Lou Stagner's Newsletter #29

Skill Differences Between Different Handicaps

Lou Stagner Golf: Banner

A big thank you to our sponsors who keep this newsletter free to the reader:

Today’s newsletter is brought to you by Arccos Golf.

The huge sale they have been running is only live through Sunday 10/1/2023 at midnight. Act now for a great deal!

Get started here.

Skill Differences

The skill difference between a 10 index and a 5 index is 5 shots.

How much of that 5 shot difference is from:

  • Driver?

  • Irons?

  • Short game?

  • Putting?

What about the skill gap between a 15 index and 10 index, or a 5 index and a scratch player?

The table below outlines how much each area of the game contributes to making the jump to the next skill level. Please note these numbers are for the “typical” player at that skill level (more about that later).

For example, if you are a 5 index that wants to make the jump to a scratch player, you need to get better by 5 shots. The “typical” 5 index will achieve 32% of that improvement from the driver (off-the-tee).


  • As players move from high handicappers to scratch players:

    • The contribution of putting stays relatively consistent.

    • The contribution of around-the-green (ARG) becomes “less important” as players get better.

    • Approach (APP) stays relatively consistent.

    • Off-the-tee (OTT) becomes “more important” as players get better.

Not Everyone is “Typical”

Reminder that the numbers above represent the “typical” player at each skill level. Everyone is NOT typical!

For each handicap index, there is a big difference between the best players and the worst players for each skill category. Said another way, you can have a 10 index player that putts like the typical scratch, and another 10 index player that putts like the typical 22 index.

The table below is the skill difference between the best 10% and worst 10% of players at that handicap index. The skill difference compares average strokes gained per round for a given category.

For example, let’s look at scratch players. When you look at the top 10% of scratch players with the driver, they are 3.14 strokes better per round than the worst 10% of scratch players with the driver (top left box in the table).

Look at the difference between the best putters compared to the worst putters for each skill level. It’s 4.28 strokes per round for scratch players and 7.61 strokes per round for 20 index players!

When you look at 20 index players, the best 20 index putters are 7.61 shots better per round at putting than the worst 20 index putters (bottom right box).

My Thoughts

Knowing nothing else about you, I would say if you want to improve, you need to become a better ball striker. That is where you will likely achieve most of your gains.

But as you can see, everyone is different. We have players at every skill level that are either much better, or much worse, at a given part of the game relative to their handicap index.

Default advice does not apply to every player. For example, there are some 10 index players that are horrible putters compared to the typical 10 index. These players should first spend time on their putting.

This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to track your stats so you know exactly what parts of the game YOU need to work on.


  • If you want to advertise your business to the 28,000+ readers of this newsletter, get more info here.

  • Read all past newsletters here.

  • Check out my podcast: Hack it Out Golf

  • If you have an idea for a future issue, or any feedback, submit it here.

    Have a great week!

Lou Stagner