Scratch and bogey golfers are two very different types of players. Scratch golfers are good enough to be professional players, while a bogey golfer is an average player who can only dream of competing on a pro circuit. The United States Golf Association’s handicap system uses comparisons between scratch and bogey golfers to help golf officials establish handicap ratings for each hole on a course.
A scratch golfer carries a handicap of approximately zero, which is good enough to play on many pro tours. For example, the eGolf Professional Tour requires players to have no worse than a 2 handicap. When a scratch golfer competes against a typical player in a handicapped match, the scratch golfer gives away handicap strokes. If a scratch golfer plays against a bogey golfer, the latter player will likely receive at least one handicap stroke on each hole.
A bogey golfer averages about a bogey for each hole -- around 90 for 18 holes. According to the USGA Handicap Manual, a male bogey golfer has a handicap of about 20, while a female bogey golfer plays to about a 24 handicap. Male and female bogey golfers hit the ball about 200 and 150 yards, respectively, off the tee.
Each hole on a golf course receives a handicap rating. On an 18-hole course the holes are rated from 1 through 18. A player with an 18 handicap, for example, receives one handicap stroke on each hole. But a player with a 9 handicap only receives a stroke on holes with handicap ratings of 1 through 9, while a scratch golfer doesn’t receive any handicap strokes. Under the USGA handicap system, course officials study the scores posted by low- and high-handicap players when determining how to rate each hole of a course.
Scratch Vs. Bogey Golfers
The USGA, when offering guidance to course officials regarding handicap ratings, typically compares scratch and bogey golfers. For example, a USGA article titled “The Great Equalizer” demonstrates why a course’s most difficult hole shouldn’t automatically be the No. 1 handicap hole. The USGA uses the example of a heavily bunkered par-4 hole that even a scratch player will often bogey, so the average scores of scratch and bogey players may not differ greatly. In comparison, scratch golfers may often score birdies on a shorter par 4, while bogey golfers are still likely to score plenty of bogies. So the differential between the average scores of scratch and bogey golfers may be greater on the shorter hole, even if the hole is easier than the longer par-4. As a result, the latter hole should gain a lower handicap number (i.e., closer to 1) than the longer, more difficult hole.