Every golfer wants to break 100 at some point in their golfing career; for some, it unfortunately never happens. The thing is, it’s really not that difficult to accomplish if you have a sound strategy and are willing to tuck your pride away. I know, because this strategy worked for me.
Warning: This will be painful, and it will be tempting to abort the mission, but it will be worth it when you add up strokes at the end and break 100.
In case you haven’t been following the Starting from Scratch series on GolfWRX, I recently switched from a right-handed golfer to a left-handed golfer (yes, that means putting and chipping, too).
Why did I switch? Back and wrist injuries. Plus I liked the challenge of trying to break 100 — and now the challenge of trying to break 90.
I took my first left-handed swings with left-handed clubs on May 7, and I shot 98 on May 24. While I have the benefit of years of practice and competition under my belt as a righty, the game felt foreign with my first swings from the opposite side. I struggled terribly topping and shanking the ball, and I even whiffed once with a 6 iron!
Despite being a complete novice as a south paw, however, I broke 100 after properly preparing, practicing intelligently, and sticking to a game plan. I firmly believe that nearly anyone — at least anyone who can currently shoot below 120 or so — can break 100 using my strategy in their next round of golf.
I hope this helps get you to that magical number: 99!
Note: If you’re topping, chunking or missing the golf ball entirely on more than 20 percent of your shots, it may be best to devote your time to the range to work out how to get the ball airborne with your irons, or seek help from your local golf pro.
1) Ignore par
This is far and away the most crucial part of my strategy to breaking 100. You’re not trying to make par, you’re simply trying to avoid making big numbers.
For me, that meant trying to have no worse than a bogey putt as your first putt on any hole. We don’t need to hit risky shots to try and get a par or birdie putt, possibly leaving us plugged in a bunker or something far worse. All we need is no worse than starting with a bogey putt on every hole. Assuming we can lag putt decently well for a two putt per hole, we’ll avoid any big numbers throughout the round.
What does this mean? If you’re 200 yards out on a par 4 on your second shot, hit two 100-yard shots. Break the yardage up into two shots, rather than trying to pull off a miracle. Let’s say you’re 165 yards and there’s bunkers all around the green, or a water hazard; why not hit two sand wedges and save yourself from a big number?
Most painfully, why do you need to go for the green on every par 3? Most par 3’s offer a fairway area or somewhere to bail out; take those offerings! If the goal is just to start with no worse than a bogey putt on every hole, then hit pitching wedge off the tee on a 180-yard hole and leave yourself with a half-sand wedge approach. Maybe you’ll even roll in that 15-footer for par, easing some stress on that next double bogey putt.
2) No triple bogeys
No one ever tries to make a triple bogey, I get that. But this is about damage control and limiting mistakes.
Remember, to break 100, you can make 9 double bogeys and 9 bogeys on a par 72 course. Triple bogeys are extremely costly, and will force you to make more bogeys, or even a few pars. We’re trying to keep things realistic here, so it’s easier to avoid those triples than make miraculous pars.
How do you avoid triples after topping one off the tee or shanking it into the trees? Easy. Get it back to the fairway immediately. Don’t try to slice one around the tree or hit a fairway wood out of the rough. Just get the ball back on solid ground using the most reliable club possible.
If things start going south on a hole, just try and make solid contact on the next shot. Nothing special, just get it airborne and back in play.
3) Limit your driver
The best way to avoid extremely costly errors off the tee is to avoid hitting driver altogether, or at least on holes that could give you trouble. For me, my strategy was to use driver only on long holes that were wide open with no risk of hitting it out of bounds or into the woods. I strayed from that plan on one hole, a long par-5, but it was tight off the tee.
“The hole is long and the tee shot is difficult anyway, even with an iron, so I might as well try the driver,” I thought. Wrong decision. I topped it off the tee directly behind a tree and ended up making a 9 after compounding errors by airmailing the green on my approach shot.
When in doubt, hit iron off the tee… or the club you decide is most reliable like a hybrid or driving iron.
4) Love your irons
For my “reliable” club off the tee, I chose a 6-iron, which is the longest iron currently in my bag. I have a hybrid also, but I top that club way too often to even be an option off the tee unless it’s a risk-free tee shot.
That being the case, I was basically hitting irons all day long. Short irons, mid irons, longs irons; irons the entire round.
But that’s good, because I knew this was going to be my game plan all along, so I prepared for it. For each practice session leading up to my first round, I hit about 90 percent of the range balls using my irons. I worked simply on taking divots and getting the ball airborne. Draws.. fades.. who cares? I just wanted to learn how to compress the ball and be fairly reliable with an 8 or 9 iron. If you can reduce tops and get the ball airborne on most shots, I believe you can break 100.
4) No fairway? No green? No problem
As long as you’re between the tree line and not playing in U.S. Open rough, I would argue that it makes no difference whether you hit the fairway or not. The key is to get the ball in the fairway on your second shot, and get yourself in position to get the ball on or around the green from there.
Greens in regulation? Worrying about hitting the green and having a birdie putt will only hinder your score. You can break 100 without hitting one green in regulation, and you can shoot over 120 trying to hit every green in regulation.
Remember, the point is to have nothing worse than a bogey putt as your first putt on any hole. The point is NOT to make a bunch of birdies and pars.
5) No risks
If at any point you’re facing a shot where you think it could cost you a stroke if you don’t pull it off, just lay up! Hit the easy shot and save yourself the trouble. Taking any risks could lead to a snowball hole, and all of the sudden you make a 10 or worse. Even if you’re 150 yards from the green out of the rough, just hit the wedge and then worry about the next shot from the fairway.
Hey, I warned you. This strategy is painful, boring, and you must leave your pride at home.
6) Chipping: Ignore the pin, or putt it
Putt everything you possibly can. If there’s 10 yards of fairway ahead of you, but there’s no rough or bunkers to maneuver around, just putt it! Your worst putt is going to be better than chunking or skulling a chip shot attempt.
If you must chip the ball because you’re in the rough, aim at the fattest part of the green possible and just get it on the green. Don’t worry about the flagstick.
To break 100 you do not need to be Seve or Phil, you just need to limit the holes where you hit two, or three, or four chip shots to finally get it on the green. If you’re faced with a chip shot, simply try to get it on the green and limit any damage. Stop worrying about getting it “up-and-down.” We’re trying to break 100, not make the cut at a Tour event.
7) Lag putting
Every putt should be a lag putt. Putting when trying to break 100 is way more about avoiding three and four putts than it is about holing putts. If you have a 10 footer, make sure to worry more about speed than line. You don’t need to try and jam it through the break. Nestle it up to the hole and get yourself an easy tap in; if it goes in then that’s a bonus!
We cannot afford to have 4-5 foot comebackers all day; at some point, we will start to miss those putts and compound errors. Treat every putt as a lag putt.
8) Don’t get frustrated and bail
After making a few triple bogeys in a row, it will be incredibly easy to think “alright I need to make something happen, I need to make a few pars,” and start flailing away at the driver and hitting reckless approach shots.
Don’t do this! Stick to the plan.
Focus on staying within yourself and making solid contact on clubs that you can control. What makes you think that after two triple bogeys you can just starting swinging out of your shoes with a driver and it’s going to work? More likely, you’ll get increasingly frustrated, and probably shoot a much worse score because of it.
Remain disciplined to the plan for the entire 18 holes, and add up the score at the end.
9) Play away from hazards
This should be obvious by now, but if you see white or red stakes, or bunkers, play away from them. Each of these will lead to costly strokes and hits to the confidence.
Unless there are water hazards or bunkers or OB stakes on both sides of the fairway or green, play well away from the danger. Giving up half a stroke is better than losing a full stroke or likely more.
I’m lumping in bunkers to this group because I, for one, cannot get out of a bunker reliably as a lefty. It’s a risk for me to take on any flagstick guarded by a bunker because it’s much too easy for me to leave the ball in the bunker or completely skull it out. Therefore, I avoid bunkers at all costs.
10) Get the proper clubs for your game
This is a preparation strategy rather than an on-the-course strategy, but it’s arguably the most important.
I’ve played my whole life as a right-hander using “players irons” that have thin toplines and lack forgiveness. And I always said I hated the look of game improvement irons. But when switching to lefty, I knew I needed big-faced irons with huge toplines and wide soles. I needed irons that could get the ball in the air and help me on the inevitable mishits. I also needed wedges with huge soles and faces.
We’re trying to break 100, we’re not tour players. We must be realistic with ourselves in order to shoot the number we want. If you want to impress others with your clubs rather than breaking 100, this article was not for you.
Good luck, and here’s to breaking 100!
If you want to listen to our full podcast about the strategy to break 100, check it out on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
To watch the strategy in action, check out the video below.
Chat with a Champion: Keegan Bradley
Since bursting on the scene in 2011 as Rookie of the Year and joining a very short list of first-time winners in their major championship debut, Keegan Bradley has been part of the PGA Tour landscape for almost a decade now. It hasn’t always been an easy road for the New Englander, with some down years in 2016 and 2017. He jumped back into the winners circle in 2018 with his victory at the BMW Championship, which also propelled him to an 8th place finish in the 2018 FedEx Cup standings.
I had a chance to catch up with Keegan recently. From his early days to his love of the Ryder an Presidents Cups, we covered a bunch of topics related to his golf journey to this point.
What was your earliest memory of the game? Being your dad is a PGA Professional, I’m sure that he was an early influencer…
KB: I’ve been holding a golf club as long as I can remember. I am guessing I started swinging it around 2 years of age… I used to love going to the golf course with my dad.
When did you realize that golf was “Your Sport” over skiing? As you think back, was there something that sticks out as the biggest influence on your decision?
KB: I was probably a better skier than golfer, growing up in the Northeast. I remember one day, challenging for a title while I was in high school, standing on the top of the mountain, in the freezing cold thinking, ya, I am probably done now, golf it is. I was 16 at the time.
How much did your Aunt (Pat Bradley) play a role in your development as a player?
KB: Aunt Pat has been an unbelievable mentor for me over the years. She has had such a great influence on me and I like to think that we are both very similar. She has taught me the importance of focus and intensity. Not only in competition, but in practice.
Growing up in the Northeast (as I did) golf is very seasonal. What did you do to practice in the winter? Or did you just kind of shut it down for a few months?
KB: I didn’t play and I rarely even practiced in the winter months in the Northeast. I think it prevented me from burning out as a kid. People tell me that it was a disadvantage, I thought it was a huge help! I was on skis all winter and then couldn’t wait to get my clubs out in the spring!
What lead to your decision to attend St. Johns? How important was your College experience in your development?
KB: Honestly, at the time, I just had to go somewhere that offered me a full scholarship. Coach Darby showed belief in me and that meant a lot. Once I started having success, I got offers from bigger golf schools to transfer, but I stayed loyal to Coach, as he did to me. To this day, my best friends are the guys I played golf with during my college career. We all still hang out together today.
Obviously, a rookie year like yours must have been a dream. How did it feel to not only be Rookie of the Year in 2011 but to also join the likes of Willie Park, Sr. and Francis Ouimet as one of only 4 players in the history of the game to win in their debut in a Major?
KB: It was a complete whirlwind, I started out trying to figure out how to keep my PGA Tour card and trying to plan a schedule, to all of a sudden, becoming a PGA Tour winner and a Major Champion. Winning the PGA was beyond a dream, and to be one of only four players to win a Major at their first attempt is something I am very proud of.
I was in attendance for your win at the PGA, I’m curious what you felt was your biggest takeaway from that experience?
KB: It validated that I could play under the most intense pressure and gave me the launchpad for my career.
I was also in attendance at the Ryder Cup in Chicago. Considering the much different outcome of that experience over the win at the Atlanta Athletic Club, what were your take away from that Ryder Cup?
KB: I love team golf and it kills me when I am not on a team now, representing the USA and I can’t wait to get back there. I played some of the best golf of my life, at Medinah and the memories will last a lifetime. Playing alongside Phil, who has become a friend, as well as a mentor was inspirational.
How much do you love the team events?
KB: I love team events. The fact that we play an individual sport, but we can come together and be such a tightknit group, under a crazy amount of pressure is awesome and it is so much fun. I am going to be working very hard to play on the next USA Team!
You have become close with Michael Jordan over the years. What influence has he had on your career?
KB: MJ may be the greatest athlete of all time. I feel very privileged to call him a friend. He has been around during both the peaks and the valleys of my career and he always knows the right thing to say. He is a very inspirational and motivational person and just great to be around.
How big was your win last year for your confidence going into this season?
KB: My win last year was huge for me. It was a validation of all the work I had been doing with my instructor Darren May. It is no secret that I had struggled for a couple of seasons, even though technically, but I was improving and felt good. The way I won and the field I beat to win, gave me an incredible amount of satisfaction and has set me up to keep moving forward.
I asked Jack Nicklaus in his interview (which will post in a few weeks) about the work-life balance for a world ranked PGA Tour Professional. Obviously, it was a different time in his era but how do you manage this as a husband and fairly new father?
KB: I am always learning, and I try to keep as balanced as possible. I love spending time with my wife, Jillian, and my son, Logan, but like any husband/father there is a need to work in order to provide. I think I have just got better at structuring my practice, so that I am more efficient with my time.
What are your feelings on the overall health of the game? From both a professional and recreational standpoint?
KB: I think the game is in a GREAT place right now. Tiger is back and that is huge for our sport, add to that the great young players contending each week and the personalities we have on the PGA Tour and internationally, I think we are in a great position to grow the game.
What is your advice for a young golfer looking to pursue a career in golf? Either as a player or club Professional?
KB: I will always advise all children to play as many sports as possible, have fun, don’t take it too seriously too early or you will burn out. You have to make the game fun. Once you have made the decision to pursue golf, work hard. You need to make sure that when you are done for the day, that no one else you are competing with, could have out worked you. It is a mindset more than anything. Golf is a very competitive industry, but there are many ways to get into it. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!
Lastly, what in your opinion is one way we as an industry can bring more people to our game?
KB: Make it fun and make it more affordable for the masses. Encourage 9-hole competitions; time is one of the biggest barriers to entry for golf, as a sport.
The Gear Dive: Sacks Parente Golf
In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny chats with longtime club designers Steve Sacks and Rich Parente on the old days with Callaway, Goldwin Golf, Carbite and the new endeavor Sacks Parente.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
There’s a major omission in Brandel Chamblee’s list of the 10 best seasons in men’s golf
Brandel’s list is great, but he’s missing a BIG one…maybe the BEST one. Earlier this week Brandel Chamblee, whom I respect and enjoy, tweeted a list of the top 10 years in men’s golf.
The ten best years in men’s golf.
Tiger 2005 https://t.co/I9ZqGH03E1
— Brandel Chamblee (@chambleebrandel) June 25, 2019
It’s a great list and one that was very well thought out. However, there is one season that is missing, and in my opinion, it could go down as one of the top 5 of all time, if not the best: Tiger Woods’ 2008 season.
Yes, the year he played only the first half of the season
Before the trolls start to engage, let’s look at all the facts…
Tournaments worldwide: 7
Wins: 5 (Dubai, Torrey, Bay Hill, Match Play, U.S. Open)
Top 5s: 7
Scoring average: 67.65
*also won the Tavistock Cup
So, let’s put this in perspective, the guy teed it up eight times total (including the Tavistock). He won six times. His worst finish was fifth. He came from behind to win in Dubai, Bay Hill, and the U.S. Open. The only tournament that he didn’t really have a chance to win was the Masters, and frankly, if he makes any putts at all he wins that too.
He dealt with serious left leg and knee injuries all season; having arthroscopic knee surgery two days after the Masters, hurrying his comeback, and suffering stress fractures in his tibia and continued ACL issues. AND TW also revealed in 2010 that he injured and re-injured his right Achilles tendon multiple times throughout 2008.
In regards to the competition: Phil, Ernie, Padraig, Sergio, Westwood, Adam Scott, and many others were in their primes and gunning for him harder than ever before. Keep in mind that from 2005-2007, Tiger won 21 times in 52 starts on the PGA Tour. What would he have done if he was healthy?
Let’s also discuss the moments in this season. The nuclear putt on the 18th at Dubai, the utter dominance at Torrey, the hat throw on 18 at Bay Hill, The absolute smackdown of Stewart Cink in the Match Play final, Tiger’s back 9 on Friday at U.S. Open, Tiger’s back 9 on Saturday at U.S. Open, Tiger’s final round at U.S. Open, Tiger’s playoff vs. Rocco. So, in perspective, he had maybe 20 moments that year that probably land in his top 100 highlight reel.
While you are all taking this in, go to YouTube and watch videos from that year, and I guarantee you will get lost in the countless moments of absolute greatness. What he did in 2000, 2006, 2007, etc was unbelievable BUT what he did in ’08 is truly unworldly.
And, oh yeah, one other thing: Tiger played six times on the PGA Tour, finished second on the money list just $1 million behind Vijay who played 23 times. He was No. 1 in Fed Ex Cup points going into the playoffs….in 6 events.
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