“Scratch golfer” is one of the numerous words used in the golf world.
And while many veterans and longtime golfers are aware of this term’s definition, those new to the sport–and even some of those who aren’t–may have trouble understanding the term. Fortunately, the explanation is straightforward.
A scratch golfer is described by the USGA as: “a player who can play on any and all graded golf courses with a Course Handicap of zero. For rating purposes, a male scratch golfer can hit tee shots an average of 250 yards and reach a 470-yard hole in two strokes at sea level. A female scratch golfer can hit tee shots an average of 210 yards and complete a 400-yard hole in two strokes at sea level.”
A handicap is a number awarded to a golfer that shows that player’s ability on the course. It is usually expressed as the number of strokes over par during an average round of 18 holes. For instance, while a scratch golfer has a 0 handicap, golfers with 12 and 19 handicaps can expect to shoot 12 over par and 19 over par, respectively, during their average round.
Handicaps are used in “scramble events” in addition to acting as a gauge of a golfer’s advancement or regression. These tournaments, most often played at corporate or charity outings, are a way for golfers of all skill levels to compete on an even plane.
This is accomplished by having the golfer subtract his handicap from his final scores. For instance, a scratch golfer who shoots 72 on the round would list her score as 72, while a 14 handicapper who shoots 86 would deduct 14 strokes from her final scores, and also shoot 72 for the round, per scramble rules.
Course rating and slope can play a role in handicapping.
A course rating is a number given to a course that reflects how tough it is in comparison to a scratch golfer. For instance, a scratch golfer can expect to shoot 72 on a course rated 72, 74 on a course rated 74, and so on.
A golf course’s slope is a number given to it that indicates the difficulty for a “bogey golfer,” usually someone with an 18 handicap. For instance, a course with a slope rating of 92 is what a bogey golfer can expect to shoot on that course, with even par being 74.