, it’s 6.4 or better. However, while scratch golfers meet these criteria, the skill gap between them and professional players can be substantial.

6. How hard is it to get to scratch golf?

Becoming a scratch golfer is tough because you need to excel in various aspects of the game like driving, chipping, putting, and approach shots. It can be challenging and frustrating, but the rewards are worth it.

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