Some non-golfers can be forgiven for thinking that a scratch handicapper is equal to a touring professional, but the truth is that there is miles between the two.
Thanks to numbers from Arccos Golf, with data gleaned from more than 540 million shots from 11.5 million rounds worldwide, we've been able to take a look at some vital scratch handicap stats and compared them with data from the official PGA Tour website.
As you can imagine, the differences are vast - after all the handicap of PGA Tour players has been estimated at +5.4 - and the PGA Tour pro numbers are quite frightening, especially when you consider that they play on some of the world's hardest golf courses kept in pristine condition with long rough and challenging tournament hole locations.
Probably the biggest difference between a tour pro and a scratch player is driving distance, with Arccos finding that scratch players average 259 yards off the tee. That's some 40 yards behind PGA Tour average and over 60 yards behind the 2022 driving distance leader Cameron Champ.
Unsurprisingly, PGA Tour pros are more accurate off the tee, too. The scratch golfer finds 51% of fairways while the touring professional hits just under 60%. During the 2022 season, Ryan Armour led the accuracy chart with an incredible 73.95% of fairways found across the year.
As well as more fairways off the tee, tour pros find more greens in regulation just as you'd expect. Scratch golfers hit an average of 56% of greens in regulation, with the PGA Tour average standing at 65.57%. Masters champion Scottie Scheffler led the tour with an incredible 72.29% for the 2022 season.
On the greens, touring pros are also well ahead of scratch players when it comes to the number of 1-putts, 3-putts and total putts per round. Scratch golfers average 1.3 3-putts per round, with the PGA Tour average standing at 0.54. Talor Gooch averaged just 0.27 3-putts per round in the 2022 season.
Zero digit golfers have 5.2 1-putts per round, again well behind the pro. During the 2022 PGA Tour season, the 1-putt average was 7.04, with Australia's Lucas Herbert averaging an incredible 8.09 1-putts per round. Herbert also topped the putts-per-round statistic, perhaps unsurprisingly, with an average of just 27.7 - a full three less than scratch golfers average.
When it comes to scoring, tour pros pick up more birdies and make fewer bogeys than scratch golfers just as you would expect. Cameron Smith made an incredible 4.63 birdies per round for the 2022 season, which is more than double what scratch players average (2.2). Perhaps even more impressively, Sungjae Im averaged just two bogeys per round for the entire season, well less than half of what a scratch player averages (4.6).
Surprisingly, the averages when it comes to par 3, 4 and 5 scoring are much closer than you might expect. The PGA Tour average edges the scratch player by a fairly small margin (3.07 vs 3.1 on par 3s for example), but this is where conditions come into play. Scratch golfers tracking their games on Arccos are not playing extremely difficult 7,500 yard courses under tournament conditions, being followed by TV crews and playing for millions of dollars. It would be interesting to see how a tour pro would stack up on a regular golf course, where we're sure their stats would be even more impressive.
Take a look through some of the key scratch vs PGA Tour pro stats:
PGA Tour Pro vs Scratch Handicap - key stats
3-PUTTS PER ROUND
- Scratch: 1.3
- PGA Tour pro: 0.54
- PGA Tour leader: 0.27 (Talor Gooch)
1-PUTTS PER ROUND
- Scratch: 5.2
- PGA Tour pro: 7.04
- PGA Tour leader: 8.09 (Lucas Herbert)
PUTTS PER ROUND
- Scratch: 30.7
- PGA Tour pro: 29.06
- PGA Tour leader: 27.7 (Lucas Herbert)
GREENS IN REGULATION
- Scratch: 56%
- PGA Tour pro: 65.57%
- PGA Tour leader: Scottie Scheffler 72.29%
- Scratch: 259 yards
- PGA Tour pro: 299.8 yards
- PGA Tour leader: 321.4 (Cameron Champ)
- Scratch: 51%
- PGA Tour pro: 59.78%
- PGA Tour leader: 73.95% (Ryan Armour)
BIRDIES PER ROUND
- Scratch: 2.2
- PGA Tour pro: 3.64
- PGA Tour leader: 4.63 (Cameron Smith)
BOGEYS PER ROUND
- Scratch: 4.6
- PGA Tour pro: 2.67
- PGA Tour leader: 2.0 (Sungjae Im)
PAR 3 SCORING AVERAGE
- Scratch: 3.1
- PGA Tour: 3.07
- PGA Tour leader: 2.96 (Luke Donald and Talor Gooch)
PAR 4 SCORING AVERAGE
- Scratch: 4.2
- PGA Tour pro: 4.04
- PGA Tour leader: 3.94 (Xander Schauffele)
PAR 5 SCORING AVERAGE
- Scratch: 4.7
- PGA Tour pro: 4.64
- PGA Tour leader: 4.41 (Patrick Cantlay)
Scratch data: Arccos Golf
PGA Tour data: PGATour.com
Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-6. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!
Elliott is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TSR4
3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max
Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max
Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW
Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58
Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
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