It's every golfer's dream to become a scratch handicapper, but what exactly do you have to do to get to the fabled zero index?
Thanks to stats from Arccos Golf, we can now see just how scratch golfers compile their rounds, with data gleaned from more than 540 million shots from 11.5 million rounds worldwide.
Some of the numbers might look lower, or perhaps less impressive, than you might think but they're layered under a level of consistency that sees them on the whole avoiding penalty shots, blow-out holes and destructive shots like shanks and big slices and hooks. Scratch players aren't tour pros after all so they're certainly not making seven birdies a round, averaging 320 yards off the tee and getting it up-and-down from within 25 yards every time. There are also things you can't necessarily see or appreciate from scratch golfers either, like their mental strength and course management abilities.
The first obvious starting point for how scratch players perform would be on and around the greens, as that's where they likely save shots versus the average 12-or-18 handicap players.
The average scratch handicapper who uses Arccos averages 5.2 one-putts per round, 11.5 two-putts and can even afford 1.7 three-putts during an average 18 hole round.
Scratch players get it up-and-down 57% of the time from inside 25 yards, although they only average 12ft from the pin, so it's not like they're chipping it to a foot every time. From 25-50 yards, scratch golfers average 20ft and get it up-and-down 35% of the time.
And by no means do they leave their ball in the bunker like many higher handicaps do. Scratch players get it up-and-down from the sand 39% of the time from inside 25 yards and 27% of the time from between 25-50 yards.
These numbers are clearly very solid so what else do scratch players do well?
Scratch golfers who use Arccos find 56% of greens (10 out of 18), with GIR approaches coming to rest at an average of 26ft away from the hole.
The average 18-handicapper hits just 23% of greens (4.14) and hits it to 35ft when they do find the putting surface. Meanwhile they'll average 3.7 three-putts per round versus just 1.7 for scratch players.
All of these impressive greenside and approach stats come after the tee shots, so what are scratch players like off the tee? Averaging 300 yards every time? Think again.
The average scratch player hits their par-4 and par-5 tee shots 259 yards and finds the fairway 51% of the time.
These numbers lead to scratch players making 2.2 birdies per round, 10.5 pars, 4.6 bogeys and 0.7 double bogeys.
Scratch golfer key stats
AVERAGE PUTTS PER ROUND
- 1 putts: 5.2
- 2 putts: 11.5
- 3 putts+: 1.3
AROUND THE GREEN
- Average distance to pin 0-25 yards: 12ft
- Up-and-down 0-25 yards: 57%
- Average distance to pin 25-50 yards: 20ft
- Up-and-down 25-50 yards: 35%
- Average distance to pin 0-25 yards: 17ft
- Up-and-down 0-25 yards: 39%
- Average distance to pin 25-50 yards: 24ft
- Up-and-down 25-50 yards: 27%
- Greens in regulation: 56% (10.08)
- GIR approaches: 26ft
- All approaches: 44ft
- Tee shot distance: 259 yards
- Fairways hit: 51%
- Birdies: 2.2
- Par: 10.5
- Bogeys: 4.6
- Doubles+: 0.7
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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