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The Statistical Differences Between a Scratch Golfer and PGA Tour Player

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You might ask: How would I know the differences between a scratch golfer and a PGA Tour player? Well, it is my full-time job to know these type of things about golf. I have been studying the game from a statistical standpoint for 27 years. I created the Strokes Gained analysis website, ShotByShot.com, and work with PGA Tour members to extract clear answers from the Tour’s overwhelming 653 ShotLink stats.

My experience tells me that there is no such thing as an average game, no matter the handicap level. We’re all snowflakes and find our own unique way to shoot our number. With that said, ShotByShot.com’s 260,000+ round database enables us to create a composite sketch of the average golfer at each level. One of the beauties of our averages is that they are smooth across all five major facets so that every individual golfer’s strengths and weaknesses — and we all have them — stand out clearly by comparison.

The Data Used for this Study

  • Mr. Scratch: I averaged the 8,360 rounds in our database that match the zero handicap criteria. In other words, the rounds when Mr. Scratch actually played to his 0 handicap.
  • PGA Tour: The average of the 14,557 ShotLink rounds recorded in the 2015 season.

The Math

The USGA’s Course and Slope rating system does a sophisticated job of evaluating the relative difficulty of our golf courses. I joined my local course rating committee shortly after the new “Slope” system was added. My specific goal was to gain an understanding of how the system works so that I could effectively apply it in my analysis program.

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For the purposes of this article, the Course Rating reflects the relative course par for the scratch golfer. The chart below tells us that the PGA Tour scoring average is 2.25 strokes better than Mr. Scratch. Further, Tour players are playing courses that are 3.2 strokes more difficult. The net result is a 5.45-shot difference between Tour players and Mr. Scratch, but let’s just call it 5.5.

Driving

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 2.05.57 PM

The chart above shows us that the biggest piece of the 5.5-shot pie falls into the Driving category, or Distance, which makes sense to me. To play the game for a living, one must be able to hit it straight and far. Even Zach Johnson, with whom I have had the great pleasure of working with for five years, is often considered a short hitter. I contend that he is simply more intelligent and recognizes the true value of accuracy. Zach is averaging 281 yards this year, only seven off of the Tour average. Short? Not by my standards.

The chart below indicates that the driving distance gap between the Tour and Mr. Scratch is 33 yards. The average approach shot distance on the PGA Tour is 175 yards. Adding the 33 yards to all 14 driving holes puts Mr. Scratch’s average approach distance at just over 205 yards. The Strokes Gained value of this added distance is 2.52 strokes (0.18 per attempt x 14 driving holes = 2.52).

Accuracy and Errors Per Round

Mr. Scratch appears slightly better than the Tour in accuracy and errors per round. With added distance inevitably comes some reduced accuracy and more errors. I believe this slight edge would more than disappear if Mr. Scratch were using the Tour’s big-boy tees.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 2.06.49 PM

*Driving errors = Balls hit out of play, penalties, or shots requiring an advancement to return to normal play.

Approach Shots

As you can see by the chart below, Mr. Scratch is slightly less accurate from the distances that account for 80 percent of the Tour approach attempts. I estimate that Mr. Scratch’s reduced accuracy would account for at least two fewer GIR’s per round, at a cost of 1.5 strokes. It is interesting to note that Mr. Scratch incurs an approach penalty with the same frequency as the Tour average (1 in every 5 rounds).

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 2.08.31 PM

Short Game

Mr. Scratch leaves his successful short game shots 1 foot farther from the hole. This difference in the range of 7-10 feet is worth 0.08 Strokes Gained. When multiplied by seven short game shots per round it’s 0.56 strokes, but we’ll call it half a stroke.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 2.11.04 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-06 at 2.10.54 PM

I am ignoring the minor difference in errors (shots that miss the green). My theory is that Mr. Scratch attains his excellent scoring level through meticulous short game consistency. The Tour players are so good that they try to get even highest-risk shots close to the hole, confident that if they miss the green they will save the next — which they do 75 percent of the time. In 2015, only 25 percent of the short game shots that missed the green took more than three strokes to finally hole out.

Putting

As you can see from the chart below, Mr. Scratch is slightly less proficient in the ranges that account for the vast majority of 1-Putt opportunities on Tour. Mr. Scratch also 3-Putts 38 percent more frequently than the Tour average. The Strokes Gained impact of these differences over 18 holes would be 0.9 strokes — let’s call it 1 stroke.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 2.12.25 PM

Conclusion

Bottom line, there is a measurable 5.5 stroke difference between Mr. Scratch and PGA Tour players. I have obviously not factored in the immeasurable effect of the added pressure and stress of teeing it up in a Tour event. Anyone who has participated in a PGA Tour Pro-Am will attest to the electric atmosphere and amplified pressure that comes with the experience.

If you want to try to get on the PGA Tour, your handicap needs to be a solid +3. If you want to support a family playing on tour, your handicap should be +5. Much easier said than done, however.

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In 1989, Peter Sanders founded Golf Research Associates, LP, creating what is now referred to as Strokes Gained Analysis. His goal was to design and market a new standard of statistically based performance analysis programs using proprietary computer models. A departure from “traditional stats,” the program provided analysis with answers, supported by comparative data. In 2006, the company’s website, ShotByShot.com, was launched. It provides interactive, Strokes Gained analysis for individual golfers and more than 150 instructors and coaches that use the program to build and monitor their player groups. Peter has written, or contributed to, more than 60 articles in major golf publications including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf for Women. From 2007 through 2013, Peter was an exclusive contributor and Professional Advisor to Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Peter also works with PGA Tour players and their coaches to interpret the often confusing ShotLink data. Zach Johnson has been a client for nearly five years. More recently, Peter has teamed up with Smylie Kaufman’s swing coach, Tony Ruggiero, to help guide Smylie’s fast-rising career.

106 Comments

106 Comments

  1. William

    Aug 10, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    I would think Scratch players mostly play the same course or just a few courses. They have to be able to record the scores for their numbers. That means they are playing the same course all the time. Familiarity with greens and local knowledge are big in their scoring. . I think this certainly Skews the numbers.

  2. TONEY P

    Jul 30, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    Why wouldn’t a tour average be be closer to par?

  3. ders

    Dec 29, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    This is more evidence that “Work on your short game” is the biggest myth in golf. So called “experts” always deride amateurs for spending so much time hitting drivers but it really is where amateurs should be spending their time. A good tee shot will help your short game more than hours on the chipping green. Longer, straighter drives will make your approach shots easier, good approach shots makes your putting easier which makes your scores lower.

    • evgolfer

      Aug 4, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      If you are a scratch golfer and want to go from scratch to being a tour pro, by all means work on your driving distance.

      If you are a 15 handicap and you want to get to scratch you only need a 250 yard drive and to keep it in the fairway according to these stats.

      I’m guessing the average 15 capper isn’t holing 76% of putts from 5 feet and getting the ball on average 8-10 feet from the hole with their wedges.

      If you get to green side on a short par 4 in two, and then skull your chip across the green, and then three putt — how does a longer drive help you?

  4. Randolph Dewolf

    Jul 31, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    ___123___The Statistical Differences Between a Scratch Golfer and PGA Tour Player | GolfWRX___123___

  5. Richard Bance

    Jul 18, 2016 at 1:26 am

    It is pretty obvious. A scratch player could not make it as a PGA Tour Pro. They would need to be off about +5 or better to have a chance…..I am agreeing with the article…

    • Uno

      Jul 20, 2016 at 3:05 am

      Ian Poulter declared himself a Pro with a regular handicap of 4 and that’s not +4, just 4 and off he went

      • Steven hutchins

        Jan 3, 2017 at 1:40 pm

        Anyone can claim Pro, even the PGA the test is +11 over 2 rounds

  6. Grizz01

    Jul 10, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    I really wish people like the author here would quit taking stats and force facts from them. What is the difference between a scratch golfer and tour player? One guys works a job 40-50 hours a week and tries to squeeze in his golf game, the other does not. One guy has the absolute best of equipment, prototypes, coaches both swing and mental, the other does not. One guy watches his ball sail over the green and he has got to play it, which the other guy has a crowd to stop the ball or some kind of temporary structure to get a free drop from. As to distance, one guy gets rolled fairways which give 10-20 more yards, the other guy does not. One guy gets to play on a course that is brought to be in absolute perfect conditions. The other guy might get lucky and a play that day they cut all the fairways and greens. Oh lets not get into the perfect traps.

    So, let’s swish that around with all those other numbers.

    • mc

      Jul 15, 2016 at 8:14 pm

      Did you see the MASSIVE CROWD of people helping to look for Stricker’s ball in the rough today at The Open? And they only found the 2nd one, not the first! If I had them people, I would shoot 2 or 3 strokes better every round

    • KK

      Jul 20, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      How well do ams do at pro-ams? Must be the full-time jobs holding them back. Pros in golf are pros because of the same reasons LeBron James and JJ Watt are pros: talent and dedication. Circumstances have nothing to do with it.

  7. Andrew Cooper

    Jul 10, 2016 at 3:50 am

    Interested to know where the 255 yard average for the scratch player came from? I’d have put that more like 265-270 yards.

    • satch_boogie

      Jul 11, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      That would be interesting. Could be course length – if you’re playing the back tees you have a longer distance to the landing area than the forward tees have. So the guy on the forward tees might hit it shorter sometimes to keep it in the landing area.

    • Peter

      Jul 11, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      Good question Andrew. We do not capture driving distance in ShotByShot.com for several good reasons. I turned to an expert in the field of high end amateur golf. He has worked with top young amateurs for 25 years and seen many of them try and some succeed at making it on the big tour. I too thought that the average distance should be higher but let’s remember we are talking about a broad average.

  8. Dave

    Jul 9, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    God guys it’s a number in a box. Do you realize that only 1/2 of 1 percent of all the golfers in the world are below a 10 hcp. And scratch is good dam good.

  9. Nofiu Akano

    Jul 9, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Beautiful article. I love it

  10. Paul

    Jul 9, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    This is very interesting. This topic has been hashed and rehashed many times before. About 13 years ago there were several Top 100 teachers and touring professionals who were asked this very same question. Jim McLean said the difference is between 15-16 strokes. Larry Nelson, senior pro, said the difference is between 12-15 strokes. Anyone who thinks it’s less than 10 strokes is absolutely delusional and out of touch with reality.

    • michael johnson

      Jul 10, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      no. as the stats show: difference is 5 strokes, maybe up to eight to a very good pro.

  11. Bigleftygolfet

    Jul 9, 2016 at 11:01 am

    This is a great article!!! I wish more high handicappers would read it so they stop asking “good amateurs” why they don’t play on tour! Everytime I shoot a sub par round in the company of a high handicapper I get asked this question and I tell them I would need to be 8-10 strokes better every day! When I finished college I tried the mini’s for the summer after I graduated carried a +4 Traveling handicap made some money but quickly realized there was a massive ability gap between myself and the people that can do this potentially as a living! I shot many rounds in the 60’s that did not make top 20! And that was on relatively easier “mini” tour golf courses (more similar to what the average golfer plays just from the tips). I did have the opportunity to play in two PGA tour qualifiers on big boy courses and I was happy to shoot a couple over par not making the cut but I quickly realized that my day job would not be golf! I don’t think the average golfer realizes how freakishly good the guys in the show actually are! I took a friend who played for years on the Nike tour (now retired) to a local club and he broke the course record first time seeing the place! That is how good these guys are they shoot sub seventy rounds every time they tee it up at a local course oftentimes with a really good chance of owning the course record assuming it is not already held by a well known tour player!

    Also I would argue that tour level courses setup by the PGA have a scoring rating and slope way above what GHIN allows for! I would say something more akin to 78 / 165!!! And forget about it when talking about a US Open in my prime twenty years ago I doubt I could shoot 75 on a us open course when I carried a legit +4!!!

    Hats off to the author of this article it really helps one appreciate just how amazing and talented these guys are!

    …Now back to my old man 3 handicap $25 weekend nassau! 🙂 This article just reminds me how bad I am at golf!

  12. WP

    Jul 9, 2016 at 6:20 am

    Every time this topic comes up I’m reminded of the fact that Luke Donald turned pro with a tournament +3 hdcp despite the horror stories of the guys in the +6 range that felt they weren’t good enough. Complicated issue and there is no doubt the difference between scratch and tour pro is staggering but I believe once you get to +3 (consistent and travelling) you have the requisite physical skill. After that, are you mentally tough enough to handle pressure, unfamiliar courses, and the inevitable swing of down time; do you have the money to bankroll your ‘learning curve’ on mini tours, etc.

  13. Uncle Buck

    Jul 8, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Yeah, James hit that one right on the screws. Play a championship course if you ever get the opportunity, and tee your single digit handicap game up, oh, but before you do that, march back another 46 yards on each tee, THEN tee your pearl up! No range finders, just the card. I’ll be at the 19th hole waiting to hear about your alleged 4 hdcp.! I’ll also have an ice cold beverage and a bucket ‘o fries waitin’ for ya to sob into.

    • Jack

      Jul 9, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      Yeah totally. The article didn’t even take into account the tee box differences. You can be scratch even from the white tees. Tournament tees if available on your golf course are so far back most players would add a stroke a hole.

      • Grizz01

        Jul 10, 2016 at 10:10 pm

        Well, there is this thing called course rating and slope.

  14. James

    Jul 8, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    I played torrey pines south off the back tees and it made me appreciate that PGA tour players are freaks.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 9, 2016 at 5:06 pm

      I played Pebble Beach off the middle tees and it made me appreciate that PGA tour players are freaks.

      • Achillesheels

        Jan 19, 2017 at 12:43 am

        I played Rancho Park Par 3 off the mats and it made me appreciate that PGA tour players are freaks.

  15. Jim

    Jul 8, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Just a fact about golf, it is not just hard, it is very hard……even a 9 handicap playing a different course with 3 strangers can play to a 15 handicap and leave the course telling him/her self they will never post a low score again…golf is tough.

    • Rick

      Jul 8, 2016 at 7:53 pm

      amen to that….how many times Have you a had a good round at your home/usual course and after friends tossing their clubs in the car saying “ya, your some dam sandbagging 15, shooting a 79”, Then 2 days later playing with the men’s club shooting that same old 87 again…next day you go over and play with your cousin with his friends at their course and it is 87 again not that miracle sandbagging 79……golf on any level is hard.

  16. Bob Pegram

    Jul 8, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Playing in tournaments regularly reduces the pressure factor on the touring pros (or anybody else who plays a lot of tournaments on different courses). It also provides a lot of motivation to practice A LOT!
    As somebody mentioned regarding Tom Kite, there are at least two different kinds of successful players on tour. One kind is like Kite – very consistent and very good – a golfing machine in every tournament. The other kind is very streaky. When they get hot they are almost unbeatable if they can keep it going for four rounds.
    Another factor that may sound odd at first glance is what playing daily does to a golfer physiologically. It tightens up the right muscles and loosens up the right muscles. That makes hitting consistently good shots, consistent contact, distance control, etc. a lot easier. For example, when I play a lot, my loose wrists tighten up, increasing my accuracy and quality of strike. My timing is more consistent. It is easier to maximize distance (and make it consistent) on every shot due to consistently better contact, etc. A lot of short game practice makes chips, pitches, and sand shots around the green easier as well. As several people have mentioned there are few amateurs with unlimited time to play and practice.

  17. Mississauga Jim

    Jul 8, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    I was a squash playing and teaching pro for twenty years. I’m way past my prime now, but this article is poignant. I played for money and ranking points for the national team. The difference between me and a superb club or college player was confidence and experience. Plus I hardly made errors.
    So in golf with so many different courses that’s one factor. Plus I can’t relate to the gallery pressure but I can relate to having to make a cheque to eat. Guys playing on mini tours, I can relate to that. My biggest cheques were only $2,500.00. But average was only about $1,200.00. I did a lot of lessons then.
    Those who say being a tour pro has so many advantages, well everyone you play against does too. You actually get super bored playing tournaments regardless of of your support system. The secret was always rest, not more of anything.
    Have a kid who plays pro hockey and played a ton in the NHL. Same difference. It’s all about not making mistakes and reliability. There’s a saying in pro sports: steady wins. At a very high level.
    And finally very few can handle the pressure. What I’ve seen it does to guys is heart wrenching. That’s why the drugs ( mostly coke) and alcohol. Plus the travel sucks. Hugely.

    • big

      Jul 8, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      People get super bored in other sports like squash or Pro Hockey because that’s played in the same square box, unlike golf. We don’t get bored in golf. The variety of courses and locations and climates and vegetation really keeps us entertained and on our toes.

  18. birdy

    Jul 8, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    haven’t read all coments, but anyone pointed out the fact that it compares all rounds of pga to scratch players rounds that were played to scratch.

    a big difference is tour players bad days are sooooo much better than a scratch’s bad day.

    a 74 bad day for a tour player is still most likely even to or under the course rating, while a scratch’s 79 bad day is several shots higher than course rating.

    take all these shots and now multiply them over 4 consecutive days, and pga guys are 25-40 shots better than mr. scratch if paired up over 4 rounds in pga event.

    • stephenf

      Jul 8, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      That’s it. It’s a lot more a matter of the worst rounds than the best rounds.

      Check out how few bogeys the top half or two-thirds of tour players make on average, and it really gets eye-opening at that point.

  19. Paul

    Jul 8, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    I heard a while back that Jim walker set a tournament at his home course prior to the Presidents cup and played as a +9. I play with + 4 and +5 once in a while. They have both said they are 3 solid strokes away from making money. My friend the +5 entered an amateur tournament where Graham Delete was also playing, he was a +7 at the time. By the way my friend the +5 was also ranked 50th in the World Ameteur rankings a few years back.

  20. stephenf

    Jul 8, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    I’ve seen similar comparisons, but none better than this one.

    There is, of course, that little factor called telling the truth. A lot of guys who say they’re scratch and who report scratch-level scores really aren’t.

    I was a plus-2 when I was playing a lot, with pro aspirations (I did play for money at a lower level, and also taught), but I have to admit chickening out with regard to the big show because I didn’t think I was solid enough mechanically to keep hitting it well for four straight days every week. It wasn’t that easy to hold it together even for the two- or three-round tournaments I was already playing. Some weeks it was gold, and I’d shoot way under par, but too often swing flaws would start magnifying as the tournament went on. Some weeks I played like a plus-5 and would shoot easy 66s and 67s, other weeks it was more like a scratch or 1-handicap, struggling for 71s and 72s, even the occasional mid-70s, which would’ve given me a lot of weekends off on tour. I did hit it pretty long, over the tour average at the time, and I had a short game I would’ve put up against anybody’s. But I just thought the full swing needed some evolution. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was a matter of getting scared off by inconsistency when that’s the nature of the game. I still think maybe I was too perfectionistic — maybe should’ve tried it anyway, since players do work things out and have to continue to work things out when they’re out there. Overthinking, maybe.

    Regardless, I can vouch for the fact that even a true scratch player is going to have to get better if he wants to play for a living. It’s not impossible with the right kinds of improvements and training, but I’m saying, you have to be aware of the true standard and at least get into that ballpark. And that’s for the people who are _actually_ scratch players, not the ones who think they’re scratch because they broke 70 once or twice and shoot some 72s and 73s here and there. (You know the guys — the ones who always shoot 79 when they’re playing with you.)

    • Bigleftygolfer

      Jul 9, 2016 at 11:28 am

      Well said, I completely agree with your post I had a similar life story and what makes me sleep better is the thought of I completely committed myself and was not good enough. I can live with that and i would not look at your story as being scared I would look at it as true introspection realizing there was a big gap with your ability to guarantee a living! This is nothing to be ashamed of! I would be lying if I did not dream about the tour everytime I shoot a sub 70 round but usually by the time I post the score and see all of the 75+ rounds in my GHIN I quickly get a dose of reality and instead have a beer at the bar and look forward to my office job come Monday morning!

      Also to support your decision my buddy who made money and a living before retiring playing on the NIKE tour use to tell me if you can’t have a real chance of owning the course record at every local club that you play then odds are you wont make a penny on tour and that includes the nike (now web.com) tours! As I stated in another post this guy broke the record at my local club first time he saw it years after he stopped playing competitively and he never earned a full time PGA tour card he was just a full time A-3 that is how good these guys are! Anybody not believing that the PGA tour guys are ten strokes better than scratch golfers are truly delusional and just trying to support a dream that they can one day play on tour.I would assume that most of these guys denying the greatness of a PGA tour pro can’t even beat their local club pro with regularity.

  21. TB

    Jul 8, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    One key distinction to make is the tour player stats are always calculated at tournaments whereas the scratch golfer typically playing home course (in general) isn’t playing tournament golf…he/she is not stepping on the tee thinking “If i hit two out of bounds off the tee, I still gotta finish the hole”…so BIG difference between tournament golf and playing home course with your buddies scratch golf. That’s why so many golfers at my home course with vanity handicaps shoot their WAD in the club championship and struggle to break 80 putting them all out, taking all penalties correctly, etc. REALLY good article but I concur with several other comments, 5 stroke difference is not really close…I have a hand full of friends who were all-american Div 1 golfers who never could get their tour card…and they’re DAMN good.

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  23. snowman

    Jul 8, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I’d love to see this analysis for scratch vs 5 hdcp, 10, 15 hdcp.

    • Justin

      Jul 8, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      I’d bet the margin between “scratch” and tour is much wider than scratch and 5. In fact, I would even imagine the margin between scratch and +2 is wider than scratch and 5.

      • stephenf

        Jul 8, 2016 at 2:34 pm

        That’s in line with the idea of standard deviations, and I’d say you’re right.

      • snowman

        Jul 8, 2016 at 3:37 pm

        agree. the Tour Pros are playing a different game.

  24. Greg Guyotte

    Jul 8, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Let’s not forget a few other advantages pga tour pros have.

    1) Great caddies. Vs. No caddy. Huge advantage getting help reading every putt, with research that already tells you which way is breaking and roughly how much. Information advantage.
    2) near ideal conditions. You won’t find yourself in an unraked bunker, or inconsistent conditions hole to hole.
    3) worst misses often not penalized. The number of free drops tour pros get due to grandstands, tv towers, cables, etc is not insignificant. Not to mention galleries which keep shots in play.
    4) unlimited time to play and practice,
    5) best in the world coaching
    6) all the time you need to make your body the best it can be
    7) equipment companies that put you in the best stuff and have you perfectly fit.

    I agree with most of the comments, PGA tour pros are amazing. However, i think living the life of a tour pro clearly makes you even better than you otherwise would be.

    • Justin

      Jul 8, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      I’m really glad you brought this up, because it’s all true.

      I’m a +2 and a number of scores that are included in my calculation are from courses that I have played only once. I enjoy traveling and playing different courses, but it somewhat penalizes what my actual handicap could be, as I’m playing many of these courses “blind.” If I had multiple practice rounds, a yardage book, and a good caddie, I’d have a decided advantage. Now, I can still shoot under par on courses I play for the first time, but this usually comes from taking the conservative route and playing a course that doesn’t have very many blind shots.

      On that same token, my best round at my home course is 8-under, and my course handicap for that course is +4 (rating 73.1, slope 133). I know all the little ins and outs like the back of my hand and know the breaks on every green. As someone mentioned earlier, people who play the majority of their rounds at their home course will have handicaps that are skewed a little lower than they should be. You have to have a game that travels in order to really know your true handicap.

      However, what people don’t think about is the discrepancy regarding the 2 situations I just mentioned. Scratch players are often penalized vs tour pros when it comes to playing new courses, but they also gain points if they have a home course they play consistently. Golfers who play a good mix of their home courses and other courses probably play to a handicap very similar to what their calculated number shows, while those that always play new courses are probably a little better than what is stated on the card.

      I’m used to thinking in terms of “me” and how I relate to a tour pro and I can tell you for a fact the only difference is time and commitment. I know I could make it, but how “long” it takes to make it would be the question. Most will never have the chance to even try because of the strain it would put on their families and themselves financially. Q-school is meant to be expensive to ward away people who aren’t 100% serious about the commitment and I think that’s a good thing. Time and commitment lead to the overall biggest difference…. consistency.

      I have no doubts I’d be right up there with the longest hitters on tour, and I definitely putt better on faster greens and play better overall on courses that are well manicured. My issue is still and will always seem to be consistency off the tee. One day I’m striping it, the next I’m fighting a hook, and the next I’m blocking every other tee shot out to the right. I have played at least 5 rounds this year where I’ve racked up 5 or more penalty strokes as a result of tee shots only and still broke 75. It’s frustrating, but it’s the game I’ll always have unless I commit time to practice. Sometimes we have to commit more time to our families and jobs and I think in the long run that’s most important. And on that note, I commend these tour players (especially those on web.com and mini tours) for living this life. Not all of them enjoy the security that the top guys do.

      • stephenf

        Jul 8, 2016 at 2:38 pm

        Pretty much what happened with me. I hear ya. (See reply in the Facebook-format questions above to Jim Kruppa, re things that tend to get better with experience and time, versus the true differentiators.)

  25. Leon

    Jul 8, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Good work on the statistics and analysis. But the difference between a scratch player and a tour guy is not only 5 strokes, but more like +10.

    Just like all the quality comments, if you put the “traveling (unfamiliarity), insane green speed, tough pin locations, stink height of rough, total distance (7200-7400 vs 6600-6800), tens of thousands people watching and live TV broadcast, pressure from both inside and outside (such as sucker media), and some many other factors that a scratch player would not be exposed to during his normal condition. A scratch player will have little chance to break 80 in a PGA or even Web.com tournament, while the pros shot their 60s.

    Just as the Fedex ad says “These people are good”. They are not only good, they are unbelievably amazing.

    • stephenf

      Jul 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Okay, but how meaningful is that kind of comparison (as in, what a local scratch player would shoot _today_ if thrown into the crucible on an unfamiliar course)?

      Seems to me the more meaningful comparison has to do with what the real differences are in the quality of game — what level of ballstriking it takes, how good the short game has to be, how good bogey avoidance is, etc., once the amateur is over the shock of spectators, pressure, unfamiliarity, etc.

  26. Andrew Cooper

    Jul 8, 2016 at 6:11 am

    The 255 yard driving distance for the scratch player is shorter than I would have thought? With tour average clubhead speed around 112mph, a Zach Johnson about 108-110, I’d say most scratch players would easily fall in the 105-110 range. So at 2-3 yards per mph, how do we get a 33 yard difference? Faster fairway conditions?

    • Mongo McMichael

      Jul 8, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      I think you’re on to something with the fairway conditions. They always seem to shave them down for tour events.

    • Justin

      Jul 8, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      I would imagine that data concerning statistics for scratch golfers (outside of raw score) is probably not very reliable. How many people keep track of driving distance? How many people find they hit the ball different distances on the course vs the launch monitor? We also tend to forget that these driving distances include holes where certain players hit less than driver and others hit driver.

      Think of this as an example…

      So far this year, Dustin Johnson is averaging 312.5 yards off the tee. Yet, he routinely hits drivers that carry 320 to 330 yards in the air. If the tour only calculated driving distance on tee shots hit with drivers, the margin between tour pros and scratch would be EVEN WIDER! The tour average would be much closer to 300 yards.

      • Mongo McMichael

        Jul 8, 2016 at 1:42 pm

        Well stated. That’s another excellent point.

      • Andrew Cooper

        Jul 8, 2016 at 3:14 pm

        Not sure about that. Here is Zach Johnson for example in 2016-average distance 281.5 yards, average ch speed 106.5 (fastest 109, slowest 103) from over 50 measured tee shots. Ok a lot of centred hits with good launch conditions, but still that’s a long average off a modest clubhead speed.

        • Jack

          Jul 9, 2016 at 12:25 pm

          He also hits it on the sweetspot most of the time.

          And to respond to the higher level post, scratch golfers are not required to play from the tips are they?

    • OFCCLefty

      Jul 8, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      You’re spot on with the fairways. I’ve played a few tour venues a week or so before events and the fairways are like concrete. I typically drive it around 285-295 and on the firm and fast fairways I averaged north of 315 (when hitting driver). The ball just runs so much. I agree that the rough is really penal, but if you keep it in the fairway, a 7400 yd tour course plays closer to a 6800 yd public course

    • stephenf

      Jul 8, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Faster fairways matter, but it’s also true that clubhead speed isn’t all there is to long hitting. The better player’s angle of approach is almost always shallower and more efficient, and more from the inside relative to body lines, both of those factors being related, of course (if you get even fractionally outside the right inside path approaching the ball, you’re going to be steeper than you should be). And contact is generally more consistently on the right spot on the clubface. Those factors at any given speed make a significant difference.

  27. KK

    Jul 8, 2016 at 3:43 am

    Scratch golfers average 255 off the tee? That’s LPGA range and LPGA players are probably better in every other category. Levels below PGA pros.

    • Justin

      Jul 8, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      Remember that scratch golfers should be playing the back tees at any course, which probably averages around 7,000 yards for a par 72. On the LPGA Website, it lists the average courses played being between 6,200 and 6,600 yards. So, in reality, the LPGA pros are left with closer approach shots on average, which would definitely boost stats when compared with a longer approach.

      It would be interesting to find out how many scratch golfers are playing the correct tees and also playing courses that are long enough. Courses that are shorter are often rated lower, but for someone who drives the ball straight as a string every time would benefit more from a shorter course than they’d be hurt by the rating going down.

  28. Jack

    Jul 8, 2016 at 3:32 am

    I think visually, when you watch Mark Crossfield play against Euro tour pros, you can see the difference between scratch (I think he is probably a +1 to scratch golfer even though his short game stinks right now). Tour players have an edge in terms of distance, accuracy, short game, and even putting. So tough to be a tour player. You have to excel in all aspects. Driving 280 average is not enough. 300 is better. 320 is not necessary, since most guys who lead the field in distance are not even the leaders. It takes a serious dedication to fitness and training to reach those levels. Gone are the days when players could survive on talent and a beer gut.

    • stephenf

      Jul 8, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      A 280 average is in fact enough, if you’re good enough in other ways.

      And when exactly were the days “when players could survive on talent and a beer gut”?

      • Jack

        Jul 9, 2016 at 12:30 pm

        I think from the 80’s to 2000’s. Tiger Woods pretty much changed golf fitness.

        I think 280 is enough, but it makes it harder overall as regularly it seems it’s the guys averaging 300 winning. The approach shots are just that much closer in a game of a few stroke differences. Even Spieth who doesn’t consider himself long averages 296.

        • Grizz01

          Jul 10, 2016 at 10:14 pm

          Yes, he caused the PGA Tour to start requiring to pee in a cup.

        • kenny

          Jan 6, 2017 at 9:15 am

          Amazing that a golfer can change golf fitness 7 years before his first pro event..

      • Locode

        Jul 18, 2016 at 12:33 pm

        Stadler x2, Lietzke, Daly, Casper, Trevino, Knost, Mayfair, Herron, Petterson, Fat Jack, Bob Murphy, Maltbie, Barr, Blackmar, Zoeller… Just a small example of current and past players who survive(d) on talent and a beer belly.

  29. Jim

    Jul 8, 2016 at 12:58 am

    Pretty much right i played on a european tour setup off same tees as the tour pros ,having walked and scored as marshall for the top pros i saw the reality between them and us.my best score is a 66 and imconsidered long at my club.
    They hit it 3 clubs longer in drives so im hitting a 5 iron in when they were hitting 8 irons.
    They get it up and down from anywhere.
    Their long putting is superb.
    This was my personal experience and this does not factor in pressure which is another 5/6 shots more for amateurs.

  30. Felix

    Jul 7, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Great article but tough to compare scratch golfers who more than likely have another full time occupation to the guys who have everything at their disposal and only have to worry about getting better.

  31. Dave

    Jul 7, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Most of the guys I know that are scratch, aren’t scratch every course they go to. Surround those same scratch players with a few thousand people lining the fairway and dead silence when they’re putting and see what happens to their scores.

  32. K dawg

    Jul 7, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Being a scratch player, I think this is pretty spot on if not a little generous to the scratch player. As soon as you add pressure most scratch players I play against go to water and barely break 80. Especially of the back tees.
    I would add though, I am sure I would play a few shots better per round if I played full time, played perfect conditions, had a full time caddy and a coach on call and had my equipment made by the tour van.

  33. Not quite

    Jul 7, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    As someone who carried a +3 to +4 for a few years, I think you’re still a ways off. Played with guys that couldn’t play nationwide with a +6 or 7 and my college coach who won on Hogan/Nationwide tour and played 9-10 US Opens, but couldn’t make it on tour with an UNREAL short game. These tour guys are serious good. The difference between Pro and Scratch is much larger than Scratch and a 5 handicap. Even if numbers-wise its only 5-6 shots, the quality of golf is in a completely different league. I would think the difference between a +3 and Pro on a Tour course is more than 5 a round.

    • Justin

      Jul 8, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      The biggest difference this article does not discuss is the mental side of things. Some guys just aren’t built for the tour and can’t hack it. If you play with them in a relaxed situation, they play like a superhero, but get them under the bright lights and things change. They are not bad golfers or bad people, it just takes a special type of mental talent to compete at the highest level.

    • stephenf

      Jul 8, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      If you played with guys who were plus-6 or plus-7 and couldn’t play on the Nationwide, they either weren’t actually at that level (all home-course, no competitive play, whatever) or they had some kind of competitive block going on. Anybody who’s at that level for real, on competitive golf courses, has got a game good enough to play for a living. The question is whether they have a head good enough to play for a living.

  34. mhendon

    Jul 7, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    I didn’t need this article to confirm the average PGA tour player is much better than a scratch golfer. I already knew that but I do find it hard to believe the avg scratch golfer only averages 255 of the tee. I’m much longer than that and play with guys all the time on this Am tour I’m a member of that hit it past me.

  35. us

    Jul 7, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    When Scratch player plays there are no spotters on the course to look for errant shots, and he’s not playing for millions of dollars. This study means nothing. But it has to be done.

    • Eddie

      Jul 7, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      You really think the pros gain a bunch of strokes on scratch players because they have spotters on the course?

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 7, 2016 at 5:59 pm

        I sometimes lose 2-3 balls a round in the rough just off the fairway. Never happens to a touring pro with galleries, marshals and spotters present. So right off the bat the touring pro has two strokes on me every round.

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 7, 2016 at 9:25 pm

          Smizzlers… always enjoy your comments even when they make no sense. Keep an eye on that grammar there, son…

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 8, 2016 at 10:57 am

          You’re wrong. I’m a 3. Wanna play for smizzle bucks?

          • stephenf

            Jul 8, 2016 at 2:55 pm

            Yeah, just ignore the snark and keep playing.

  36. Adam

    Jul 7, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    One thing I didn’t see in the comments was the fact that the non-tour players are often not quite as strict with the rules – improper drops, gimmes, etc. It’s amazing how many people’s scores shoot up when they have to count everything, have to go back to the tee box when they lose one in the woods, etc.

    I once played a practice round with guys that were going to play in a Monday qualifier for what’s now the Web.com tour. I was a 6 at the time, and my regular playing partner was a +.4. I remember thinking afterwards that the gap between me and my buddy was much smaller than the gap between him and these guys – and they weren’t even on the AAA tour yet. It’s easier said than done, but the scratch golfer just needs to drive it about 250 and in play, hit most greens and two putt, and miss in good enough spots to get up and down most of the time. Sneak in a couple of birdies to offset a couple of bogeys. Do this half the time and you’re scratch. That’s pretty much what my buddy did. The quality of the shots by the Web.com qualifiers was on a totally different level.

    • Rick

      Jul 9, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      RIGHT ON and the worst thing ever is to get in a blind draw 4 man scrabble (A<B<C<D players) and have an A player that got his 7 handicap not 100% following the rules or playing from short tees or even being selective with his postings….it is called the "REVERSE SANDBAGGER"….and it happens almost as much as the 7 playing as a 12.

  37. Tom

    Jul 7, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    The Percentage Difference Between A Scratch Golfer And A PGA pro.

  38. EagleM.

    Jul 7, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    -3 and -5, right?

    • Alex

      Jul 7, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      no, +3 and +5 means 3 and 5 under, respectively.

  39. ooffa

    Jul 7, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    zzzzzzz

  40. Max

    Jul 7, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I read an article somewhere that said close to the same thing. It also said that for any given week on Tour the Winner was playing to the equivalent of a +10

    • stephenf

      Jul 8, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Love to see the methodology for that. A plus-10 most weeks would mean scores in the 24-to-30-under-par range, which…no.

      • Bigleftygolfet

        Jul 9, 2016 at 11:09 am

        Actually not true when you consider the scoring average and slope for a PGA tour course would be a conservative 76/77 / 155+ slope once you consider this the average winning four round score is right in line with the numbers being posted.

  41. Matt

    Jul 7, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Makes it even harder when by the math you are only suppose to shoot your handicap 24% of the time, so Tour Pros are 5.5 shots better than a scratch player 24% of the time and even better the other 76% of the time.

    The math; Handicap is 10 best out of last 20 scores so 50% and then its the Average Differential of those 10 scores so 25% of the time and then you multiply by .96 so 24% of the time.

  42. Birdieman

    Jul 7, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Good info. As a +1 that tried mini toiurs years ago, distance and consistency from outside 175 were always what I felt held me back, and this confirms it.

    I think it will be even more so over the next 10 years. Kids just kill the ball now. My 14 year old flies it 300. Even at my peak I hit it 285 with roll. The game is for bombers that play aggressive. Kill it. Aim for the pin. Worry about the rest later.

    • Eddie

      Jul 7, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      Spieth, Sneds, Furyk, ZJ, McDowell, Stricker all find success without killing the ball.

  43. TheCityGame

    Jul 7, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    It is important to note that this isn’t a PGA average against scratch golfer. This is a PGA average against the 10 best of the last 20 rounds of scratch golfers. As you said, ” the rounds when Mr. Scratch actually played to his 0 handicap.” It’s ALL the PGA rounds (good and bad) against the GOOD rounds of Mr. Scratch.

    Still, people aren’t going to believe you.

    This punctures the myth that OMG THESE GUYS ARE GODS!!! That they’re +8’s and +10’s.

    I don’t think teeing it up under “PGA Pressure” has any effect on these guy’s scores, either. Yeah, it might for Joe Schmo teeing it up in a pro-am. These guys got there because they play well under pressure.

    Interesting write-up. Thanks.

    • Chuck

      Jul 7, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Yes, you’ve made good points that I agree with, and the one I was going to add was this:

      Tour players are looking at a new course every week. They are playing out of hotel rooms and suitcases; flying week to week, and can’t just decide not to play because of a sore back or an nasty argument with a wife or because they just don’t feel like playing that day because it is too hot or too windy or nasty.

      It is a phenomenally difficult task, to be on all the time and to play at that level when the schedule tells you that that is when you play. And almost never get to spend the night of a tournament in your own bed.

      • stephenf

        Jul 8, 2016 at 3:01 pm

        True, but lots of people have jobs that require physical action under difficult conditions. As for the “new course” aspect, that unfamiliarity goes away with practice rounds and repeated years, and they get yardages marked to the inch, not to mention caddies who tend to know the place.

        That’s not to say they’re not skilled. It’s just that they’re not as superhuman as portrayed. They’re highly skilled humans who have developed those skills over time and experience, like anybody who’s really good at a job.

        • Bigleftygolfet

          Jul 9, 2016 at 11:05 am

          No they are superhuman at golf! I have played alongside these guys and to the casual observer one may think there are similarities between a good amateur and a tour player but take my word for it the gap is absolutely 8-10 strokes!

  44. Steve

    Jul 7, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    With the time to practice like a tour player I suspect the scratch golfer’s short game would improve significantly.

  45. Marty

    Jul 7, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    You need to add to your statement about being a +3 to make it on the PGA Tour. You need to be a +3 and play everywhere, not just at your home course that you know like the back of your hand.

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Opinion & Analysis

How well do you really know the Teeing Ground rules? Here’s a refresher…

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There are a few things you need to know 18 times every round if you want to stay on the right side of the law, and some of them are quirky. They all surround the Teeing Ground, a very specific area defined by the Rules which is different from the larger (undefined) flat area upon which the tee-markers are placed and rotated.

One might think that putting a peg in the ground to start your hole is stupid-simple, but let’s reserve that judgment for a while. I recently had a discussion about this with a friend, and crudely sketched out some scenarios.  Please look at Illustration No. 1, and hold off on looking at Illustration No. 2 further below for the moment.

In the first illustration, you will find the depiction of two haphazardly-placed (square) tee-markers; five golf balls; and a representation of the depth of two club-lengths. Which of the balls has been placed in a position to legally start the play of the hole?

Decide, then read on.

While it may seem simple, irregularly shaped tee-markers and tee-markers which “aim” you in an off direction relative to the fairway actually require careful analysis in order to accurately determine where the Teeing Ground begins and ends. Here is the explicit Definition:

The “teeing ground” is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.

When square tee-markers are positioned in such a way that their sides are not parallel to each other, the precise rectangular area of the Teeing Ground can have a surprising outline. And the fact that a ball may be partially outside the Teeing Ground and still considered technically within it can add to the possible confusion.  

Moving on to reviewing Illustration No. 2, you’ll see the rectangle of the Teeing Ground superimposed over the haphazardly placed tee-markers per the Definition. Ball A, C, and D are partially within the Teeing Ground and therefore legal to play, and Ball B and E are completely outside of it. So if you’re one of those players who wants to get every last inch closer to the hole when you tee it up (or on occasion want to be almost two full club-lengths away from the front of the Teeing Ground) take heed!

The exact place the tee-markers are positioned takes on critical importance in another way, too. Rule 11-2 forbids you from moving the tee-markers to assist you before you make your first stroke from the Teeing Ground. So unless you have already made a stroke (in which case the tee-markers have become movable obstructions which you may temporarily move) don’t intentionally move them — even to “straighten” them for groups behind you. Decision 11-2/2 gives you the fairly complicated details on when you may or may not touch them without penalty, but it’s way easier to just remember to leave them alone!

In wild contrast to the prohibitions against changing the position of the tee-markers, the Rules are downright liberal in terms of what you may do to the surface of the Teeing Ground before you play. While Rule 1-2 generally prohibits you from altering physical conditions with the intent of affecting the play of a hole, Rule 11-1 lets you go hog-wild in changing the surface of this particular area. You’re free to create or eliminate any irregularity of surface you wish: stamp on the ground with your foot, create a divot hole or tuft of turf with your club, pull out a hunk of grass or a weed — have at it if you’re so moved. In addition, Rule 13-2 allows you to remove dew, frost or water from the Teeing Ground. In all cases, make sure you’re doing this landscaping only to the ground within the two club-length deep official Teeing Ground. Do it to the surrounding area and you might be in trouble. (In particular, note that Decision 13-2/14 makes it clear that you may not break a branch off a tree near the Teeing Ground that might interfere with your swing.)

If you’ve got the nerve, there’s a way to sort of expand the Teeing Ground for yourself: Rule 11-1 assures us that a player’s stance may be outside the Teeing Ground when he or she plays a ball from within it. So if you’re looking to get a better angle to a dogleg fairway or to avoid some overhanging branches out there, feel free to tee it up anywhere you wish between the tee-markers and deal with your stance afterward. Just be sure your concentration skills allow you to ignore that tee-marker which may now be between your toe and the ball!

Finally, what do you do if you inadvertently tee off outside the Teeing Ground? Rule 11-4 covers this, and it’s dramatically different in Match Play vs. Stroke Play. In Match, you are fine unless your opponent immediately requires you to cancel your stroke and start again. There is no penalty in either case (other than the possible misfortune of having to cancel a good shot). In Stroke, teeing off outside the Teeing Ground is a critical mistake: You get a 2-stroke penalty for having teed off from an incorrect location and you must re-tee correctly and start again before you tee off on the next hole (or before you leave the 18th green without declaring your intention to re-play) or else you’ll be disqualified from the competition.

In either Match or Stroke Play, you may warn your opponent or fellow-competitor that he or she is about to play from outside the Teeing Ground. If you have the occasion, it’s a nice thing to do. Take care, play well!

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: David Edel explains the true bounce equation that no one talks about

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An honest chat with club maker David Edel on everything from the 3 types of wedge body types, a bounce equation, the misconceptions of bounce, and his in-depth fitting process.

2:45 — How it started
4:55 — How his fitting methods came to be
11:40 — Bounce and the misconceptions around it
13:30 — The 3 basic types of golfers
16:20 — The true bounce equation that no one talks about
26:00 — Finally getting the message out to the masses
29:40 — Whats next for Edel
32:45 — The secret vault
35:45 — Advice to the club makers coming up
39:40 — The companies that excite him today

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

13 Revealing Photos from an AJGA golf event

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The American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) is a breeding ground for college golfers; according to its mission statement, the AJGA is a “nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf.” Some of the best juniors in the country/world collect at AJGA golf events to compete, hone their competitive skills, and also to showcase their talents to college recruiters who use AJGA scores, finishes and performances to evaluate prospective student-athletes. They also pay a lot of money to play in these events — this particular 54-hole event cost $295 entry fee (plus any travel, lodging and practice rounds).

Name a player on the PGA Tour, and chances are he played in AJGA events as a junior… Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, whoever you can think of really. Even yours truly, the GolfWRX Editor, once upon a time played in AJGA events. But that was over 10 years ago now, and I wanted to revisit an AJGA event to see how things have changed.

So, recently, I went to the AJGA Junior at Forest Lake presented by Tom Holzer Ford in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan to cover the event. Below are my takeaways.

Listen to the Two Guys Talking Golf podcast for more of my opinions and takeaways!

1) Treated like Tour players

Each of the players are given individual lockers with their names on them for the week. I’ve always been a change-the-shoes-in-the-parking-lot kind of guy myself, but this is a nice touch.

2) It’s official

Like most professional events, the AJGA events have tents, waters, granola bars, tees, scorecards and pencils on the first tee. And they announce your name/hometown, which is always intimidating.

3) Sponsors

As a popular junior golf organization, the AJGA attracts a number of big-name sponsors.

But the most important sponsor is Care for the Course. These kids hit pretty much every green, so repairing ball marks on the green is crucial.

4) College Coaches do show up

During the first round of a random AJGA event in Michigan, there were a number of college coaches on site, representing DI, DII and DIII colleges. While that does mean added pressure for the 12-18 year old kids, it also means that playing well in these events could very well land you a scholarship. After talking with a few of the college coaches, however, it’s often positive body language even after a double bogey that can really impress coaches. Juniors, keep that one in mind.

5) Push carts, or carry bags?

By my estimation, about 70 percent of the competitors used pull carts. Back in my days of AJGA golf, it was rare to find 1 or 2 juniors using push carts. Why the change? Well, it seems kids have smartened up. Speaking with a few competitors, it seems they prefer push carts over carry bags because it adds additional space for water bottles, scorecards, weather gear, umbrellas, and it’s easier on your body during long rounds.

6) Yea, these kids are good

16-year-old Maxwell Moldovan shot a 9-under 62 (and course record) in the first round of the event. He made 9 birdies against 9 pars. Speaking with him after the round, he seemed unfazed by the 62, instead enjoying his position and plotting his first AJGA victory. These kids just have no fear. (Also, live scoring is awesome).

The new course record holder was gaming a mixed iron set of Titleist CBs and MBs (as shown above), and was using custom Titleist SM7 wedges stamped with “M2,” surely a play on his initials. And yes, he’s pro-push cart.

7) The most nerve-racking moment in the round

Have you ever shot a great round in a tournament, then been nervous you’d make a stupid scoring mistake and get DQ’d, so you go over your round multiple times to confirm the scores? I know I can’t be alone.

8) Tough track

The quirky, par-71 golf course measured just 6,283 yards on the scorecard — AJGA employees estimate most events are played between 6,800 and 7,200 yards — but many of the holes seemed to either take driver out of the players’ hands (although they typically hit driver anyway), or at least made hitting driver very difficult.

Plus, they had pins tucked pretty good. After the round, participants estimated the greens were running at about a 12 on the stimp, and one player said “the greens were some of the hardest I’ve putted on all summer.”

Also, painted dirt inside the cups goes a long way to making the tournament feel more official. I thought they painted cups white so the TV cameras could better see where the hole is, and as far as I know this AJGA event wasn’t televised, but hey, it looks cool.

9) Keeping up

The AJGA keeps players moving, timing them on a number of holes at “timing stations,” and handing out warnings for slow play. Enough warnings and the group gets reprimanded with a penalty stroke. There’s not nearly as much leeway out here as on the PGA Tour… they do actually hand out penalty strokes, and the participants seemed well aware of that.

10) Cross-hand putting grips

Everyone out there was using a cross-handed putting grip. Literally, everyone I saw was putting cross-handed.

11) Rules officials

Like any big tournament, rules officials swarm the course. This kid hooked his tee shot up against an outhouse, and resolved the situation with a volunteer and a rules official. As soon as he hit his shot, he asked to make sure “Are we still on pace?” That’s the timing stations doing their jobs.

12) Parents

Parents can be seen all over the course, following their son/daughter, grinding over each shot just as hard or harder than the players themselves.

“I’m holding up OK, but my husband might have a heart attack,” one mother of a first-time AJGA participant told me. The pressure is real out there for everyone involved.

13) And that’s all she wrote

Check out more photos from the AJGA event here

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