article image

Average Golf Score: What is a Good Golf Score?

Average scores and good scores may be relative, but there are sure-fire ways to shoot a better score

“Are you an average golfer?” “Did you shoot a good score today?” These simple questions actually call for nuanced answers. What’s considered an average or good score depends on a number of factors, including, most importantly, who you’re asking. Just as one golfer’s great shot may be another’s big miss, so one person’s good golf score could be someone else’s signal that it’s time to take up pickleball.

In this discussion we’re going to look at how scoring averages vary across different segments of golfers and then we’ll provide a strategy to help you improve your performance and achieve better scores. While some of the tips offered below are essential to the process of getting better at golf—in other words, they involve work on your part—others can bring immediate results just by your willingness to try them. You can even use an app like GolfNow Compete on iOS and Android, which will make the process of improving your average score all the more easier.

*Key Takeaways–Too Long to Read*

  • The average golf score is somewhere between 94 and 100.
  • A handicap index is a measurement of an individual’s playing ability. The average handicap index is 14.0 for men and 28.0 for women.
  • The definition of good scoring will vary depending on your goals. The difference between tour-level golfers and other golfers is eye-opening.
  • Average scores vary by only a couple of strokes for players age 20 to 70. For many older players, having more time to play and to refine the basics of their games results in real improvement.
  • While truly getting better at golf requires work, focus, and dedication, most players can improve their scores just by doing a few simple things.

The average golf score is in the 90s

Because so many golfers either don’t keep score or don’t adhere to golf’s rules, the best we can do is guess at the average golf score. According to golf participation research from the National Golf Foundation (NGF), 94 is the average score and that scoring average hasn’t changed much over time.The NGF says 62% of all golfers shoot above 90. Renowned golf instructor Dave Pelz insists the average score among all golfers is 96. Others point to the most common question ordinary golfers get asked—“Did you break 100?” Shooing 100 is still a benchmark accomplishment and a fair approximation of an average golf score.

Good scores often equate to breaking barriers depending on your skill level. For many players, breaking 100, 90, or 80 is a worthy milestone. For beginners, it may be 120 or higher. The NGF says if you are a bogey golfer you’re better than almost two thirds of all golfers. Only one in ten golfers breaks 80 with any regularity. Shooting par or breaking 70 is a sign of real excellence.

The handicap system and why shooting your handicap is a good score

Interestingly, the United States Golf Association shies away from saying anything about average scores. The USGA uses the World Handicap System to level the playing field for all golfers and allow for a more accurate comparison of playing abilities. To get a handicap you must be a member of an authorized club, play by the rules and sign for your scores, so not surprisingly only about ten percent of all golfers in the U.S. have an official handicap.

The average USGA handicap index is 14.0 for men and 28.0 for women players. On an average-difficulty, par-72 course played under normal conditions, these average men and women players would score roughly 86 and 100 when shooting their handicap. For “new golfers”—those who have established a handicap within the past 365 days (so they aren’t likely to be beginner golfers)—the average handicap index is 15.2 for men and 31.2 for women.

The lower the handicap, the better the player, until you get to a 0.0 handicap player (known as a scratch golfer). Scratch golfers have the potential to shoot par any time they play. When you are an even better player than a scratch golfer, you have a “+” handicap index.

Tour pros typically sport handicap indexes of +5.5 or better. (They are unofficial because the pros aren’t logging in scores or seeking USGA handicaps.) Scottie Scheffler’s handicap index would be well over +8.5 this year. In his heyday, Tiger Woods went a couple of seasons with essentially a +10 handicap index.

Keep in mind your handicap index is a representation of your demonstrated golfing ability and an indication of your potential more so than what you are expected to shoot. The calculations for a handicap index are based on the average of the 8 best scores from your 20 most recent rounds. So, your bad days get thrown out.

According to the USGA, “a player should expect to play to their handicap about 15-20% of the time and expect to shoot about 2-4 strokes higher.” This means that if you have a day where you play to your handicap index, you’ve shot a good golf score.

Average scores for various segments of golfers

Now let’s look at golf scoring averages among different populations in the golf world.

Professional tour players

PGA Tour (as of week ending 4-15-2024):

  • Average Score: 71.43
  • Korn Ferry Tour (as of week ending 4-15-2024):
    • Average Score: 70.89
  • LPGA Tour (2023 season):
    • Average Score: 71.5

It’s a fact–On the PGA TOUR, if a player were to shoot even par every round he would miss most tournament cuts and additionally very likely would lose his Tour card at the end of the season.

Club professionals–how good are your home club’s pros?

Remember during the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill when Michael Block, the longtime club pro at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club, stayed in contention for most of the tournament? Block’s ability to hang with golf’s big boys was unexpected and begs the question–How good are your run-of-the-mill club professionals?

A full PGA of America member must pass the 36-hole Player Ability Test. The pro must shoot no worse than +15 stokes above the course rating for the entire competition. So if the course rating is 72, they would need to shoot 159 or better for the two rounds. Any passing score is considered a good golf score for a club pro. According to the PGA, less than 20 precent of those taking the Player Ability Test pass it.

Collegiate players

How good do you have to be to play on a collegiate golf team? This question is especially pertinent to rising junior golfers and their parents. According to NCSA College Recruiting, schools recruit golfers who consistently score within specific ranges.

Men’s Collegiate Golf

Division I: be capable of shooting 70 to 75 on 6,700-yard courses.

Division II: be capable of shooting 80 or lower on 6,600-yard courses. Some schools only recruit players who regularly shoot 75 or below.

Women’s Collegiate Golf

Division I: Target score is 75 to 80 on 6,000-yard or longer courses.

Division III and NAIA: Depending on the school, recruiters look for players who can score from 80 and below all the way up to 95.

Average golf scores by age

A look at recent golf participation research shows that scores average between 90 and 94 for players from age 20 to 70+. Players age 20-30 (89.7) are two strokes more proficient than those 30-40 (91.7).

The interesting flexion point is that scores improve for players 40-50 years old (91.5). The improvement in scoring is even better among those 50-60 (91.0) and 60-70 (91.0). This could be due to a number of factors. These older golfers likely have more time to devote to the sport so they can practice and play more frequently.

When players get into their 70s and beyond, scores rise rather significantly (93.2). Doubtless this is doubtless a reflection of slower swing speeds, loss of distance, and other age-related constraints.

What is a good score or bad score for you?

Ultimately, you get to decide what standard you want to use to judge your golf game. If you establish a handicap index, you can see how your playing level compares to your fellow golfers anywhere in the world, and you can evaluate your own play based on whether your handicap goes up or down. Handicap indexes range up to 54, providing an opportunity for players of all skill levels to compete on equal footing.

Of course, for those who strive to be the best golfer they can be–for instance, a scratch golfer or an elite competitive player–only the highest standards will do. Golfers’ journeys are arduous when scores truly matter. Consistent effort or even raw talent, may not cut it. These players must be able to manage intense pressure. Conversely, for others, the appeal of golf has nothing to do with competition. And yet, even the most casual player feels good about hitting a pure shot or shooting a good golf score. Trying to improve is one of the reasons we all keep playing.

A proven strategy for improvement

Average golfers repeat their swing flaws over and over again. Taking lessons is a ticket to lower scores, as instructors can provide structured guidance and personalized feedback to address your weaknesses. A qualified golf instructor analyzes your swing mechanics, short game technique, and course management skills to identify areas for improvement.

Beginners who start lessons early can avoid forming bad habits. When you start practicing what you learned in your lessons, lower scores on the course will follow.

Practice, practice, practice

Regular practice is widely recognized as the most effective way for golfers to improve their skills and achieve better results on the course. Practicing regularly—especially in conjunction with lessons—can lead to more consistent ball striking and shot execution. Working on the basics–especially your putting and wedge game–and building a solid foundation on the range will help you score better on the course and lower your handicap.

Mange Your Mental Game

Do you loose focus when playing? Can you manage your emotions when you hit a poor shot or play a hole poorly? Golf lessons often include instruction on mental strategies, such as focus and visualization, which can help you stay composed under pressure and perform better during rounds. Practicing positive thinking also helps your performance on the course.

Get custom-fitted clubs

Playing with the right clubs can help your scoring. Custom-fitted clubs are designed to match your individual swing characteristics. You will hit the ball more consistently, accurately and with greater distance control.

Use Data to Your Advantage

Having data about your swing, your ball flight, your putting stroke and overall tendencies in the game can be a huge help is scoring. Trackman technology, simulators, and other analytic tools not only provide feedback that can help you achieve more consistency, they can also provide practice programs tailored to your needs.

Even basic data—like knowing that almost everyone overestimates how far they carry their shots or understanding that approach shots come up short much more than than they go long—can help you when you are playing a hole.

Avoid penalty strokes

Penalties elevate your score in a hurry. If you hit out of bounds, into a hazard, or lose your ball regularly, you’re automatically suffering at least a one stroke penalty and often distance as well. Make prudent club selections and try to play away from trouble. When you mess up, don’t reenact Tin Cup.

Learn the Rules of Golf

Okay, even the pros can be clueless when it comes to understanding golf’s rules. Nonetheless, a little knowledge can go a long way during competitive rounds. Not only will you avoid incurring penalties because of your ignorance of rules violations, but understanding rules options can minimize the impact of penalties and put you in a better position to save strokes.

Simple Tips to Score Better

Here are a few things to do to score better on the course, and they don’t require any additional playing skill at all.

Play easier courses that suit your game

Some courses are flat out harder than others. The course rating and slope rating on a scorecard provide indications of the course difficulty for scratch and bogey golfers under normal conditions. Depending on your ability to aim shots and control your ball flight, steer clear of courses with tight, tree-lined fairways, or a multitude bunkers, or, if water freaks you out, courses with lots of water in play.

Tee it forward

All the data shows that most golfers play from yardages where they’re overmatched. When you tee it forward, you’ll have shorter and easier shots into the green. The National Golf Foundation notes that golfers who move up a tee box or two reported improved scores and having more fun during their round.

Play in favorable weather conditions

The difficulty level of the game rises in trying weather conditions. While golf’s handicap system provides allowance when conditions aren’t normal, we’re trying to help you score better. By avoiding rainy, windy, cold, and excessively hot and humid conditions and only playing when it’s nice, you’ll have a better chance of shooting a good score. In case the weather changes during your round, make sure you have gear that can buffer you from the elements.  

Choose a course with a brisk pace of play

Slow play is a curse in our game, sapping enjoyment and scoring. You loose your rhythm when you wait in the fairway on every hole. Data shows that scores rise consistently the longer a round takes to complete. When your round is brisk, you have a better chance of shooting a good golf score.

Conclusion–Even as average scores hold steady, there’s a lot you can do to shoot a better score

While the average golf score is in the 94 to 100 range and holding pretty steady, what constitutes a good golf score depends on who’s playing. Tour pros are miles ahead of the average golfer. Everyone can take heart, though, that real improvement in scoring is possible. Whether you begin taking lessons or practicing regularly or simply try some of the above tips that require no skill at all, better scoring is within reach. Improve your average score using the GolfNow Compete app on iOS and Android, the only way to turn any round of golf into a fun competition.

Questions Users Ask:

How many people can break 100 in golf? A little over 50 percent.

How many golfers can break 90? Less than 40 percent.

How many golfers can break 80? About 1 in 10.

What is a standard score in golf? Even par. It takes a high skill level to reach that standard.

What do pros shoot on 18 holes? They average better than par.

What is a poor score in golf? It totally depends on who is playing.

Is there a max score per hole in golf? No, but if you register a score for your handicap index, the max per hole is a net double bogey.

Comments are closed.