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Front 9 vs Back 9 Scoring Performance [Data Study]

Many golfers say they struggle to play a full 18 holes of solid golf. A common complaint is a poor back 9 performance, but what does the data say?

Here we look at front 9 vs back 9 scoring for golfers by handicap. We then look at how to analyse your own performance and share ways to improve your scoring.

Stats on golfers’ front 9 vs back 9 scoring

Below is a table showing front and back 9 scoring data broken down by handicap, thanks to Shot Scope.

HandicapFront 9Back 9
Average score to par for front 9 and back 9 by handicap level via Shot Scope.

As the data suggests, on average, golfers perform marginally better on the back 9 compared to the front 9. There is also a small trend that higher handicappers tend to improve by a larger margin on the back 9 compared to lower handicap golfers.

Interestingly, most golfers feel the opposite is true – they struggle to keep a round going for 18 holes, often blowing up on the back 9.

Let’s consider why.

Painful memories

Natural variance in performance will result in many golfers playing well on the front 9 and poorly on the back 9. However, the reverse is also true, where golfers start a round poorly, but save a shocker of a round turning it into an average performance.

Interestingly, starting well and then losing an opportunity for a great score serves as a more painful memory. These situations that evoke an emotional response are far more likely to be remembered than the poor rounds that turned into an average round.

From this perspective, golfers might just store more vivid memories of poor back 9 performances and as a result, consider themselves to blow up more frequently.

How To Analyse Your Scoring?

If you are interested in your own tendencies, you can simply check out your last 5 to 10 rounds of front 9 and back 9 scoring compared to par and check them against the table above. If you are a member of a golf club, most competition software does this for you.

If you want to take this a level further, compare your data to the average scores at your own golf club, as you might be at a course that has a particularly hard front or back 9.

How to improve your scoring

Most golfers think of making swing changes to improve their handicap, but this type of analysis can provide some really easy ways to help you shoot lower scores.

Improving Poor front 9 scoring

The reason I feel we see the data above is that, in general, golfers are very bad at warming up. Resulting in many miss hit shots and poor scoring on the first few holes. Here is a guide on how to warm up before your golf round.

As this article above explains, a warm up is partly about getting your body ready to swing a golf club, but also about gaining a clear idea of your swing cues for each part of your game and understanding where your golf ball is going on that day.

This helps you pick better targets and provides a clearer focus over every golf shot you hit.

Poor back 9 scoring

If you struggle with poor back 9 scores you should look at your levels of focus and patterns of thought on the back 9 compared to the front 9. You should also consider your nutrition and hydration before and during your round.

Having snacks every 3-4 holes, with a low glycemic index (think nuts, bananas, a sandwich) is a great way to ensure your energy levels stay consistent. If you want to test your hydration levels you can weigh yourself pre and post-round and work out your fluid loss (post-round weight – pre-round weight = weight loss).

This is probably too extreme for most golfers, but doing this 2-3 times can give you some great insight into how to improve your dietary habits and performance going forward.

Why is playing well for 18 holes so tough?

One of the beautiful features of golf is that beginner golfers can execute many (not all) of the shots elite pros can hit. This is a function of the high variance we see in golf – golfer bob around their average score, but they can string together golf holes that raise them to dizzying heights and a run of golf holes that makes them vow to quit the game.

This natural variance never goes away, you can see an example of this fact with this data from an elite pro.

So the next time you mess up on the back 9, consider this – did you actually mess up? Or was it due to the natural variance all golfers experience and the Hot Hand Fallacy?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey into front and back 9 scoring, along with some tips on how to improve both.

If you would like more articles like this one, join the free weekly Golf Insider newsletter for tips on how to improve your practice and shoot better scores.

Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider

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Will Shaw, PhD, MSc, PGA Pro

Will is a PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. He spent 10 years lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds in Biomechanics and Motor Control before becoming the Head of Golf for the University of Exeter. He currently runs Golf Insider UK, Sport Science Insider around wider consulting and academic roles in sport performance and motor control.

1 thought on “Front 9 vs Back 9 Scoring Performance [Data Study]”

  1. Very interesting article ..On my local course my back 9 is worse than front 9 over the last 2 years including current ..current season 3.4 worse last season 3.2 , 2 before that approx. the same …Back 9 is slightly higher rating 35.7 against 34.1
    Interestingly however (or not) my Eclectic score is much better on back 9 birdied 8 out of 9 against 4 out of 9 on the front 9 – This is over the last 4 seasons including the current one.


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