What’s the Difference Between Scratch Golfer and PGA Tour Player
We all know that excellent scratch golfer who is maybe good enough to play on the Tour, at least in our minds. But is that really the case? We take a look at the statistical analysis and find out what the real difference is between a scratch golfer and one who plays on the PGA tour.
The data that is being used for this comparison has been taken from ShotbyShot.com’s analysis of over 260,000 rounds that were uploaded on its website. From these rounds, 8360 were found to fit the criteria of having a zero handicap and thus included into the analysis of a ‘scratch golfer’.
For the PGA Tour Golfer, the stats are easily recorded and 14,557 rounds recorded during the 2015 season were used for this purpose.
Golf Course Difficulty
The first thing that the study did was to get a measure of the difference in difficulty on average that a scratch golfer will play on as compared to a PGA Tour professional. Taking the help of the USGA’s Course and Slope Rating, the study came to the conclusion that PGA Golfers were scoring at an average of 2.25 strokes better than the scratch golfer and playing on courses that were 3.2 strokes more difficult.
This brought the overall difference to around 5.5 strokes.
Interestingly, the data shows exactly where these 5.5 strokes are gained by the professionals over the scratch golfers.
The driving distance is the biggest differentiator that separates the best from the rest. In the case of PGA pros, the average distance that they get off the tee is a staggering 288 yards. The scratch golfers fall short by a full 33 yards.
This, when correlated with the average approach distance for the Pro Golfers, 175 yards, means that a scratch golfer would on average be playing the approach shot from around 205 yards. This will add 2.52 strokes over the course of a round.
Now, the accuracy and errors are more or less the same since the shorter driving distance allows the scratch golfer to gain a smidgen on accuracy.
On the Approach shots, however, the decreased accuracy of the scratch golfer costs around 1.5 strokes per round and about 2 greens in regulation.
Now, this is where Golf rounds are won or lost in most major tournaments. Interestingly, though, in this analysis, the data found that the Pro Golfers are only edging ahead by half a stroke per round through a better short game. This could be because of the higher risks they take, the much more difficult courses they play or the belief that even if they miss the green they will be able to recover on the next shot.
The scratch golfers were found to be consistently less proficient than the Tour Golfers in putting across most distances. They also were more likely to three-putt close to 40% of the times more than a Pro would.
This is a huge advantage that they give up and adds almost 1 stroke per round to the difference.
All of this adds up to a 5.5 stroke difference between a scratch golfer and the average PGA Tour professional. In real terms, the difference could be much more because a lot of factors were not taken into consideration.
The Pressure of playing in front of millions of people watching on Television and analyzing every move you make would definitely make things more difficult. There is also the fact that playing Golf professionally i.e. for your livelihood is very different than playing it for a good time. Bad rounds or even bad shots are likely to have a much more serious implication.
There is no doubt that scratch golfer could make some money and make a few cuts on a few Tour events but that would be the best case scenario unlikely to happen every weekend. The rest of the times, the difference in class would show up clearly.
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