What Is A Scratch Golfer? – Player’s Handicap Index Calculated?

Golf Background

If you are a true golf enthusiast, then you’ve probably heard the term scratch golfer. It is one of the commonly used terms in the golf lexicon, but its interpretation is often littered with ambiguity. If you ask many novice golfers—and some veterans— “What is a scratch golfer?” they will swear that they know what it means, but won’t produce a coherent answer.

To understand who a scratch golfer is, you must have a detailed understanding of terms such as course rating, handicaps, and slope rating. But simply knowing their definitions is not enough. You also need to know how they calculate the handicap differentials and the handicap index.

Key Terms in Defining a Scratch Golfer 

1. Course Rating

calculating golf course rating

The course rating is an important element of the standard system used to rate golf courses in the United States. A course rating of any particular golf course in the country ranges between 67 to 77.

This rating can be used to calculate a handicap index. Golf players are said to have played to their handicaps when they register net scores that are equal to the USGA Course Rating.

To determine a course rating, detailed information is collected from the landing zones of a bogey and a scratch golfer. The landing zones of both players are determined using their respective average shot lengths, factoring in the obstacle values and length corrections.

The resultant value represents the degree of difficulty a player with an even par on an 18-round play would experience on a particular golf course.

2. Slope Rating

slope rating

Slope rating is the value of the difference between a bogey rating on a particular course, and its USGA course rating. Slope ratings range between 55 and 155. A golf course with a rating of 55 is the easiest to play in, while a course with a slope rating of 155 is the most challenging.

The average slope rating for a standard course is 133.

3. Golf Handicap

golf handicap white ball

By definition, a golf handicap represents the numerical index of a player’s potential ability. It is mostly used to calculate the net score based on the number of strokes golfers play in a stroke play competition. A handicap index allows players of different skill levels to compete on fairly equal terms.

In the case of a match play, the difference in handicap index dictates the number of strokes a low handicap player should offer the higher handicap opponent in a round. The lower your handicap index, the more skilled you are and the higher your potential is.

How’s a Player’s Handicap Index Calculated?

course rating formula

To calculate the handicap index, you must first compute the handicap differential. A player’s handicap differential is calculated by subtracting the course rating from your adjusted score and then multiplying the result by 113. The resultant value is then divided by the course rating for the chosen set of tees.

This can be summed up as follows: Handicap Differential= (adjusted score –  course rating) x 113/actual course rating.

The handicap differential is usually rounded up to the nearest tenth.

After obtaining your handicap differential, you can use this value to determine your handicap index. You can do this by multiplying the average of your 10 best differentials from the last 20 rounds of play by 0.96.

It is okay to use as few as 5 scores to determine a handicap index. However, only the lowest differential would count. As such, you should always use all your scores when calculating a handicap index.

A bogey golfer has a handicap of about 18.

So Then, What is a Scratch Golfer?


Having understood what are slope, handicap, and course ratings, let’s figure out who a scratch golfer is. According to USGA, a scratch golfer is a golf player who has the ability to play a zero handicap on all USGA rated courses.

This means that a scratch golfer usually shoots close to the course rating (which is normally lower than the par value). It is important to note that a scratch golfer can shoot one or two shots under par with a probability of about 30%.

With that said, a female scratch golfer is able to average 210 yards on her tee shots and can to reach a 400-yard in two just two shots, whereas a male scratch golfer is able to average 250 yards on his tee shots and can reach a 470-yard hole in just two shots. They are also able to miss every hazard and hit every fairway.

Becoming a Scratch Golfer

A day golfing

It’s no secret that becoming a scratch golfer will take some serious dedication, mental control, and of course, skills. Some golfers will tell you that it’s almost impossible to attain this level of skill, but it’s easier than you think.

All it takes is regular practice in key areas such as putting, overall swing, pitching, and chipping. All the best!


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