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Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look

Golf Statistics by Handicap

Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look

How do your statistics match up with your handicap? Are you over or underperforming? 

If you’re like most golfers, you want to improve your skills and keep shooting lower scores. Knowing the numbers about your game can help you achieve your goals this year.

Today, we’ll review golf statistics by handicap to identify the weak and strong parts of your game. These stats include scoring average, fairways, greens, scrambling, and putting. 

If you track your statistics – with something like Arccos – you can easily calculate your strokes gained and learn which areas need the most improvement. With practice, training aids, custom club fittings, and maybe a golf instructor, you can reach your potential. 

Golf Statistics by Handicap

Before getting into the statistics behind different types of golfers, let’s provide a quick overview. 

According to the USGA, more than three million people have an active handicap. Of those players, the average male handicap is 14 and the average female handicap is 28. For those with a handicap, 81% are male golfers and there were more than 444,000 players who started a handicap in 2023. 

For males, only 1.99% of players are less than a zero handicap. The biggest handicap distribution is 10-14.9 handicaps (26.72%) followed by 15.0-19.9 (22%). Additionally, there were more than 77 million rounds posted in 2023. 

Key Takeaways 

  • Knowing certain statistics – like fairways in regulation, greens in regulation, scrambling, and putting averages – can help you shoot lower scores.
  • It’s recommended to track your stats/scores using a golf watch or app to objectively measure your game over time.
  • This will help you understand strokes gained and improve the weaker areas of your game. 

Keep reading to learn more statistics about all types of golfers so you can keep progressing. 

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Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look 11

High Handicap (20+ Handicap) 

Let’s start with higher handicaps, which we’ll define as 20 or higher. 

Golf Monthly shared some insights thanks to Arccos Golf in an article titled, Scratch vs. 20 Handicap – How the Stats Compare. Arccos Golf used 750 million shots from players around the world and found this about 20 handicaps:

  • Four three putts per round (see our full article for more on average putts per round)
  • 213 yard driving average with 41% driving accuracy. 
  • 20% greens in regulation – average proximity 36 feet.
  • 3.5 pars per round vs. nine bogeys and 6.6 doubles or worse. 
  • From 0 to 25 yards, they average 20 feet proximity and 23% up and down rate. 

One of the most important areas high handicappers should focus on is scrambling. According to The Grint, anyone with a handicap over 20 averages about 10% or less when it comes to saving par after missing the green in regulation. 

As they mentioned in their findings, 

“For the higher handicaps, we see an incredibly low % of successful scrambles which is to be expected. First, their ability around the green has an impact. But again, when they miss the green in regulation is highly likely that they find themselves way farther from the green than lower handicap players.” 

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Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look 12

Mid-Handicap (10-20 Handicap) 

So, what’s about “average” golfers, aka mid-handicappers? 

Golf Monthly revealed a ton of data in the article, Scratch vs. 18 Handicap – How the Stats Compare. Arccos Golf used 540 millions shots from 11.5 million rounds using their Smart Sensors for this data set. 

Mid-Handicap Driving Statistics

Average golfers hit it 217 yards off the tee (42 yards less than scratch golfers). This is very similar to Trackman’s assessment of the AMA (average male golfer) where they found the driving average is 214 yards with a 93.4 mph clubhead speed. 

Mid-handicappers also hit fewer fairways – averaging 42% which is about 6/14 per round. While scratch golfers hit about 51%. 

Mid-Handicap Approach Statistics

Another huge difference between scratch golfers and mid-handicappers are their average greens in regulation. Mid-handicappers only hit 23% – roughly four greens in regulation. While scratch golfers are more than double it (10 GIR’s). 

Proximity Is also better, as the average golfer has a 35-foot birdie putt when they are on the putting surface. 

Mid-Handicap Short Game Statistics

Lastly, 18 handicap golfers don’t perform as well around the green either. They average 3.7 three putts and only 3.1 one putts. Both a scratch and 18-handicap average about 11 two putts per round. 

18 Handicaps have an up and down percentage of 26% from 0 to 25 yards. They average 29 feet, which shows a ton of room for improvement on simple short game shots. 

Learn how to go from a 20 to a 10 handicap fast

Fairway from the Tee Box
Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look 13

Low Handicap (Single Digit) 

Next, let’s get into single digit handicap golfers, which is a pretty small percentage of players. According to the same USGA article from above, only 20% of players (~450,000) are between a 5-9.9 handicap. Another 8.55% of the golf population is between 0 and 4.9. 

For these low handicap players, we’ll reference the article, 7 Surprising Stats About 5 Handicap Golfers, which also used the same data set as above. 

Five Handicap Driving Statistics 

According to Arccos, mid-single digit players only hit 49% of fairways. But what’s more surprising is that they only 52.6% when using a 3-wood. 

That’s right, only a three percent increase from going back to 3-wood. Which isn’t really worth it because you’ll have 10–20 yards longer into the green, which also leads to a higher score. 

Five handicappers also average 245 yards off the tee. 

Five Handicap Approach Statistics 

Five handicap golfers hit 46% of greens in regulation. According to Golf Monthly, they don’t hit it that close, either.

“From 150 yards in the fairway, wielding something like a 6-iron, 7-iron or 8-iron, the average 5 handicap golfer hits their shots inside 20ft just 19% of the time and inside 10ft just 6% of the time.” 

Five Handicap Short Game Statistics 

Within 25 yards, five handicap golfers get it up and down 46% of the time. However, they do hit the green 94% of the time for the distance, which means they aren’t hitting a lot of errant golf shots. 

Short Game Drills
Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look 14

Their sand save rates are only 28% (0 to 25 yards), average 32.1 putts per round, and average 1.8 putts per hole. Data showed they actually only make 63% of putts between 3–5 feet. 

Scratch Golfers 

Lastly, let’s not forget about scratch golfers – aka zero handicaps, which is a common goal among players. While there isn’t much data on plus handicaps as it’s such a small sample size, there are tons of data among scratch golfers.

Here are some surprising statistics from The Stats Behind a Scratch Golfer from Golf Monthly, which used the same data set (450 million shots). These numbers about scratch players should provide optimism and hope. 

Scratch Golfer Driving Statistics

The first statistic to point out is that scratch golfers average 259 yards off the tee. This might surprise you, as most golfers think they need to hit 275 (or more) to become a zero handicap. 

They also only hit on average 51% of fairways in regulation. That’s right, only 7/14 fairways on average during a typical round of golf. 

Needless to say, you don’t have to hit 300 yard lasers to shoot in the 70s consistently. 

But we do recommend speed training if you’re not already. Hitting it longer is one of the easiest ways to improve your average scores. If you’re new to speed training, check out SuperSpeed Golf. 

Scratch Golfer Approach Statistic

When it comes to hitting greens for scratch golfers, these numbers might surprise you too. Scratch golfers average 56% of greens in regulation, meaning they have a lot of opportunities to scramble. 

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Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look 15

When they do hit the green in regulation, the average birdie putt is 26 feet. All other approaches are 46 feet. 

Similar to driving, these numbers might be eye-opening. You don’t need to hit 12 or 13 greens and throw darts to 10 feet to become scratch. Aiming for the middle of the green more often is usually a good idea with any club longer than a short iron. 

Scratch Golfer Short Game Statistics

Finally, let’s not forget about the short game, too. Scratch golfers get it up and down from greenside bunkers (0-25 yards) 39% of the time. While averaging 17 feet proximity.

They also average 5.2 one putts per round and shockingly, average 1.3 three putts. That’s right, you can have a three putt and still play scratch golf.

What to Do Next

As you can tell, there are tons of great data about all types of golfers. So, what do you do with all this information?

Start by resetting your expectations. 

When you watch golf on TV, it’s easy to get intimidated and think that every player hits perfect drives, close approaches, and has a perfect short game. While they are wildly talented, don’t forget that you’re watching the highlight reel of the best golfers who are playing their best on a given week. 

The truth is you don’t have to hit bombs, flag hunt, and scramble every time you miss the green. Scratch golfers hit it about 250 yards, hit half the greens in regulation, and even have a three putt but still shoot in the 70s.

When you reset your expectations, you remove unnecessary pressure and will likely make better swings. Not to mention not get as mad and thus, avoid blowup holes which kill your scores.

Don’t forget, hitting bad shots are part of golf – no matter how good you get! As Ben Hogan said, “This is a game of misses. The guy who misses the best is going to win.” 

How to Properly Hit Driver in Golf
Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look 16

Improve Driving Distance 

One of the fastest ways to lower your handicap is to hit it longer off the tee. Strokes gained data makes it easy to see that a shorter approach shot distance leads to a lower scoring average. 

Think about it, imagine having a perfect 7-iron distance to a par 4 from the fairway. Then, think about hitting a PW (even if it’s from the rough) on that same hole. Chances are you have a lot more confidence with a wedge, even if it’s in the rough, than a mid-iron.

Even on the PGA Tour, a closer distance on an approach shot leads to more greens and closer proximity. Which leads to fewer putts and lower scores.

Read these articles to learn how to hit it longer so you can start shooting lower fast.  

Also, don’t forget to consider a custom club fitting so you can make sure your driver and other clubs are right for you. 

Improve Your Short Game

While distance is important, so is your short game. The old, “Drive for show, putt for dough” might be a little tired, but it’s true. You need a consistent short game because even scratch golfers barely hit half the greens in regulation. 

Needless to say, if you’re like most golfers, you’ll miss more greens than you will hit. Which is why you need to work on short, simple shots like a bump and run or standard pitch shot. 

Then spend plenty of practice time on your putting. The fewer three putts you have, the sooner you’ll shoot lower scores fast. It’s shocking that five handicappers only make 63% of putts from 3–5 feet – improving this distance is one of the easiest ways to transform your scores fast. 

You can also invest in an indoor putting green so you can work on your putting at home if you’re too busy to get to the course. Or, if you’re an overachiever, build your own putting green too. Paired with our guide to the best putting drills, you’ll improve your putting in no time.

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Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look 17

Don’t Neglect the Mental Game 

Lastly, don’t neglect the mental skills that are need to play golf. I like to think about the mental game as a sliding scale; the higher your handicap, the smaller of a role it plays. 

For example, if you’re shooting in the 100s now, you’ll need to focus more on technique and ball striking fundamentals. But as you progress to breaking 100, then breaking 90, the mental game plays a bigger role.

This is evident at the highest levels of golf. It’s the player with the best short game and best mental game on a given week that typically wins. Everyone can hit it long and flush irons, it’s the guy who gets it done around the greens and minimizes mental mistakes.

The easiest mental hack to add to your game is a pre-shot routine. This will help prepare your mind and body for the upcoming shot. That way you’re not as anxious or doubtful over the golf ball and feel good about the next shot. 

Also, don’t forget to check out this guide on the mental attitude for golf

FAQs About Golf Statistics

Do you have more questions about the statistics behind different types of golfers? If so, keep reading through the most frequently asked questions and answers now. 

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Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look 18

What is a respectable golf handicap?

It depends on how long you’ve been playing and your commitment level. If you only play a few times per year, you should have very different expectations than someone that plays or practices each week. 

It’s recommended to create a handicap so you can track your progress each year. This makes it easier to objectively analyze if you’re progressing or regressing toward your ideal handicap. 

What is my handicap if I shoot 90?

It’s always important to remember that handicap is potential, not average score. Too many golfers think an average score of 90 means you have an 18 handicap. 

When in reality, if you average a 90 you’ll likely have a handicap in the 10-14 range. But other factors like weather, course conditions, tee box played, slope/rating, and more can contribute. 

What is the average male handicap in the USGA?

The average male golfer has a 14 handicap. 

What percentage of scratch golfers get it up and down?

According to several Golf Monthly studies mentioned above, a scratch golfer gets it up and down 57% of the time from 0 to 25 yards. While the up and down rate from 25 to 50 yards is 35%. 

how to become a scratch golfer
Golf Statistics by Handicap: A Realistic Look 19

Is there any better than scratch in golf?

Yes, this is known as a plus handicap and represents a very small percentage of amateur golfers. According to Golf.com, “There are 35,883 men’s and women’s players with a plus handicap index (i.e. below 0.0). That number makes up 1.85% of men’s golfers and 0.69% of women’s players.”

My Experience 

Statistics can help you learn more about your game and ultimately take it to the next level. If you aren’t tracking your statistics yet, I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re a casual golfer out there to have fun and enjoy being outdoors, there’s no need.

But if you’re someone that is committed to improving your game and lowering your handicap, you need this type of data. When you track your statistics in most rounds, especially tournament rounds, you will learn your strengths and weaknesses. This makes it easier to create a useful practice plan to strengthen your game.

Spend 80% of your time on your weaknesses and this will transform your game. Paired with speed training (if you’re more of an advanced golfer, check out The Stack System) you’ll be nearly unstoppable on the golf course. 

Final Thoughts 

Now that you have statistics for all types of golfers, it’s time to get clear about your game and where to improve. Use these statistics to reset expectations and hopefully achieve your goals. Whether it’s breaking 90, breaking 80, or shooting in the 70s consistently.

With hard work and perseverance, you can break through plateaus for your best golf.