Less than one percent of us achieve a “scratch golfer” status. Statistically speaking, most of us are average because, well, that’s how averages work.
Yet, regardless of skill level, handicap or potential, we’re bound by this insatiable desire to improve.
So just how different is your game compared to scratch golfers?
We combed the Shot Scope database to see what, if any, answers it could provide.
Steady Diet of Greens
If there’s a single metric that tends to closely trace handicap, it’s likely “greens in regulation.” Picture the best player at your course. My hunch is that he or she is probably one of the better ball-strikers as well.
Looking at the data, a scratch golfer hits nearly twice as many greens per round as a 10-handicapper and more than three times as many greens as a bogey golfer.
Knowing how far you hit each club and picking optimal targets is paramount if you want to maximize how often you’re putting for birdie. Shot-tracking systems such as Shot Scope and others allow golfers to gather on-course data which is more realistic (and likely more humbling) than playing home-run derby in a simulated environment.
Putting is a slow science with only two possible outcomes. Either the putt goes in or it doesn’t. But the real story is one of speed and, therefore, distance.
It’s no surprise that all golfers make a higher percentage of putts the closer they get to the hole. And, again, speed control is paramount. That isn’t to suggest that selecting the correct line isn’t part of the equation. It’s just not as important as speed.
From a first putt distance of 30-plus feet, scratch golfers’ pace control is significantly better than mid- to high-handicappers—by nearly 3 feet. On average, the scratch golfer will make three out of four-second putts, provided the first putt gets within six feet of the hole.
Not only do mid- to high-handicap golfers make fewer putts from three to six feet (76 percent versus 60), they leave an average of 7.2 feet for the second putt. As a result, scratch golfers three-putt only once every couple of rounds whereas 15-plus handicappers three-putt several times every round.
Fewer Drivers Off the Tee
In general, hitting driver off the tee is the best decision, regardless of handicap. However, scratch golfers exhibit an average driving distance that can be 30 to 70 yards longer than many higher-handicapped golfers. As a result, scratch golfers are more likely to encounter situations where the driver might be too much club.
Simply, the further you can hit a driver, the more options it creates.
Scratch golfers make fewer than one double-bogey per round. How?
Most likely, when a shot ends up in trouble, they forgo the “hero” shot for something much safer. It’s equal parts patience and discipline. DECADE golfers will know what I’m talking about. The point is that shooting the lowest possible score necessitates that you play the shot with the highest probability to result in the best possible outcome.
It is no surprise to see scratch golfers make more birdies per round than other handicaps. However, the more significant difference is the number of double-bogeys (or worse) per round. In general, if a golfer is going to shave five strokes off his or her handicap, three or four of those will come from making fewer bogeys (or worse).
So, how does your game stack up against a scratch golfer? Have a few things to work on?
The premise of performance tracking systems such as Shot Scope is to take golfers from guessing to knowing. Like stepping on a scale, the information is not always been exactly what we want to see—but it is accurate. To date, Shot Scope’s database of more than 200 million golf shots provides a robust sampling of amateur performance which provides opportunities to better understand performance through a macro lens.
What would you like to see next?