Golf is the one sport in the world in which regular Joes can play on the exact same piece of land as the very best in the world on a regular basis and measure themselves against the Tour pros on the merit of their score.
Of course, there are extenuating circumstances that come with every round of golf — course conditions and setup, weather, etc. — but by and large, golfers can see how they stack up against their heroes. Another cool aspect of the game is the handicap, which assuming honesty, creates an even playing field for every skill level.
The issue, however, is that most professionals — and especially those on Tour — don’t keep official handicaps. The main reason is that they don’t need them — they’re not playing in net games on the weekend; everyone starts at the same score and you tally up the numbers after the round.
The prevailing wisdom, however, says that to be a relatively successful Tour pro, your handicap needs to be a legitimate traveling +6, which means you can show up at any course on any given day and if you play well, you’ll shoot about six shots better the USGA-certified course rating.
So, just how good are these guys? The answer is very good.
DECADE Golf, a course management and statistical analysis tool used by golfers of all skill levels, Lou Stagner, one of the statistical minds behind , calculated the handicaps of some of the best players in the world over the course of the last four years to find out the answer to one of golf’s great grille room debates: how many strokes would a Tour pro have to give you in a match?
Have you ever wondered what the USGA index would be for a PGA Tour pro if they posted scores like we do?
Yeah, me too.
Shot out to my buddy Clay Ballard (@TopSpeedGolf) for the idea.
Index of avg tour pro:
Best index achieved:
▶️ Fowler +8.4 pic.twitter.com/krYodzF7GZ
— Lou Stagner (Golf Stat Pro) (@LouStagner) May 30, 2020
Stagner took all posted rounds from the pros from 2016-2020 on PGA Tour courses and used the previous USGA handicap model (not the current World Handicap System), which pulled the 10 best differentials from the most recent 20 rounds. The course slope and rating were taken from the USGA-sanctioned ratings of the course, and they were not adjusted for PGA Tour conditions.
Digging into the numbers, the average Tour pro’s handicap hovers around a +5.4 with Rickie Fowler having achieved the best index over the last four years, getting as good as a +8.4. Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, among others, have all topped the +8 mark at some point over the last four years.
Jon Rahm, the current No. 2-ranked player in the world, has the best “worst” handicap, meaning that when he played his worst stretch of golf over the last four years, his handicap was the lowest among the Tour stars when compared, at +5.1.
Over the four-year span, Koepka, Johnson and Jordan Spieth have the best average index at 6.5, while Woods and Rahm sit just a few tenths of a stroke behind them.