How I Used Knowledge to Change into a Scratch Golfer

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This can be a visitor put up by Sean Denning from the Par Machine

After enjoying the sport for greater than 20 years, I lastly grew to become a scratch golfer in 2020! My handicap had been within the low single digits for about 15 of these years, however I might by no means appear to get all of it the best way all the way down to zero. One of many greatest modifications I made, and I believe a significant factor in my enchancment, was utilizing knowledge to make a plan, observe my progress, and make changes to my apply.

I don’t need to give the impression that knowledge is solely liable for getting my handicap to scratch. I additionally labored with a coach on my swing and placing, and I put fairly a little bit of effort into enhancing my psychological sport. However I’ve performed that earlier than. I’ve taken classes and practiced lots and nonetheless didn’t get all the best way to scratch. Finally, I grew to become pissed off and thought perhaps I simply wasn’t gifted sufficient.

Final 12 months was totally different. Right here’s how knowledge helped me develop into a scratch golfer.

No Time to Waste

I’m married, have two younger children (one born in the summertime of 2020!), and work full-time as a structural engineer. I don’t have an abundance of free time for golf. In truth, I wasn’t certain I ought to be spending any time on golf. 

I hadn’t performed properly in 2019. My handicap obtained above 4, and the few tournaments I managed to play had not gone properly. I made a decision I didn’t need to proceed taking time away from my household to play mediocre golf. My choices had been to get higher or give up, and I like golf an excessive amount of to give up.

So I picked a well-known aim – one thing I had written down as an goal for a lot of previous seasons however by no means achieved – scratch golf. I gave myself 12 months to decrease my handicap from 3.3 to 0.0 or higher. I knew I would wish a plan to make use of my restricted time effectively.  

Conventional Statistics

I began in September 2019 by reviewing my statistics from that season: greens in regulation, fairways hit, and putts per gap. I might get an honest thought of my weaknesses by evaluating numbers to previous seasons and averages for scratch and professional golfers. 

My fundamental statistics from 2019 and the primary ten rounds of 2020 vs. scratch and professional golfers:

scratch golf
My fundamental statistics from 2019 and the primary ten rounds of 2020 vs. scratch and professional golfers

All elements of my sport wanted work. I used to be hitting 44% of greens, 44% of fairways, had a 30% scrambling price (share of par saves after lacking a inexperienced), and wanted virtually 32 putts per spherical. I knew hitting greens in regulation has a powerful correlation to attain, and I used to be fairly certain my brief sport was holding me again. 

I made two sub-goals for the 2020 season: hit 60% of greens in regulation and save par 50% of the time once I missed the inexperienced. These numbers would roughly match GIR and scrambling charges for common scratch golfers. I wasn’t too involved about hitting fairways, and I assumed my placing statistics would work themselves out if I improved my chipping.

Armed with a fundamental understanding of what I wanted to work on, I obtained began.

Off-Season Work and a Gradual Begin to the 2020 Season

The Reader’s Digest model of my low season would go one thing like this.

  • October: I used the brief sport handicap take a look at from Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible to resolve what I wanted to work on most across the inexperienced and assess my progress. I spent between 5 and ten hours per week training 15-50 yard wedges and bunker photographs.
  • November: One other two weeks of brief sport apply. I additionally learn The Practice Manual by Adam Younger in preparation for work on my swing.
  • December-January: 5 classes plus 5 apply classes at GOLFTEC, largely engaged on growing my hip rotation by affect but additionally protecting placing and a few different issues.
  • February-March: Continued engaged on swing modifications utilizing an indoor simulator two or 3 times per week. I additionally learn The Ultimate Mental Game Training System for Golf by David MacKenzie.
  • April to mid-Could: COVID-19 yard apply! I did extra work on swing modifications (purchased a mat and internet), spent a while on Adam Young’s Strike Plan, and did a bit chipping round my yard, all amounting to round 5 hours per week.

Out of an abundance of warning throughout the starting of the COVID-19 pandemic, I didn’t play my first spherical till Could twentieth. By the tip of June, I had gotten ten rounds in. I used to be making some progress with ball-striking (GIR and FIR had been as much as 50% and 51%, respectively), however I appeared to have made virtually no enchancment on my brief sport (scrambling at 33%), and my common putts per spherical had risen to barely over 32. My handicap had gone as much as 3.8, and I used to be a bit involved. 

Strokes Gained Evaluation

I wished to ensure I used to be doing completely all the pieces I might to realize my aim of a scratch handicap. I questioned if I is likely to be lacking one thing by not utilizing strokes gained evaluation.

The overall thought of strokes gained evaluation is that this: as an alternative of judging efficiency by monitoring abstract statistics which can or might not correlate to attain, observe place/distance from the opening of each single shot and calculate if the golfer gained or misplaced strokes on every shot versus the specified comparability group. It’s then doable to calculate what number of strokes had been gained or misplaced throughout a spherical to the comparability group in areas comparable to driving, method photographs, and placing. 

A database of golfer efficiency from varied distances and lies (tee, fairway, tough, and many others.) is required to make these calculations. There are numerous merchandise and apps obtainable to do it.

Associated Articles: Shot Scope V3 now presents strokes-gained evaluation in addition to the DECADE app

I made a decision to strive Golfmetrics by Mark Broadie and was impressed with the detailed output. It gave me summaries of strokes gained/misplaced to a median scratch golfer on drives, method photographs, brief sport, and placing, in addition to detailed breakdowns in every class. 

Golfmetrics output from my first ten (18 gap) rounds of 2020

Now I might see precisely how a lot I wanted to enhance in every space to play scratch golf. I used to be dropping strokes in these areas:

  • Driving: 1.2 strokes per spherical
  • Quick Sport: 1.0 stroke per spherical (0.75 from what I’d sometimes take into account “brief sport” inside 60 yards plus one other quarter of a shot between 60 and 100 yards)
  • Placing: 1.25 strokes per spherical (inside six ft was barely higher than scratch, however I used to be dropping over 1.4 strokes per spherical from outdoors of six ft)

I made some necessary conclusions from these numbers. Though my scrambling price of 33% was properly beneath the 52% common for a scratch golfer, Golfmetrics confirmed I used to be solely dropping three-quarters of a shot per spherical on brief sport photographs inside 60 yards. And the 51% of greens I hit in regulation was properly beneath my 60% aim, however my method play was truly barely higher than scratch. I might have simply spent the remainder of my apply time on my brief sport and irons and doubtless come up properly wanting attaining a scratch handicap. I wanted to rethink my apply.

Monitoring Progress and Planning Follow

I noticed I wanted extra apply. Two classes per week weren’t going to chop it once I wanted to enhance so many areas with solely three and a half extra months to hit scratch. So within the final two weeks of June, I began placing in 4 apply classes every week (solely about 45 minutes every) on prime of enjoying 27 holes.

I spent these apply classes specializing in the areas the place strokes gained evaluation confirmed I used to be dropping probably the most strokes.

  • Drives: David MacKenzie’s “Narrowing Fairway Drill”
  • Placing outdoors six ft
    • Labored on enhancing the tempo of my stroke based mostly on suggestions from a GOLFTEC lesson
    • Velocity management drills from David MacKenzie’s Follow Drills eBook
  • Quick sport 20-60 yards
    • I obtained snug making quarter and half swings with every of my wedges and understanding my distances for them
    • Performed 18 “holes” of up and down with 20-30 yard photographs round apply greens

By the center of July, I might inform these apply classes had a major optimistic affect on my sport. A comparability of my strokes gained evaluation from the six rounds I performed in July confirmed drastic enhancements within the areas I used to be engaged on.

Comparability of strokes gained earlier than and after starting centered apply on drawback areas

Regardless that my handicap didn’t replicate it but, my scores and strokes gained evaluation confirmed I had began enjoying like a scratch golfer. After a brief layoff from golf for our new child (fortunately, I used to be additionally in a position to take just a few weeks off work), I continued training, and I saved enjoying properly. It didn’t take lengthy for my new enjoying skill to indicate up in my handicap. 

My handicap enchancment from 3.3 to +0.2

My handicap dropped steadily from July to October, eventually breaking 0.0 with a rating of 71 on October seventeenth! I had missed my 12-month deadline by about two weeks, however the climate held up simply lengthy sufficient for me to cross the end line. I used to be lastly a scratch golfer! 


  1. Utilizing knowledge helped me get higher quicker. My handicap dropped from 3.3 to +0.2 in a single season. Utilizing knowledge to determine my weaknesses, plan my apply, and observe my progress, I might see how my effort was having an actual impact on my efficiency even earlier than it was mirrored in my handicap. Earlier than, I might need develop into pissed off and given up as a result of I assumed I lacked the expertise to be a scratch golfer; I might see precisely the place I used to be enhancing and what else I wanted to do. 
  2. I discovered strokes gained evaluation to be way more helpful than conventional statistics. Fundamental knowledge like greens in regulation, fairways hit, and putts per spherical gave a common thought of my skill however weren’t superb at figuring out precisely the best way to enhance. Though my scrambling price was low, strokes gained evaluation confirmed my brief sport inside 60 yards solely price me three-quarters of a stroke per spherical in opposition to a median scratch golfer. I used to be additionally hitting fewer greens in regulation than a scratch golfer, however my method play was truly gaining a fraction of a stroke in opposition to scratch. Realizing my placing outdoors six ft and driving had been every costing me over a stroke per spherical allowed me to spend my restricted apply time the place it will have the largest impact.

Now I’m working towards getting even higher than scratch, and you’ll wager I’m utilizing knowledge to do it.

About The Creator

Sean Denning is a structural engineer with a spouse, two younger children, a full-time job, and a burning want to get higher at golf. Observe his plans and analytical method to make use of his restricted time to play scratch (and higher) golf at

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