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Scratch Golfer

Definition of the golf term


Male golfer, low angle view
Alexander Hassenstein/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Definition: When a golfer is referred to as a "scratch golfer," you can be sure of one thing: That person is a very good golfer.

There is an official, technical definition of the term as part of the USGA Handicap System, and that definition appears below. But in common usage, "scratch golfer" means that the golfer being referred to has a handicap of 0 or below. Another way of putting it: A scratch golfer is one whose average score for a round of golf is par or better.

When used by golfers discussing handicaps, "scratch golfer" is sometimes shortened to just "scratch." For example: "What is Bob's handicap?" "He's scratch." Or: "Bob plays off scratch" or "plays to scratch." In these examples, "scratch" is a way of saying that Bob's handicap is 0.

The term "scratch golfer" is an important one in handicapping systems, and in the USGA's course rating and slope rating systems. And the technical definition of the term used by the USGA doesn't actually have anything to do with specific scores or handicaps.

For the purposes of rating the difficulty of golf courses through course rating and slope rating, the USGA defines a scratch golfer thusly: "An amateur player who plays to the standard of the stroke play qualifiers competing in the United States Amateur Championship. The male scratch golfer hits his tee shots an average of 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots. The female scratch golfer can hit her tee shots an average of 210 yards and can reach a 400-yard hole in two shots."

Return to Golf Glossary index

Also Known As: Scratch

Examples: "He's a scratch golfer, his handicap index is +1.3."

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