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iacas

Male Scratch Golfer on the LPGA Tour

516 posts in this topic

Stina Sternberg said in Golf Digest a month or two ago that a male 4 handicapper who hits the ball a long way still wouldn't beat anyone on the LPGA Tour. I tend to agree, though not necessarily for the reasons she stated ("pressure" was one of 'em).

I think there's a HUGE difference between a 4 handicapper and a scratch golfer, and I've long believed (though not by a big margin) this: a scratch golfer who established his handicap playing on a reasonably good golf course (no wide open munis with flat, slow greens, two bunkers, and rough a half an inch higher than the fairway) could "keep his card" on the LPGA Tour.

Now, that's not to say the guy's gonna win anything. I don't even think his name would show up on any leaderboards. Ever. But I've attended a fair number of LPGA Tour events, and I've played with a fair number of scratch golfers. It seems like most weeks on the LPGA Tour, though the leader might have shot -8 or -10 through two rounds, the cut still comes at +4 or so. I think the average scratch golfer - a well-rounded player who got there on a reasonable course, remember - would make a lot of cuts, finish in the top 50 half the time he did, and keep his LPGA card (I'm assuming that if you make 75% of the cuts you keep your card).

I think the LPGA's normal setups would be shorter than what the guy's used to. As a guy, he'd have a distance advantage. Women play courses that top out at about 6500, sometimes 6600 yards. The guy could hit 3W and still be out there with a lot of the women, and the extra club or two less he'd have in from there would help again.

Paula Creamer flew a ball into a bunker at the U.S. Women's Open 40 yards short of a hole 250 yards from the tee! The vast majority lay up on any par five over 475 yards. Some of 'em play 370 yard holes with a driver and a mid-iron.

In general, LPGA courses aren't set up very difficult. The flags are rarely tucked, the fairways aren't narrowed, and the greens aren't lightning fast. Simply put: a lot of LPGA courses aren't set up all that differently than they are for the club's member-guests, except that the tees are moved up. The clubs aren't paid a lot to give up their course for a few weeks, so they don't make big setup changes like you'll sometimes see on the PGA Tour. They're basically playing the local country clubs.

I think the numbers kind of back me up here as well. The blacks at Lake View, for example, are rated at 72.3, so your scratch golfer is gonna shoot about 73, maybe 74. That's a 6770 yard course. What's an average LPGA Tour pro? A +4 or +5 like on the PGA Tour? But that's a women's handicap index, and I could see Lake View being a 77.2 or so for a woman from the black tees. Or to flip it around, what would the scratch rating be for a man playing most LPGA Tour courses from the tees they use? About 69.8? 70.4? That's under par, or really close to it, so even if the guy shoots two "high" rounds for him of 72/72 to finish two rounds at even par he might be making the cut.

I've seen women putt. I've seen their short games. I'm not terribly impressed. Again, not talking about top-tier players - Annika really began dominating when she took some short game lessons and learned some new shots from Tiger. I'm talking about the rest. I saw as many three-putts at the last LPGA event I attended as I saw one-putts... including scrambling attempts. And the greens weren't tricky OR fast. And you rarely see more than two or three basic kinds of short game shots.

I'm unimpressed with the average LPGA player's distance. I think an average scratch golfer hits his 3W farther than the shorter hitters hit their drivers. I think his irons are a club or two longer. If he chooses to hit driver, he's out there with or beyond some of the longer hitters on the LPGA.

I am impressed with the consistency of the LPGA players. They rarely hit the ball crooked... but I think the guy's length advantage could help here. If he can hit 3W the majority of the time, and less clubs into greens with a smoother swing, I think he too could be awfully consistent.

LPGA players play in front of crowds, so I'm assuming that the hypothetical "scratch guy"in this scenario isn't a head case and that he can play his normal game with TV cameras and people watching. Some guys can do that, others can't.

Lake View has hosted the PA State Amateur (men) a few times. Pros like Arnie and Lee and Gary Player used to play it back in the day... then it became a Nationwide Tour stop (the one John Daly won a few weeks before winning the PGA in 1991) that was played at Kahkwa (where the women played the U.S. Women's Am a few years ago, 2004 I think) and then eventually at Peak 'n Peek. So that's my idea of a "reasonably good golf course." If LV's greens get below 11 members complain, the fairways are 22 yards wide (one is 17, on a par five no less where you tend to want to hit driver), the rough isn't super long but the ball never stays up on top, the greens are sloped quite a bit, and there are plenty of bunkers and trees right along the edge of the fairway, and so on.

I've long said that given a week of decent weather beforehand, Lake View could host a U.S. Women's Open from a combination of the blue and black tees any time of the year without changing anything. The greens would be fast, and some of the gals would shoot 68 while others would shoot 82.

More: The mid-am in Erie was hosted at Kahkwa two years ago. The top five scores were under par for two rounds, and only one of the guys had a + handicap (and it was just +0.2). The rest were really close to scratch (up to a 1.1 I think). Those scores compared really favorably to the girls playing in the U.S. Women's Am. The gap between the top ams and top pros is huge, but the gap between the top ams and the lower-tier members of the LPGA is a bit less so.

And that doesn't even take into consideration the possibility that, playing every day, with a caddie, and practicing more, that the scratch golfer could essentially become a +1 or a +2 as the year progressed.

What do you think? Now, again, I'm not even 70% convinced the scratch golfer could "keep his LPGA card" - but I definitely lean that way at least a little - 60/40 maybe. And again, no way the guy competes with the top 50 or so on the LPGA, but against the gals below that level, well... right now I think he's got a shot.

What do you think?
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I think that you still got to be able to shoot under par in tournament conditions, no easy feat.
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If the scratch golfer gets to hit from the ladies tees.. sure he could win :)
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What i've noticed with the LPGA is that the top player's skill level is outstanding and would, as you said, out do a scratch male golfer. However the thing i also noticed is there is a very steep cut off. Usually there will be 5 women fighting for the win, 10 women fighting for the other spots and then 40 women completely off pace shooting quiet a few strokes over par. I think a male scartch player could hold his own on the tour. Not winning any major events but possibly getting some top 20's here and there.
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I think that you still got to be able to shoot under par in tournament conditions, no easy feat.

The tournament tees at a lot of courses would have a course rating of under par for men, and again, "tournament conditions" on the LPGA aren't very different from how a lot of country clubs are set up for daily play. Some setups might even be a tad easier - one of the guys at Lake View loves to set some awfully tough pins on Wednesdays.

If the scratch golfer gets to hit from the ladies tees.. sure he could win :)

Yeah, the LPGA events are played not from the women's tees but often up from the blue or black men's tees. Again, the course rating could be 69.0 to 71.0, which would make it under par at a lot of places.

Look, I'm hoping for some reasonable discussion here. One-sentence replies that ignore a good portion of what I already wrote are a bit disappointing.
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Im with you on this one i think a male scrath golfer could keep his card.i mean he could more than likeley reach all par 5's in 2 so lets say he birdies two a day thats two under the long 170 yd par three's are going to be like a 7 iron so say hes 1 under and on the par 4 hes even.thats 3 under a day and 12 under for a tournement im saying a male scratch golfer could not only keep his card but win a tournement.
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The tournament tees at a lot of courses would have a course rating of under par for men, and again, "tournament conditions" on the LPGA aren't very different from how a lot of country clubs are set up for daily play. Some setups might even be a tad easier - one of the guys at Lake View loves to set some awfully tough pins on Wednesdays.

Agreed on the one sentence replies! I hate those. But back to the point, the deciding factor for me is just watching the tours on tv. When the men play, im amazed by the outstanding ball placement and precision of the players. Its like watching an amazing shot, after shot, after shot. With the women, there are quiet a few good shots but sometimes i'm caught saying to myself, i coulda done that. Maybe its just me but the women look far more "human" compared to the superhero golfers on the men's PGA tour. That's why i say a scratch male could hold his own amongst the women.
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For the sake of better discussion I'll add this:

Someone above mentioned that unlike the competition on PGA tour, the LPGA tour has a huge range of skill level. I agree with this and would also like to include that although I don't necessarily follow the LPGA I'm pretty sure most of the top ladies are under the age of 28 or so and are either new to the tour or have been on the radar since before they graduated from highschool. Now I don't know if that means that the LPGA will always be ruled by the younger golfers or if this new generation will continue to dominate as they reach their early to mid 30's but i think it's safe to say that they are, at least for now, on a whole other level than the older women on tour. Of course the difficulty of the course would be an issue for a male scratch golfer, but I think that if forced to practice and play those types of courses on a weekly basis the scratch golfer would be able to improve or at least modify his game to better fit the course in less than one season. Like Iacas mentioned, the par 4's are often played with a driver and then a long iron into the green... I'm nowhere near a scratch golfer, but I can consistently play a 380 par 4 with driver followed by a wedge or short iron at most or even 3wood and then a short or mid iron. Sure the greens are faster than your average golf course, and there are more bunkers, more difficult rough, overall just a higher level of play is required but I'm confident a scratch golfer would at least be top20 on the LPGA.
Agreed on the one sentence replies! I hate those. But back to the point, the deciding factor for me is just watching the tours on tv. When the men play, im amazed by the outstanding ball placement and precision of the players.

I completely agree. I know that it's probably not true that average golfers like you and me could hit some of those "average" shots we see on the LPGA tour but the point here (to me at least) is this: PGA Tour shots just seem so so so so far out of reach.. like an above average PGA shot (for example something like putting a 200 yard approach shot to within 12 feet) is something that I would attempt to do but if i succeeded it would be more luck than anything else. Lets not forget that the scratch golfer might not have the benefit of walking every course they play to figure out exact yardages, definitely doesn't have a caddy to help them read putts, decide on what club to hit, what shot to hit, where to aim, help keep emotions in check, remember that when the adrenaline is high the ball might go 15 yards farther than usual (kind of like what stevie does for tiger), carry his bag, bring whatever club he needs, wash his balls (no pun intended), and do all the other little things that could get a player out of rhythm throughout a round. Sure there will be pressure from the fans, cameras, media and whatever else, but there is also a real prize and many more benefits.. big purses, sometimes cars, sponsorships, endorsements, getting to practice with real balls instead of crappy range balls...
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I think Stina Sternberg's point about pressure is a valid one. Ok, a scratch player is probably a pretty cool customer on the golf course, but when the heat is really on and he's playing golf to make a living, then it's a ton more pressure - especially with galleries and TV cameras.

I think a key point, as you mention, is consistency. Most of the ladies have swings like clockwork and hardly ever get into trouble - so this could negate some of the distance advantage Mr Scratch has. I just believe a player, be it a man or a woman, who is playing for a living will be much sharper and confident in their game than any amateur.

Perhaps if Mr Scratch was playing / practicing full time and had a decent caddie, a swing coach & sports psychologist as part of his entourage, he'd have a much better chance of making it - given time he'd surely sharpen his game up.

I think there's no doubt that Mr Scratch would keep his card, but without the 'team' that the top players have, I doubt he'd be on the leaderboard regularly.
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I think Stina Sternberg's point about pressure is a valid one. Ok, a scratch player is probably a pretty cool customer on the golf course, but when the heat is really on and he's playing golf to make a living, then it's a ton more pressure - especially with galleries and TV cameras.

I know it's not the same as playing for a living, but when I play $5, $10, $20 or whatever a hole with my friends I definitely step my game up and play much better.
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I agree with a lot of what you say there Iacas. I think a Male Scratch Golfer may be able to make some cuts on the LPGA Tour, but I'd be very doubtful that they would ever come close to winning an event, something you alluded to.

I also believe that people overlook how good Women's professional player's short game's tend to be. They are incredible chippers and pitchers, and also great putters...at times I tend to think better than some men on the PGA Tour!
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A male scratch golfer probably could his card but I don't know what that means. A very average male boxer could probably destroy the best female boxer. Males just have such a power advantage and in golf that means a lot.

I wouldn't get too hard an LPGA member saying something like that. She's defending her sport and keeping it legit and honestly, she probably knows better than anyone here. I'm sure she has golfed with plenty of male scratch golfers and has seen it. But, as you point out, the male scratch golfer would have access to a lot of things that would help like caddies and more practice times.

I just don't think it's fair to try and marginalize their tour by saying "any male scratch golfer could golf on it". It doesn't make their tournaments any less important.

And lets give it another 20 years. I see a lot of girls with their dads at driving ranges now. So few girls were exposed to this game 20 years ago. So the girls have some catching up to do compared to male golfers. Maybe now scratch males could compete but in 20 years I'd say no. As girls get more opportunities to learn the game from a young age their overall skill will improve and you'll see leader to cut spreads narrow as there will be larger fields of competitve female golfers.
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I know it's not the same as playing for a living, but when I play $5, $10, $20 or whatever a hole with my friends I definitely step my game up and play much better.

I hear you buddy, we all do when there's a bit of money on the line!

Then again, we've just got the pressure of our friends ribbing us and a few dollars to worry about....it's a bit different when you have an 8 footer worth $??,000 or maybe you need to make it to keep your tour card, especially with thousands of people watching you. It's a different kind of pressure
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I'll chime in.

I think a man with a "real" scratch handicap, competing against a LPGA member would have a good shot, while there probably isnt much of a distance gap from a scratch golfer to a LPGA pro (top pros avg like 270 i believe) But in tournament settings? I doubt it. These lady's can stick hybrids on the green from 220yrds out. They are Pro's for a reason, they practice hours upon hours. while the typical scratch golfer has a day job.

These chicks are no joke, they can play and in no way would a scratch male golfer be able to compete in their level... Sure we could place top40 because most (like others have said) the majority are playing Bogie golf.

If you took a scratch golfer that is able to over power a course with his distance he would have an advantage over the field, but what most of these girls lack in power they make up in finesse and consistency, consistency beyond what a male scratch golfer can muster.

Then pressure, holy crap that's a different game all in its self. While LPGA doesnt hold a crowd like PGA does I still cant imagine 1st tee with 200 people watching you.

The basic of this is they are still on a different level from a typical male scratch golfer. But do I think we could compete with the lesser of the field? yes. just like the best female golfer could compete with the lesser of the PGA (and has been proven, thanks anika)

Now if you took a typical top amateur male, and stuck him in the LPGA I think he would fair well, if not win. I think that is where the level of play would equal out.

Edit* By "real" scratch golfer, what I mean is someone who plays champ type courses and doesnt play the same course every day. Its not terribly hard to play good when you know the course like the back of your wifes head (i kid i kid)
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Yes, I think the difference is the distance. If a guy is a scratch from a good golf course (and I mean a challenging course with all the skills required) then it is likely his length advantage would keep him in the pack easily on a 6500 yard course. There is a huge advantage to one or two clubs less on every approach and a good scratch who is pretty much hitting two clubs less (versus an average LPGA player) is going to have a two, three or maybe more strokes per round advantage. The par fives would routinely be birdie or eagle opportunities, and for big hitters only short iron approaches. In reality, the distance advantage off the tee and the ability to naturally hit irons further could well translate into more than a two or three club advantage.

All this is hugely dependent on the course the scratch player routinely plays. As has been pointed out, a difficult course will produce a generally higher skill level. Guys playing tough, 7000+ yard courses are going to be in the hunt so it will come down to how they are putting. Put a dozen scratch players in an LPGA event and my guess is some of them would finish in the top fifty.

There is another factor in play. The ability to win a tournament. I am assuming the scratch players have no problems and have won golf tournaments -- which means they can rise to the occasion and get hot without feeling out of their comfort zone. Let's be honest here, there are some scratch players who, with the advantage of being on a short course, would start to feel uncomfortable at 7 or 8 under par. People who win golf tournaments are special, male or female, and a lot of the ladies have already won in college, in top amateur, and pro events. It might take a special type of scratch player to take advantage of the shorter courses.

I really enjoy the ladies play on tour -- I watch all the ladies events I can on the golf channel. Other than distance (and according to the magazine referenced above, the ladies average 221 to into the 260's, maybe 270 with their drives) I would not give the scratch player much chance of placing in the top 50. In other words, a scratch from the tips would not fare nearly as well against ladies playing from their tees. The LPGA tour players are very skilled, very consistent, and have no problems scoring. But if you give a guy two or three strokes a round, almost for free, that is a tremendous boost for an already very good player. Give me a true scratch from someplace like Pine Valley (NJ), and that would be interesting to watch.
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Interesting thoughts. I tend to agree with most of the points originally mentioned. I am by no means a scratch golfer and don't claim to be (hell, i'm happy to shoot in the low 90s) so take these thoughts with a grain of salt. I've always wondered how well a scratch could compete with the LPGA.

I agree that "mr. scratch" would have no chance at competing for a tournament win. I think he would shoot over par more often than not, but occasionally turn in a round one or two under. Don't forget that if he played the tour, he would be playing different courses that he has never played before. Therefore he does not have much knowledge or experience to take with him into his round. I think this could hurt him a bit if he doesn't know the best ways to play certain holes. A lot of golfers play one or two courses the majority of the time and know them inside and out. I believe there is no doubt a golfer would play at least a couple strokes over his handicap (in this case, 0) on a tournament course that he has never played before, even if the course may not have as high of a rating. I think this is really underestimated with players on the LPGA and PGA tours. They know all these courses and have played them countless times as opposed to mr. scratch, who hasn't.

I disagree with the claim that "pressure" is a non-issue. The players on tour are used to the tournament hoopla and the cameras and all the stuff that goes on at a tournament. I'm not saying it's a huge issue for mr. scratch, but I do think it plays a role and will definitely take some getting used to.

Having said all this though, I agree with most of the assertions here. Many golfers on the LPGA do not contend at all. It's usually the 10-20 "usual suspects" dominating the top of the leaderboard while many women shoot well over par at some tournaments. Having seen the leaderboards at some events and thinking purely on numbers here, I see no reason why a scratch wouldn't be able to "compete" with the mid to lower parts of the leaderboard. he'd probably make a few cuts and miss a few cuts, but he'd definitely compete and be "one of the crowd".
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If these same "scratch" golfers could play golf full-time and have a consistent coach and caddie, then, I think one could get on some LPGA leader boards. Scratch golfers certainly have the ability to put together 4 solid rounds of golf at any given time.
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I think we all have our male colored glasses on, but I tend to agree with what everyone has posted. I tend to envison the "scratch" golfer as the guy that hits fairways, greens and 2 putts, mr consistent. I see this as a winning formula in golf on most any situation.

I don't watch much LPGA, usually just catch some of the action in majors, but I think the one point that Iacas brought up that is the most overlooked aspect of the ladies game, is their short game. I think it is the weakest part for most of them, I would guess a lot of "scratch" golfers got to that level by having a solid short game and their short game would be better then most of the field in a LPGA tournament. Off topice but that is also why I believe we are seeing a influx of Korean ladies winning, they seem to have a better short games then most of the other ladies on the LPGA.
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