How I Used Data to Become a Scratch Golfer

This is a guest post by Sean Denning from the Par Machine

After playing the game for more than 20 years, I finally became a scratch golfer in 2020! My handicap had been in the low single digits for about 15 of those years, but I could never seem to get it all the way down to zero. One of the biggest changes I made, and I think a major factor in my improvement, was using data to make a plan, track my progress, and make adjustments to my practice.

I don’t want to give the impression that data is solely responsible for getting my handicap to scratch. I also worked with a coach on my swing and putting, and I put quite a bit of effort into improving my mental game. But I’ve done that before. I’ve taken lessons and practiced a lot and still didn’t get all the way to scratch. Eventually, I became frustrated and thought maybe I just wasn’t talented enough.

Last year was different. Here’s how data helped me become a scratch golfer.

No Time to Waste

I’m married, have two young kids (one born in the summer of 2020!), and work full-time as a structural engineer. I don’t have an abundance of free time for golf. In fact, I wasn’t sure I should be spending any time on golf. 

I hadn’t played well in 2019. My handicap got above 4, and the few tournaments I managed to play had not gone well. I decided I didn’t want to continue taking time away from my family to play mediocre golf. My options were to get better or quit, and I love golf too much to quit.

So I picked a familiar goal – something I had written down as an objective for many past seasons but never achieved – scratch golf. I gave myself 12 months to lower my handicap from 3.3 to 0.0 or better. I knew I would need a plan to use my limited time efficiently.  

Traditional Statistics

I started in September 2019 by reviewing my statistics from that season: greens in regulation, fairways hit, and putts per hole. I could get a decent idea of my weaknesses by comparing numbers to past seasons and averages for scratch and pro golfers. 

My basic statistics from 2019 and the first ten rounds of 2020 vs. scratch and pro golfers:

scratch golf
My basic statistics from 2019 and the first ten rounds of 2020 vs. scratch and pro golfers

All parts of my game needed work. I was hitting 44% of greens, 44% of fairways, had a

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By: Jon
Title: How I Used Data to Become a Scratch Golfer
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Published Date: Tue, 04 May 2021 16:28:14 +0000


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