Oct 18, 2023
POSTED BY: Nicholas Venditti

What Is a Scratch Golfer?

Although golf may look like a relatively slow sport from the outside looking in, it's a highly competitive sport requiring significant skill to excel. This skill is measured in numerous ways, such as whether or not you’re a ‘scratch golfer.’ 

If you aren't sure what that means, you're in the right place. 

In this guide, we'll take you through everything you need to know about what a scratch golfer is, where the term came from, how long it could take to reach this level, and the differences between scratch golfers and professional players. 

Let’s get to it! 

So, What Is a Scratch Golfer?

Simply put, a scratch golfer is someone who has reached a golf handicap of 0 or lower. Alternatively, a scratch golfer is a player who has calculated a handicap of 0 on any and all golf courses regardless of terrain or difficulty. 

It's an incredible achievement and is something that many players strive for, but it isn't simple to achieve. It will take discipline and plenty of dedicated practice, but it is achievable. 

Why Do They Call It a Scratch Golfer?

The origin of the term ‘scratch golfer’ actually doesn't come from golf itself. The term ‘scratch’ comes from competitive running. 

To make the race more interesting to watch and fairer for all the participants, the fastest runners would have to start from a ‘scratch’ marked on the ground. This scratch would often put the fastest runners further behind the slower runners to make it a closer race.

This concept applies to golf, too. Scratch golfers aren’t given the advantage of a handicap score due to their higher skill. Another potential origin of the term scratch golf could be derived from the phrase ‘starting from scratch,’ indicating starting from nothing. 

Since less proficient players can subtract their handicap score from their final result and scratch golfers can't, they start and end with nothing. 

What Percentage of Golfers Shoot Scratch?

As of 2020, there were 35,883 scratch players, making up 0.69% of women’s players and 1.85% of men’s players. 

This statistic highlights just how rare it is to play at this level and how much of an achievement it is to reach it. It takes significant practice and, even then, you might not consistently play at a level that warrants a handicap of 0. 

However, the low likelihood of achieving scratch golfer status doesn't make it impossible. You may even find it motivating to improve your performance out on the green, as many players do. 

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, if you even reach this level at all! 

It's important to remember that enjoying the sport of golf doesn't require you to be an expert player. Enjoyment can be found out on the green at any level.

That being said, if you’re intent on achieving scratch golf level, it's roughly estimated that five years of practice can take you there. Of course, as we said at the beginning, this timeframe relies on multiple factors. Your age, average swing speed, access to golf facilities, and even your overall budget can profoundly affect how quickly you improve your game. 

The key here is to not get overly frustrated if you don't see as much progress as you'd like within a specific timeframe. Nothing will cause you to burn out faster than overly ambitious expectations. 

Discipline and continuous practice with realistic expectations is the only true way to progress at a healthy level. Remember, every time you're on the green practicing, you're already beating the players still at home. 

The Difference Between Pros and Scratch Golfers

You may think that the significant skill it takes to achieve professional or scratch golfer status would make their play styles pretty similar, but there are some significant differences. One such difference is how close players get to the course rating. While scratch golfers will often be around par or close to the course rating, professionals often shoot between 4-6 shots better than the course rating. 

Other ways in which professional golfers excel beyond scratch golfers include the following:

  • The number of fairways hit
  • Putts per hour
  • Greens in regulation
  • Average driving distance
  • Frequency of scrambling and overall misses

All in all, as impressive as playing at the level of a scratch golfer is, professionals are in a whole other league. This skill level is what separates passionate amateur players from tournament pros. If you want to improve your game, practicing hitting the ball long is essential, as this can make or break most games. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Anyone Become a Scratch Golfer?

In theory, anyone can become a scratch golfer, but you have to be prepared to practice often and consistently. You're going to make a lot of mistakes and will likely get frustrated by your performance more often than not, but getting good at something has never been a straightforward process. That doesn't make it unachievable. 

Can a Scratch Golfer Make It to the PGA Tour?

Strictly speaking, a scratch golfer can make it to the PGA Tour. To be a PGA professional, a male player needs a handicap score of 4.4 or better, and a female player needs a handicap score of 6.4 or better. Scratch golfers more than meet the requirements, but the skill level between scratch golfers and professional players can vary enormously.

Final Thoughts

Although reaching your full potential is only truly possible through consistent practice, having the right golf gear definitely helps. At Stitch Golf, we have everything you could possibly need in our collection, whether you're new to the sport or have been playing for years. Check out our range of apparel today – we're certain you'll find something you love.