Golf is an individual sport.
Our only way of competing against others is to compare scores (either 1 hole at a time or a complete round).
So it makes sense that everyone wants to know where they stand in the world of golfers as far as the scores they shoot. I use this free stat tracking app to keep track of my handicap and all kinds of other stats right on my phone during every round. Knowing your handicap is a great way to track your progress as you improve.
So here’s a breakdown of the statistics I could find for golfers scoring at each of the various levels.
Source – USGA
What Percentage Of Golfers Break Par?
If we are talking about being a scratch golfer (0 handicap or below) then according to the USGA Men’s Handicap statistics, only 1.6% of golfers are a 0 handicap or below.
But keep in mind that a handicap is a little different than your score in relation to par. First, it is based off the course rating and the slope, so breaking par on a course with a rating of 74 is very different from doing so on a course rated 64. Slope rating also plays into the handicap but there’s no need to go into that much detail here.
For discussion’s sake, let’s assume the scratch golfer we are talking about played all their rounds on a course with a 72 rating and a slope of 113 (which means the slope rating has no effect). Now, you also need to consider that under the current handicap system, you are only taking your best 10 out of the last 20 (less if you’ve played less often). That means that your handicap is not an average of your scores but instead is skewed more towards your best scores.
Handicap takes the best half of your scores to eliminate the blow up rounds and attempt to measure your potential. So on average you are not shooting your handicap.
Which means that even a scratch golfer is shooting over par most of the time on a course with a rating of 72 and a slope of 113.
The question gets harder to answer if we are talking about how many golfers have ever broken par.
Are Handicap Statistics Even Useful To Answer The Question?
Another thing to consider is that the majority of golfers don’t keep a handicap.
I think it is safe to assume that a golfer that keeps a handicap is on average more invested in their game and learning to score well than the player that does not. That means that the handicap stats are probably not representative of the entire golf playing population.
So the statistics we do have access to (player handicaps) are likely to be skewed towards the lower (better scoring) end. This is especially true when you start looking at statistics for golfers who play only a few rounds of golf a year and score in the 90s and 100s.
0.92% of golfers have a handicap of +1 or better. Using the +1 handicap is probably the best estimate we can get to the percentage of golfers than are breaking par regularly. Like I mentioned earlier, a scratch golfer is probably shooting over par more often than not.
But a golfer with a +1 handicap will have to break par pretty regularly to get that handicap. It’s not perfectly precise, but I think that is pretty close.
21.42% of golfers have a handicap of 7.9 or better. I used 7.9 because the “average” course we made up has a par of 72 and a course rating of 72, so a 7.9 handicap has an average score of 79.9 in their best 10 scores.
73.4% of golfers have a handicap of 17.9 or better. This is where I think using handicap statistics to estimate scores of all golfers really falls apart.
I have nothing more than my own experience of may rounds played on public courses being paired with strangers, but I have significant doubts that 73.4% of golfers are breaking 90 consistently.
The most likely reason for this is that once a golfer reaches the point where they are keeping a consistent handicap, that population is MUCH more likely to be shooting under 90 than the general golfer that does not keep a handicap.
95.69% of golfers have a handicap of 17.9 or better. Again, I think that number is MUCH lower in reality.
More importantly, this shows just how impressive the numbers at the top are. Consider all the golfers that are shooting 90+ who do not keep a handicap and that percentage of golfers breaking par gets even smaller.
So what does this all mean?
Well first, rest assured that it is really difficult to break par. Less than 1% of golfers that keep a handicap are breaking par relatively consistently. Factor in the massive amount of golfers that do not keep a handicap and that number gets even smaller.
What is the actual number? It is probably impossible to say for sure, but it is probably below 0.5% overall.
Of course that is just an estimate based on the information we do have about handicap statistics. If you know of any actual numbers that can give us a more accurate estimate, let me know in the comments below.
You can find the USGA handicap statistics I used HERE. I don’t know how often they change those numbers so it may be out of date a day after I published this but feel free to check the source.
Here’s One Way You Can Improve
If you don’t like where you are on the chart above, then now is as good a time as any to take some steps to change that. The fastest way to improve isn’t trying out a bunch of swing tips, it’s learning a solid approach to the game that puts you in a position to score at your best as often as possible.
I’d recommend checking out the Strike Plan. This is a tremendous video course by instructor Adam Young. Adam has worked at some of the top facilities in the world, including the Leadbetter Academies and the World famous Turnberry Resort. He currently teaches in Santa Barbara, California. His course contains over 3 hours of excellent instruction.