Scratch Golfer vs Pro Golfer: Key Differences Explained

Many amateur golfers think that getting to the scratch level is just as good as becoming a professional golfer. However, there are some major differences here that are worth understanding. Scratch golf and professional golf are very often two different things. 

In our guide, we will show you the differences between scratch golfer vs. pro and everything else that you should understand about taking your game to this level.

What is the difference between a scratch golfer and a pro golfer? 

A scratch golfer is a player who has zero handicaps. This means the player will shoot around par for the majority of their rounds. A pro golfer is someone who plays competitively for money and typically has a handicap that is much lower than scratch. Pro golfers can shoot in the low 60s, which could relate to a handicap of +5 or less.

Pro Golfer

In addition, when professional golfers play in tournaments and events, they do not use handicaps. They will play based on their natural ability without using a net scoring system. It’s important to remember that although scratch golfers are good players, scratch is not good enough to make it professional. 

Major Differences Between Scratch and Pro Golfers

One of the major differences between scratch and pro golfers is that one golfer plays the game as their career, while another plays for fun. Scratch and pro golfers can make great contact with the golf ball, but the way they play the game is a bit different. 

Having been a scratch golfer for many years, I can tell you that when playing with PGA Tour and LPGA Tour professionals, you can see the difference in the way they play the game. 

Golf Course Difficulty

The golf courses that pro golfers play on are considerably more complex than those that scratch golfers play. Golf course difficulty is a huge factor here as it impacts the scoring.

Difficult Golf Course

If you are a scratch golfer at an easy golf course and you head out to play a PGA tour-level course, you may shoot 80. This is where we start to see what a big gap there is between true scratch-level golfers and professional players. 

Golf course difficulty is out of your hands, but it’s something to consider by looking at the course slope and rating. 


Consistency in ball striking and scoring is good for both the professionals and the scratch players. However, with scratch golfers, a round in the 60s may happen from time to time, whereas with professionals, it will happen all the time. 

Professional golfers can consistently shoot under par. Their golf shots are more predictable and end up in areas on the golf course that leave them with a better chance to score. 

Time Spent Working On The Game

Many scratch golfers have a family, a job, and duties to take care of around their homes that keep them away from the golf course. Although there is a good chance that a professional golfer also has a family, they likely don’t have another job.

Golf player taking a shot

The job for a professional golfer is golf. It requires them to be out competing, practicing and working on their game for most of the week. Professionals that don’t spend time working on their game will have a hard time competing on tour. 

Competition vs. Leisure 

Professional golfers are almost always involved in some type of competition. This means that they will have to have their head in the game and focus on what kinds of shots they are supposed to be hitting. 

Leisurely rounds of golf can be much less stressful. These rounds of golf make it easier to shoot low. Therefore scratch golfers sometimes end up with an opportunity to shoot lower scores simply because they can relax during their rounds. 

Many times when amateur golfers compete in their first competitive events, they see the highest rounds of their careers. This is because playing golf as part of a competition and playing golf for fun are two totally different things. 

Competition adds stress and mental thoughts that most golfers are not equipped to handle. Over time you will learn how to play competitive golf, but it does take a significant amount of dedication and diligence. 

Driving Distance

Professional golfers hit the ball much further than scratch golfers. In fact, on average, the professional golfer is hitting the golf ball about 50 yards farther than the amateur golfer. This difference in distance is astronomical when it comes to the approach shots you will be left with to get to the green. 

Longer approach shots are harder to be accurate with. Golfers, therefore, find that they are stuck with a 5 iron into a green instead of a 9 iron. This leads to missed greens, longer putts, higher scores, etc.

Long golf course

Driving distance is something that many scratch golfers work on to increase, but part of the reason that professionals can get the ball to travel so far is their ability to work on their game almost full-time. 

They also have access to more equipment and better equipment specialists that can help them check the boxes on all things distance related. 

Greens In Regulation

A green in regulation means that you will be on the green in 3 for a par 5, 2 for a par 4, and one for a par 3. When you hit a green in regulation, you can putt it two times and still make a par.

However, in the case of both scratch golfers and professionals, they are looking to hit the green to make a birdie. The more birdies you make, the better your chance of making it as a competitive professional golfer. 

Most pro golfers hit about 5% more greens in regulation when compared to scratch golfers. This may not seem like a large amount, but it can save about 2, sometimes more, strokes per round. 

The more greens in regulation golfers hit, the better their accuracy is with their irons. 


Putts should average out to less than 2 per hole. This would mean that you are giving yourself a chance to shoot par and make up for those holes when you did not get the ball to stay on the greens. 

The pro golfers have slightly lower putting averages than scratch golfers, but at this point in the game, most are going to be able to make a variety of putts from different locations.

Golf Putter

Putting is hard, and it can change from day to day based on the course you are playing and the conditions. The more putts golfers can make, the better their averages can be, but sometimes putting results are skewed. 

If you miss the green, chip up and have a one-foot putt, it will lower your putting stats, but your greens in regulation stats will not be as good, and this one putt will only result in a par, not a birdie. 

Statistical Differences Between Scratch Golfers and Pro Golfers

One of the great things about the game of golf is that we can track statistics that help us understand things like the difference between a scratch golfer and a pro golfer. Here are a few of the things that will set these two players apart:

Defining FactorsScratch GolfersPro Golfers 
Fairways Hit53 %66 %
Greens In Regulation (GIR)67 %70 %
Putts Per Hole1.61.5
Sand Saves59 %58 %
Average Driving Distance260 yards310 yards 
  • Pro golfers are consistently hitting their shots into the green from a better position; hitting the fairway directly corresponds to hitting more greens.
  • Professional and scratch golfers hit many more greens than the average golfer. 
  • The putts per hole for pro golfers is only slightly lower; however, when added up over several rounds, this can lead to quite a bit of a difference. 
  • Interestingly, pro golfers have fewer sand saves than scratch golfers; this could very well have to do with the fact that pro golfers don’t hit it in the sand nearly as much. 
  • The average driving distance for pro golfers is almost 50 yards more than scratch golfers on average; hitting the ball further and in the fairway allows for much easier approach shots to the green. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Many amateur players believe that pro and scratch golfers are the same things. Although it’s nice to think that scratch is good enough to make it on the PGA Tour, it just isn’t quite enough.


Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of scratch vs. pro golfer. As amateur players that have mid to high handicaps, it’s certainly understandable to look up to both scratch and pro golfers. Each of these players has the ability to stay consistent, shoot great scores, and enjoy the game and its competitiveness.

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