What Is the Meaning of a Scratch Golfer?


Golf is a very challenging and rewarding sport in which participants play not only against others but also against themselves. One of the most popular goals for accomplished amateur golfers is to become a “scratch golfer.” This term can have a few different meanings, including an official meaning established by the United States Golf Association.

Layman’s Definition

  • The most basic and common definition of a scratch golfer is a player whose average score over 18 holes is equal to par. For example, if a standard course has a par of 72, a scratch golfer would need to be capable of scoring a total score of 72.

USGA Definition

  • The United States Golf Association defines a scratch golfer as “a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any and all rated golf courses. A male scratch golfer, for rating purposes, can hit tee shots an average of 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots at sea level. A female scratch golfer, for rating purposes, can hit tee shots an average of 210 yards and can reach a 400-yard hole in two shots at sea level.”


  • A golfer’s handicap is a measure of his skill level and can be used to even the playing field between golfers of all proficiencies. Numerical handicaps have an inverse relationship to skill level, so that a golfer with a handicap of 10 is less skilled than a golfer with a handicap of 5. More specifically, this player will be 5 strokes better over a typical 18-hole course. A scratch golfer has a handicap of 0.

Bogey Golfer

  • A scratch golfer averages a par on each hole of a full 18-hole course, and a bogey golfer would average a bogey on the same course. Since a bogey is one stroke above par per hole, a bogey golfer would average a score of 90 on a typical par 72 course and have a handicap of 18.

Plus Golfer

  • It is possible for a player to excel beyond the level of scratch golfer, where she would average a score below par over an entire course. This type of golfer is known as a plus golfer and would need to add strokes to her total score in competition with other golfers.

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