If you are new to the game of golf, you have likely heard some terminology that you are not all that familiar with. There are many ways to describe golfers and their abilities, and the term scratch golfer is one of them.

If one of your friends has just announced himself as a scratch golfer, you will no longer be confused about what this means. Let’s take a look at what a scratch golfer is and whether or not you can qualify yourself as a scratch player.

What Is A Scratch Golfer?

A scratch golfer is a player who can shoot par at any golf course they play. Scratch golfers will typically stay right around par level, keeping their handicap at zero. You could just as easily call a scratch golfer a zero handicap, but the term scratch is used much more often in the game.

When someone says they are a scratch golfer, having a course handicap of zero, you will instantly know that they are a great player that has put a tremendous amount of time into their game. It takes work to become a scratch golfer, and maintaining it can be just as difficult.

What is a handicap Index?

It can be hard for players who are new to the game to comprehend what it takes to become a scratch golfer. This is not something that happens overnight, as it can take a long time to bring your handicap down to the scratch level.

Becoming a scratch golfer: What does it take?

Can anyone become a scratch golfer?image of tim marose on copperhead course - AEC Info

In theory, anyone that puts the time into becoming a scratch golfer can do it. However, some things can make becoming a scratch golfer quite a bit easier.

Athletic ability

To become a scratch golfer, you must have some athletic ability. You will need to be able to perfect your golf swing to the point that it is repeatable and consistent. In addition, you will need good balance and stability in your golf swing.

Being able to play to a zero course handicap round after round can be taxing on the body. Many scratch golfers are in good physical condition with a strong core.


Although the distance is not a set requirement to becoming a scratch golfer, it can really help if you can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots. If you drive the ball an average of 250 yards, you should have enough distance to become a scratch golfer.

Without distance and the ability to hit tee shots far, a 400-yard hole will become a 3 shot hole, making it very difficult to birdie. Scratch golfers need the ability to birdie to make up for any other mistakes made on the golf course.

Want to know how you stack up distance wise compared to others?  Check out our popular post on the Distances for golf clubs including scratch players and professionals.


Scratch golfers will have to put quite a bit of time in on the driving range. To shoot these low scores takes time and effort. Even the USGA defines the scratch golfers and a player who can play to a course handicap at any golf course they try.

If you are good enough to play to a zero handicap at a links course, a desert course, and a mountain course, you have put in quite a bit of practice.

Scratch golfers will practice their accuracy, yardages, and of course, club selection and control. These are the types of players who know how to hit a draw or a fade on demand and control their golf shots’ flight.

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Short game

The short game is the way that scratch golfers can score. Players that have the yards and can reach a par 5 in two need to be able to make the putt. Learning how to use your clubs in various ways, controlling distances, and decreasing strokes around the green will help make playing to a zero handicap quite a bit easier.

Don’t be surprised to see scratch golfers with four wedges in their bag spending a lot of time working on the practice chipping green.

Mental Game

Scratch golfers must stay mentally tough. Whether you are a male scratch golfer or a female scratch golfer, the mental game is a major part of golf. Being about to adjust after you hit a bad shot, controlling the fears about trees and water, and having confidence in each and every shot is quite difficult.

Scratch golfers will do a lot of reading about the game; they will practice their mental game just as much as they practice their full swing. Learning to hit tee shots straight is one thing. Learning to hit a tee shot over water to a small landing area on a rainy or windy day is entirely different.

Course management

Sometimes it makes sense to try and hit 210 yards to an island green; other times, it makes sense to lay up and hit a small chip onto the green and get up and down. To maintain a handicap of zero, you must ensure that you are smart about the types of shots that you are taking.

Although scratch golfers will take some risks, they will often be very smart about the way they get around the golf course when they are playing the game. 

For the most part, scratch golfers are also outstanding green readers. You will often find them using a Strackaline green reading book making notes and their scores on each hole. 

Are scratch golfers professionals?

One of the most common questions about scratch golfers is whether or not they qualify as professionals. Although scratch golfers are excellent, when was the last time you saw a golfer win a PGA Tour event shooting par?

The golfers on the PGA Tour have what you can positive handicaps. Let’s say the average golfer has a handicap of 16. This means that they are going to shoot about 16 over par each time they head out to play.

A professional golfer may have a handicap of +6. This “+” distinction in front of the handicap means that they will be approximately this number of strokes under par. Golfers who shoot under par on a consistent basis are much more likely to make it as a professional.

Until you are able to shoot very low scores into the 60s consistently, it will be very difficult to make it as a professional golfer.

You may want to check out our recent posts on what is considered a Good golf handicap. 


At this point, you should have a better understanding of what it takes to become a scratch golfer and how the USGA defines this term. If you are playing a match against a friend who has a course handicap of scratch, they will have to give you the full number of strokes that your course handicap allows.

The USGA handicap system allows all players to have friendly and competitive matches. Golf would be a much different game had this system not been developed and perfected through the years.