What Does Scratch for a Golfer Mean?

By Clint Hale
Scratch golfers can play to a zero handicap on any rated golf course.
Scratch golfers can play to a zero handicap on any rated golf course.

Anyone who's heard the term "scratch golfer" might be confused about its meaning. Fortunately, a better understanding of golf handicaps, course and slope ratings and other factors can help define the term in a clear and simple way.

Definition

According to the United States Golf Association (USGA), a scratch golfer is defined as "a player who can play to a course handicap of zero on any and all rated golf courses."

More Information

According to the USGA, a male scratch golfer, for rating purposes, can hit tee shots approximately 250 yards at sea level, while reaching a 470-yard hole in two shots. Meanwhile, a female scratch golfer can hit an average of 210 yards off the tee box while reaching a 400-yard hole in two shots at sea level.

Handicap

Calculating a handicap defines a scratch golfer. By measuring a player's recent scores on golf courses of differing difficulties, a calculation exists by which a number is assigned--this being the handicap. For instance, a scratch golfer has a handicap of 0 (or par) while a high handicap is considered 20 and above. The highest handicap the USGA recognizes is 36 for men and 40 for women; this is the golfer's strokes over par on a USGA-recognized course.

Bogey Golfers

While a scratch golfer is defined as having a 0 handicap, a "bogey golfer" is defined as having an 18 handicap. What this essentially means is that a "bogey golfer" will bogey every hole on an 18-hole courses, leaving him 18 over par; hence, the 18 handicap.

Handicaps in Competition

Handicaps are often used in non-professional scramble and individual tournaments. Typically, a 10-handicap golfer will be able to deduct 10 strokes from her final tally, while a scratch golfer won't be able to deduct any. This helps even the playing field for non-professional golfers looking to enjoy some scramble or tournament competition.

Photo Credits

  • Harry How/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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