Back in the mid 90’s, I read an article that said golfers were not getting better despite the advances in equipment design, instruction and course condition. Well, that data has either been wrong all along or has changed dramatically over the last 25 years. Recent studies answer the age old questions “Are golfers finally improving?” Thanks to Mike Stachura of Golf Digest for providing this significant insight!
Golfers are better than they were 25 years ago. It’s not just theory, it’s fact. Forgetting for a moment who among you is sandbagging and who’s toting around a vanity handicap, the data on handicaps from the U.S. Golf Association makes one thing clear: Golfers not only are getting better, they may be getting better at their sport than any other group of athletes are getting at theirs.
This bold statement isn’t originally mine. I was having an email exchange with former USGA Senior Technical Director Dick Rugge, when listening to the recent Hot List podcast. When there was a suggestion that golfers really haven’t improved despite all the advances in technology, Rugge, who often talked about the subject of handicap trends during his tenure at the USGA, told me about some handicap data that suggested just the opposite.
A quick call to the USGA confirmed that very fact. In the last 25 years, the average USGA handicap for a man has improved nearly two full strokes, from 16.3 to 14.4. For women, the improvement is no less impressive, dropping from 29.7 in 1991 to 26.1 in 2016.