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A painfully simple strategy to break 100 in your next round of golf

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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!

Listen

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!

Watch

To watch the strategy in action, check out the video below.

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Andrew Tursky is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX. He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Tee-Bone

    Jun 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Or you could just learn how to strike the ball properly, in which case breaking 80, not 100, becomes realistic.

  2. Bob Jones

    Jun 15, 2018 at 11:34 am

    Excellent. Many of these ideas would help someone break 80, too. I especially like #1. If it’s a long way to the green, hit two easy shots instead of a hard one and whatever else. 250 to the green? Easy! 7-iron and pitching wedge.

  3. Dennis Corley

    Jun 15, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Another pre-round technique that can compliment this article is the following:
    Step One : Re-set “Par” for each hole to “Double Bogey”.
    Step Two : Plan for two-putts per hole
    Step three: Play every hole “in reverse” to plan each hole, starting with 2 putts on the green. For example: 400 yard, Par 4:
    Step 1: Par is now 6
    Step 2: Strokes 5 and 6 are putts.
    Step 3a: Choosing most consistent/accurate club, say PW, “plan” to hit shot 4 from the fairway at the distance you “normally” hit the PW, say 100 yards,
    Step 3b: Subtract the distance you covered in the previous step from the total yardage of 400 and you have 300 yards left to cover. You could hit shots 3,2, and 1 ALL with PW. OR you could choose to use your 150 yard club off the tee on shot 1 which leaves you an extra shot to get to 100 yards out which will come in handy when you miss-hit some of those 150 yard first and second shots.

    You can use this strategy to attack any personal best goals by picking a reasonable stretch goal, assign each hole the appropriate new Par, and play each hole in reverse. It’s very hard to stick to the plan because no one wants to hit short or even mid irons off the tee. But the strategy works well assuming you pick goals within your current skill set.

    Dennis

  4. Nigel Kent

    Jun 14, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    How long has he been playing the game as a righty ? It looks like any course management skills he had acquired have flown out the window .

  5. Dave r

    Jun 14, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Good article. When I practice a lot my back gets sore ,so I have a left handed club and will practice with that for a few shots just to take relief off my left hip it works wonders for me. I played left handed for the first 5 years of golf never got lower than 32 cap the first year I switched went to 18 and never looked back. Sometimes change is hard just like practice but it does pay off.

  6. Painter33

    Jun 14, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Easiest way to break 100? Quit after the 14th hole. There is only one method – get better, which requires lessons and practice; a simple but demanding answer to the problem.

  7. NC Golfer

    Jun 14, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Pretty cool for someone who can’t break 100. It would eliminate the top and fat shots and slices out of bounds. Of course, many 100+ golfers don’t pitch, chip and putt well. But, I believe with experience those are areas that can be mastered as opposed to figuring out the full swing. It was nice to see the visual on this.

  8. Dave

    Jun 13, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    How does switching to Lefty get you under 100?

  9. Paul

    Jun 13, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Good strategies.
    My first time breaking 90 strategy was similiar. Aim for 100 yard markers. All my lowest scores since then have come from aiming at 100 yard markers, and knowing how to hit it 90-120 for the approach shot. Never had so many short first putts.

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