If you believe all the marketing hype, today’s equipment makes it easier to play better golf and score lower. Massive heads on drivers, lightweight graphite shafts, perimeter weighting/progressive hybrid designs in iron sets, and milled-face putters are available to anyone who wants to pay the price. Has this advance in technology improved the average golfers’ scores?
The average 18-hole score for the average golfer remains at about 100, as it has for decades, according to the National Golf Foundation, an industry research-and-consulting service. Among more serious recreational golfers who register their scores with the U.S. Golf Association, the average handicap index, a scoring tool, has dropped 0.5 strokes since 2000. On the PGA Tour this year, the average score of players has risen, by 0.28 strokes, compared with 10 years ago.
Golf is a terribly difficult game that requires hours and hours of practice and dedication to master. However, great golfers throughout history have been able to post low scores without benefit of the new technology. As mentioned in Herbert Warren Wind’s The Story of American Golf:
The Twenties produced some remarkable bursts of scoring, though, like today, most of the sacrilegious sixties were fashioned in tournaments other than the major championships. There were the brilliant rounds: Hagen’s 62 at Bellair in the West Florida Championship…Leo Diegel’s 65 on a bitter cold day at Moortown in 1929 in the second Ryder Cup Match…The two 66’s young Horton Smith put together in winning the French Open… A 67 and 68 by George Voigt in consecutive rounds on long, tree-lined Pinehurst #2…Hagen’s 59 on a short course in Switzerland…Harry Cooper’s 60 on a course measuring 6,100 yards… Leo Diegel’s informal 29 at Columbia when he was betting that he could break 30… Willie Klein’s out-of-this-world finish in the Shawnee Open of ’25; the young assistant pro from Garden City needed a 29 on the last nine to tie for first place, and played in 3-4-2-4-4-3-3-4-2 – 29.
Moral of the story: Golf is difficult, but golfers throughout history have found ways to play their best, regardless of equipment and course conditions. Tee it up and have fun!