What Is a Good Golf Score?

Like in virtually all sports, golf players have been improving over the years compared to when the game was first created. Since 1991, handicaps have dropped by two strokes for men and almost four strokes for women in the United States.

However, unlike most sports, your primary opponent in golf is yourself. To improve, you need to be aware of your level, especially if you’re playing in tournaments where your score will be compared to other players’ scores.

Scores essentially boil down to pars. Scores at par are average, below par are good, and above par are bad. But the devil is in the details, so read on to learn about golf scores with respect to different age groups. 

The Short Answer

Golf is a complex sport. Factors such as age and handicap affect your expected average. 

Kids and teenagers usually score the highest scores, so their averages can be as high as 180 strokes for an 18-hole course. 

Adults aged 20-30 have the best averages with 89-90 strokes, though the difference between them and their older peers is only a minimal four strokes.

What Are the Average Golf Scores and Handicaps? (18 Holes)

Scores

The National Golf Foundation found that amateur golfers playing on an 18-hole, 72-par course score, on average, 95.7 strokes for men and 107 strokes for women.

Obviously, the pros score much lower, with PGA Tour players scoring 70.98 strokes and LPGA Tour players scoring 71.7 strokes, on average.

Handicaps

The USGA published its handicap index statistics report in late 2020. They found that the average handicap index is 14.2 for men and 27.5 for women.

The Reality of It

It’s important to remember that the above-mentioned averages are just the ones reported and may not be fully reflective of reality. So, it’s not really wise to compare yourself to said stats. 

Most golf players in the United States don’t register their scores to the National Golf Foundation or their handicaps to the USGA. Therefore, many believe that most amateur male players score closer to 100 strokes.

Some speculate the actual numbers for 18 holes are around 100 strokes for men and 115 strokes for women, which seems a bit more believable considering the large population that plays golf. 

So, if you find yourself around these ranges, then you’re likely placing in the average range.

What About 9-Hole Courses?

Sometimes there’s just no time to play an 18-hole course. That’s where 9-hole courses come into play.

9-hole courses can be all par three holes, with some holes offering a potential hole-in-one. It takes much less time than 18-hole courses and is perfect for beginners learning the game or amateurs looking for a quick game.

Scores on 9-hole courses average between 40 and 70 strokes, though, usually, it’s only pros who go under 50, whereas amateur players will be closer to the 50-60 strokes mark.

Golf Scores by Age

Age does matter when considering golf averages.

Children lack vital skills such as the strength and coordination required to play as well as adults, giving them an obvious disadvantage. They score 144-180, on average, or about 8 to 10 strokes per hole.

Teenagers are often still getting into the game and have yet to develop the skills and acquire the experience required to compete with their older peers. However, there can be many prodigies competing with adults. Therefore, their average scores massively range between 89 and 180 strokes.

For players older than 20, the difference isn’t really stark. Adults under 30 have the best averages, but they’re still only about 2-5 strokes lower than senior competitors.

Golf is perhaps the only sport where people can still compete well into their 50s, 60s, and even 70s. After all, golf is a slow, calm game and the experience you build up over decades gives you a boost in performance.

However, if you’re a younger player, then it’s easier to reach the top level. While younger, your brain is still able to learn new things, adapt, and change much quicker and more flexibly than middle-aged and senior players.

The following table represents the average scores for an 18-hole course for different age groups, assuming the total par is 72 and no handicap is given.

Age Range Average Score (18 holes)
Under 13 years old 144-180 strokes
13-19 years old 89-180 strokes
20-29 years old 89-90 strokes
30-49 years old 91-92 strokes
50-70 years old 91 strokes
Over 70 years old 93-94 strokes

Your Handicap Matters!

A good score is relative. The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” fits here, as a pro golfer scoring 90 in 18 holes would be ashamed and will try to forget it, but an amateur scoring that low could be setting a new personal record.

Handicaps are calculated by averaging your best 8 scores out of your last 20. Because of this methodology, players score higher than their handicap on average and only sometimes score at or below their handicap.

Therefore, I recommend you play at your handicap as scoring around it’d be considered a good score for you.

Factors That Affect Your Performance

Reading about average scores for your age range can give you a very general idea of how well you’re doing, but it’s not all so black and white!

Many factors play a role in affecting your performance and your expected average, and it’s not just a matter of your age, so let’s go over them.

Age

As we’ve discussed above, age plays some part in determining average scores.

Kids usually perform at a “humble” level due to their undeveloped strength, untrained coordination, and lack of experience. 

Teenagers also often perform at a lower level than adults due to their inexperience, but there can be some prodigies that impress the golf world.

On the other hand, almost all adult age groups perform similarly to one another, with adults under 30 scoring the best averages.

Experience

Golf may be easy to pick up. Anyone can learn to strike a golf ball enough times until it inevitably falls into the hole. But minimizing the number of strokes is the most challenging part.

You can’t swing too hard or too light, you have to aim well, and you need to avoid hurdles in the way. I’d say coordination is what matters the most when you consider these points.

As you play the game more, you gain more experience, and these aspects become intuitive. You start to get a feel for the course, your golf posture becomes innate, and you can take accurate shots as your technique becomes more of a sixth sense.

Experience is perhaps the most crucial factor when determining golf performance, and the only way to gain it is through play and practice.

Equipment and Technique

There’s a reason players are allowed up to 14 golf clubs in a game.

There are different parts to the club that affect your shot. It’s recommended that you understand what each club is used for and use it accordingly. 

But equipment is only half the equation, and how you handle your club is the other half! Golf technique is a standalone science by itself. There are seven major elements in golf technique that golfers call the seven impact factors/laws. Let’s go over them.

Clubface Direction

This is the most critical factor of all seven. When hitting the ball, your clubface is either open, closed, or square.

A square clubface is what you should aim for. It’s achieved when the clubface is between the open and closed directions and is the most accurate of the three directions.

Club Speed

This affects your shot’s distance more than anything. Pros are able to hit farther away shots because they swing about 50% faster than amateur golfers.

Club Path

Club path ties closely with the face direction. By adjusting your club’s path during a swing, you’re essentially aiming for which direction your ball is going.

Angle of Attack

This refers to whether your clubface is rising or falling vertically. Hitting while falling decreases your shot’s distance efficiency and vice versa.

Dynamic Loft

This is the amount of loft on the clubface during contact with the ball and is affected mainly by the clubface’s vertical angle to the ball’s center. Dynamic loft, alongside impact location, affects the ball’s height.

Ground Contact

Most pro golfers hit the ball first, then the ground, while most amateurs do the opposite. Hitting the ground first slows your club speed and lowers the distance.

Final Thoughts

A good golf score is relative and will differ based on a number of factors. Assuming no handicap, most amateur adult golfers score in the 89-94 range in an 18-hole course or 50-60 strokes in a 9-hole course.

Remember that scoring at your handicap is good! Most people score higher than their handicap on average, so if you score at or below yours, you’re doing good.

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