PGA Tour Pro vs Scratch Handicap - How The Stats Compare

The differences between scratch players and PGA Tour pros are vast - take a look at the data

Rory McIlroy holds his finish on a drive
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Some non-golfers can be forgiven for thinking that a scratch handicapper is equal to a touring professional, but the truth is that there is miles between the two.

Thanks to numbers from Arccos Golf, with data gleaned from more than 800 million tracked shots worldwide, we've been able to take a look at some vital scratch handicap stats and compared them with official PGA Tour statistics.

As you can imagine, the differences are vast - after all the handicap of PGA Tour players has been predicted at around +5.4 (with Tiger Woods' handicap in 2008 estimated to be between +11 and +12) - and the PGA Tour pro numbers are quite frightening, especially when you consider that they play off the tips on some of the world's hardest golf courses with long rough, firm greens and challenging tournament hole locations. Not to mention TV cameras, large galleries and millions of dollars on the line, too.

A PGA Tour pro is obviously statistically better than a scratch player in every single department of the game, but a clear and obvious one is driving distance. Scratch golfers average 259 yards off the tee, which would leave them an awful long way back versus a tour pro. The PGA Tour average is 299.9 yards, meaning scratch players would be 40 yards back on every par 4 and par 5 where drivers are used.

When you compare that with the PGA Tour's longest player, Rory McIlroy, the scratch player would be a mammoth 67 yards behind on average, with the Northern Irishman leading the 2022/23 distance charts with more than 326 yards.

Rory Mcilroy holds his finish on a drive

Rory McIlroy averaged over 326 yards off the tee in the 2022/23 PGA Tour season, which is 67 yards longer than the average scratch handicap

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Unsurprisingly, PGA Tour pros are more accurate off the tee, too, so as well as being 40+ yards longer, they're also on the short stuff more often. The scratch golfer finds 51% of fairways while the average PGA Tour pro hits just under 60%. During the 2023 season, Russell Henley hit over 72% of fairways with a driving distance of 291 yards.

As well as more fairways off the tee, tour pros find more greens in regulation just as you'd expect. Scratch golfers hit an average of 56% of greens in regulation, with the PGA Tour average standing at 66.32%. World No.1 Scottie Scheffler has led the Tour in GIR for the past two years, with 72.29% in 2022 and an incredible 74.43% in 2023. This equates to 13.4 greens in reg per round vs 10.08 for scratch golfers.

On the greens, touring pros are also well ahead of scratch players when it comes to the number of 1-putts, 3-putts and total putts per round. Scratch golfers average 1.3 3-putts per round, with the PGA Tour average standing at 0.49. Aaron Baddeley averaged just 0.24 3-putts per round during the 2023 PGA Tour season.

Zero digit golfers have 5.2 1-putts per round, again well behind the pro. During the 2023 PGA Tour season, the 1-putt average was 7.07, with Taylor Montgomery averaging 8.29 1-putts per round. Montgomery also topped the putts-per-round statistics, too, with an average of just 27.38 - almost 1.7 fewer than the Tour average of 29.02.

Taylor Montgomery lines up a putt

Taylor Montgomery averaged 8.29 1-putts and just 27.38 putts-per-round in the 22/23 PGA Tour season

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Scratch players average 30.7 putts per round, which is 1.7 more than PGA Tour players and 3.4 more than the Tour's best putter.

When it comes to scoring, tour pros pick up more birdies and make fewer bogeys than scratch golfers just as you would expect. Ludvig Aberg averaged 4.76 birdies per round in the 2023 season, which is well over double the amount scratch players make (2.2). The average PGA Tour pro makes 3.72 birdies per round, so 1.5 more than scratch golfers.

Now onto dropped shots. Scratch player make two more bogeys per round than PGA Tour pros, and around 2.8 more than the Tour leader. Scottie Scheffler made just 1.82 bogeys per round during the 22/23 season.

Surprisingly, the averages when it comes to par 3, 4 and 5 scoring are much closer than you might expect. The PGA Tour average edges the scratch player by a fairly small margin (3.07 vs 3.1 on par 3s for example), but this is likely where conditions come into play.

Scratch golfers tracking their games on Arccos are not playing extremely difficult 7,500 yard courses under tournament conditions, being followed by TV crews and playing for their livelihoods. It would be interesting to see how a tour pro would stack up on a regular golf course hitting wedges into par 3s with soft greens instead of 5-irons to tucked pins, where we're sure their stats would be even more impressive.

Take a look through some of the key scratch vs PGA Tour pro stats:

PGA Tour Pro vs Scratch Handicap - key stats

DRIVING DISTANCE

  • Scratch: 259 yards
  • PGA Tour pro: 299.9 yards
  • PGA Tour leader: 326.3 yards (Rory McIlroy)

DRIVING ACCURACY

  • Scratch: 51%
  • PGA Tour pro: 59.09%
  • PGA Tour leader: 72.57% (Russell Henley)

GREENS IN REGULATION

  • Scratch: 56%
  • PGA Tour pro: 66.32%
  • PGA Tour leader: 74.43% (Scottie Scheffler)

3-PUTTS PER ROUND

  • Scratch: 1.3
  • PGA Tour pro: 0.49
  • PGA Tour leader: 0.24 (Aaron Baddeley)

1-PUTTS PER ROUND

  • Scratch: 5.2
  • PGA Tour pro: 7.07
  • PGA Tour leader: 8.29 (Taylor Montgomery)

PUTTS PER ROUND

  • Scratch: 30.7
  • PGA Tour pro: 29.02
  • PGA Tour leader: 27.38 (Taylor Montgomery)

BIRDIES PER ROUND

  • Scratch: 2.2
  • PGA Tour pro: 3.72
  • PGA Tour leader: 4.76 (Ludvig Aberg)

BOGEYS PER ROUND

  • Scratch: 4.6
  • PGA Tour pro: 2.59
  • PGA Tour leader: 1.82 (Scottie Scheffler)

PAR 3 SCORING AVERAGE

  • Scratch: 3.1
  • PGA Tour: 3.06
  • PGA Tour leader: 2.93 (Peter Kuest)

PAR 4 SCORING AVERAGE

  • Scratch: 4.2
  • PGA Tour pro: 4.03
  • PGA Tour leader: 3.91 (Ludvig Aberg and Scottie Scheffler)

PAR 5 SCORING AVERAGE

  • Scratch: 4.7
  • PGA Tour pro: 4.63
  • PGA Tour leader: 4.44 (Ludvig Aberg and Patrick Cantlay)

Scratch data: Arccos Golf

PGA Tour data: PGATour.com

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!


Elliott is currently playing:


Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2 HL

Irons: Mizuno MP-H4 3-iron, Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5