How To Become A Scratch Golfer


This is a question I have asked myself several times, so I am setting out to find the answer and to see if I can finally get to the scratch level.  We all know that golf is a journey, one with many ups and some downs.  

There are good days and there are bad days, but how does one get to the level where they can shoot part on just about any course that they encounter.

The journey to becoming a scratch golfer – what is the recipe?

Did you know: 

Of all of the golfers out there, only 1.6 golfers are currently playing at a scratch level.

My ultimate question: 

What is the recipe to becoming a scratch golfer?

Below, I will break down the following:

  • What does scratch golf look like – Stat Breakdown
  • Keys to becoming a scratch golfer
  • Comparison of my stats to a scratch golfer
  • Steps I am going to commit to
  • Quickest way to become a scratch golfer

What Does Scratch Golf Look Like – Stats Breakdown

THE STATS – The Recipe

Greens in Regulation67%
Fairways Hit53%
Putts Per Hole1.67
Scrambling54%
Sand Saves59%
Average Driving Distance251

Some Major Takeaways From The Table Above:

  • 12 out of 18 greens in regulation seems doable on an average course.  This is 2 out of every 3 holes, we must be able to hit the green in regulation.
  • The 53% for fairways hit can always be a bit misleading.  Are the other 47% of drives still in play and the only barrier is a bit of rough?  Or is the ball now behind the tree. A stat I would like to see is if you have a clean, unobstructed shot to the green.  I believe this is the game changer in scoring
  • The putts per hole seems somewhat achievable.  Where this number can be thrown off is if the one putts are to save par or to make birdies after a green hit in regulation.
  • The scrambling stat is not surprising at all.  I would have thought that one must be above 50% to become a scratch golfer.  I have heard that PGA Tour players expect to chip a ball within a 3 foot circle – 7 out of 10 times.  If a scratch golfer can do this 5 out of 10 times and then make one putt outside of 3 feet, they can easily average around 60% in scrambling.
  • The sand saves is an impressive number as it is actually higher than the scrambling percentage.  This shows that scratch golfers save par more from the sand then the rough.
  • The average driving distance is actually lower than I would have anticipated.  A 250 driving average only takes around a 103 mile per hour swing speed.
Excellent video on what a scratch golfer looks like:

Keys To Becoming A Scratch Golfer

My major takeaways from looking at the statistical breakdown are the following as far as what are the keys to becoming a scratch golfer:

  • Swing Speed of at least 100 miles per hour (Unless you are playing shorter courses).  This will allow a golfer to average close to 251 yards after roll. Check out our SuperSpeed Golf Review.
  • Solid Iron Shots and the ability to control shape and distance. 12 greens in regulation require you to hit solid iron shots at least 66% of the time.
  • You must keep your driver in play.  I don’t think driver accuracy is a big deal unless you are putting yourself out of play.  
  • You must be able to chip at a high level.  I think this is the great equalizer for anyone that might be weak with the driver distance or the ability to hit greens in regulation.  If you can’t hit 12 greens in regulation, you must be able to get up and down for par closer to 60-70% of the time. I believe this is obtainable for a golfer of any age.  The short game is a matter of practice.
  • Putting – The putts per hole can be a bit misleading, but overall, you have to be able to make the 3-10 footers and also not three putt on those 30 feet plus putts.  This means the practice time should be on 3 to 10 footers and 30 foot putts.

Comparison of My Stats to Scratch Golfer:

I am currently playing at around a 3-5 handicap.  My goal is to get to a scratch level. I have played rounds below par and my average scores range from 70-78.  My goal is to have more rounds in the 70-72 range and less rounds of golf in the 76-78 range. I will get into what I feel are the keys for my golf journey to become a scratch golfer.

THE STATS – A COMPARISON

CATEGORYFAIRWAYSGIRPUTTS/HOLESCRAMBLING
ME66%67%1.766%
SCRATCH GOLFER53%67%1.6754%

Round 1

Hole #ParScoreFairway HitGIRPuttsScrambling
155YY2
233N1Y
344YY2
433Y2
544YY2
633Y2
755YY2
844NY2
944YY2
In35355/68171/1
1044NN1Y
1144NY2
1233Y2
1345YN2N
1433Y2
1543YY1
1644NY2
1755YY2
1844YY2
Out35355/77161/2
Totals707010/1315/18332/3

Round 2

Hole #ParScoreFairway HitGIRPuttsScrambling
144NY2
244YN1Y
343YY1
433Y2
544NN1Y
655NY2
744YY2
856NN1N
933N1Y
In36364/65133/4
1033Y2
1144YY2
1244YY2
1344YY2
1444NN1Y
1534N2N
1655YN1Y
1744YY2
1845YN2N
Out35374/75162/4
Totals71738/1310295/8

Round 3

Hole #ParScoreFairway HitGIRPuttsScrambling
144NN1Y
233Y2
344YY2
444YY2
533N1Y
644YN1Y
754NY1
833N1Y
955YY2
In35344/65134/4
1044NY2
1133Y2
1255YY2
1344YY2
1444NN1Y
1544YY2
1634N2N
1744YY2
1845NN2N
Out35374/76171/3
Totals70718/1311305/7

Some Notes and Reflections

  • This stat comparison is based on my last three rounds, where I played a total of 3 over.  My rounds were even par, 1 over and 2 over at 3 different courses. Prior to these three rounds I had shot a 74, 72, and 75.  So I played my best 3 rounds of the year so far.
  • I do not have driver distance stats, but I believe I carry my driver right around 240 yards and am currently getting no roll in Ohio.  I believe once everything dries out, I will be right around that 250 average for the scratch golfer. With the amount of wind that we must face at this time of year (APRIL), there are some drives that only go 220 into the wind and will fly 270 with the wind.  The wind has been crazy.
  • I have chipped better in the past three rounds then at any point over the last several years.  I have been spending more and more time on the short game.
  • Each of the three rounds used for this comparison were played in some difficult wind, with one round (the 2 over round) played in 30-40 mile per hour winds.

Steps I am Going to Commit To:

  • SPEED:Commit fully to every other day training with my SuperSpeed System.  If I can get 10 more yards and get my driver out to 260-270, I will have more wedge and more birdie opportunities on more holes.
  • SHORT GAME: Practice chipping everyday, whether in my basement, on my golf simulator, at the practice green or in my backyard.
  • INSTRUCTION: Continue to use the target based approach of Shawn Clement and directing of the momentum of Mike Malaska.
  • SHORT GAME: Practice putting more – I never practice putting, but have success with 30 plus footers and putts inside of 5-6 feet.  I need to make more 7-15 footers. I am not capitalizing on birdie putts and my conversion rate is very low.
  • Continue to track stats in 3 round totals.  This will give me an overview and maintain the entire year stats.  I will share my journey at:

Quickest Way to Become a Scratch Golfer – The Recipe (5 Steps)

Short Game:

If your ball striking is at a consistent level, I believe someone can get there in 2-3 years if they practice their short game and have it become a major strength.  The short game is the key to success and you must be able to get up and down at least 50% of the time.

I believe the short game is the easiest area to see the quickest results.  It doesn’t take a ton of instruction, money or power. However, it does take commitment and practicing the short game when it would be tempting to hit drivers at the driving range.

Practice Wisely:

When you do head to the range, make sure you are playing a course in your head.  Go through a course you know well and set parameters for every shot using markers on the driving range. 

For example, if the first hole in the course you are playing has a hazard on the left, pick out a flag stick or another marker where the edge of the hazard would be.  Hit that driver shot and then estimate what iron you would have left. Go ahead and set your aim point again. Keep track of what percentage of shots were the shot you were trying to hit. 

Putting this pressure on yourself during practice and actually hitting game-like shots will help significantly. Stop hitting 42 – 7 irons in a row at the range and being surprised when it doesn’t transfer for the course.

Golf Simulator:

I was able to purchase a golf simulator several years ago, I have now played over 500 rounds on my golf simulator at some of the worlds best courses: Augusta, Pebble, Whistling Straits, Bethpage Black, etc.  I have seen my scores drop from 78-82 to 70-78.

I play more consistently and my ball striking has improved greatly. The 10,000 hours of time as researched and promoted Malcolm Gladwell claims that you must get close to that amount to reach greatness, not that scratch golf is greatness, but only 1.6% of golfers reach that level. 

The golf simulator allows those of us in certain parts of the world to play golf year round and not be slowed down by rain, snow or cold conditions. Even the time of day no longer is a barrier.

Golf Simulator vs Reality – Quick Glance Below
Simulator Golf ScoreRelative to Par15 Total RoundsReal Golf ScoreRelative to Par
721Round #1764
750Round #2786
723Round #3743
819Round #4710
753Round #570-1
733Round #6710
753Round #7720
71-1Round #8731
71-1Round #9721
721Round #10743
733Round #11743
721Round #12744
721Round #13721
721Round #14733
764Round #15732
110231109730
73.472.0773.132

System:

You need a system to follow.  Not that you have to become a “stack and tilter,” a “Geroge Gankas student” or a “shawn clement discipline,” but having someone you know about and follow to help learn more and more about the game will help in times of difficulty. 

There are many great online instructors out there now and I have never taken an actual lesson in my life and can play at periods of time at a scratch level and my goal now is to be able to maintain that level beyond 3-4 rounds at a time.

Mindset:

The one thing that doesn’t show up in the stats is the mindset of the golfer.  Golf takes 4 hours to play 18 holes, this can be a challenge as there are ups and downs throughout a round.  There are bad breaks and birdie putts that you feel you should have made, but didn’t. Working on the mental game and being share is a key. I would recommend this impressive book below:

Take Action – What You Can Do Today to Get Better

What does this mean for you?  I believe in the following recipe to get better:

1 – Improve your motion in the golf swing by identifying a golf instructor.  Here are some options:

Here is a list of golf instructors that we have reviewed:

2 – Train to swing faster and improve your swing speed.  Here are some options:

Looking to gain more Speed and Distance in your swing. Two Options:

3 – Understand course strategy and work to break through your next barrier.  Here is a series on breaking through:

We have provided guides on how to break 100, 90, 80 and 70. Check out more below, if interested.

4 – Practice Frequently

Did you know that I build a golf simulator in my garage and have played over 500 rounds of golf on my SkyTrak system?  It has been a game changer and one worth checking out. Here are some of my other posts on golf simulators frequently asked questions:

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