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5 tips to help guarantee you’ll break 100 (or 90, or even 80!)

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In my writing and teaching, I strive to constantly break from the norm, tread the paths less trodden, and help the players I coach — or people who read my articles and books — in ways that move beyond the typical. That being said, I’ve decided to finally jump on that bandwagon of clichés and write a “5 tips” type article. Why? Because these types of articles are actually quite effective, especially when the premise behind the 5 tips are so simple and effective.

Lets leave the debate over clickbait for another time, and focus here on getting you to shoot your best score ever. I’m confident these 5 tips will help you get there.

1) Stop hitting it straight

If you’re struggling to break triple digits, you probably own a two-way miss. Most of the best players in the world take one side of the course out of play by rarely hitting a straight ball. They’re typically moving the ball off the tee in a direction that favors their most natural shot shape. Now for most of us that’s a fade, and that’s a good thing, so stop fighting that fade and just play for it. There’s a reason Lee Trevino once said, “you can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.” And Trevino wasn’t alone, as many of the most consistent drivers of the ball (including Hogan) played the fade, but what’s most important is to play for your most natural shot shape off the tee and stop trying to hit it straight!

2) Stop short-siding yourself

Huh? Listen to network golf coverage and you’ll hear the commentators mention how a player short-sided him or herself, but like many viewers, you likely have no idea what they’re talking about. Short-siding yourself is missing the green to the side where you have the least amount of green to work with in relation to the flag. It’s the kiss of death in golf, and something good players seldom do. Chipping (read bump-and-run type shot) is much easier, and you pay a far less severe penalty for a mishit chip than a pitch (lob shot). Aim for the long side of the flag on pins closer than 20 feet from the edge and your misses won’t keep ending up in a places where the unfortunate results of your next shot are “chunks”, “skulls”, and “chili-dips.”

3) Sleep with your sand wedge

Lots of players pitch with a pitching wedge, lob with a lob wedge, and relegate their sand wedge to only those shots they’re forced to endure from the beach. Now most of us don’t practice our short games enough to begin with, and if we’re splitting what little time we spend out there on the practice green between three (or four) different greenside wedges then we’re not likely to be very good with any of them. The sand wedge is the most versatile club in the bag, and you should learn to hit every shot inside 50 yards with it, and hit them proficiently, before you branch out to different clubs.

I grew up with nothing but an old Cobra Trusty Rusty 56-degree sand wedge that I learned to hit from every conceivable lie and situation and I knew exactly what I could do with it and what I couldn’t. Find that one club and practice with it until you know and trust your short game with it implicitly, and you’ll be surprised at how much pressure that ends up taking off your long game.

4) Quit “hitting” your putts

If you can’t break 100, chances are you don’t putt very well, and if you don’t, you likely have poor distance control. Most people who struggle to control their distances with the putter, “hit” their putts, they don’t “stroke it” or “roll it”. “Hitting” a putt is the inevitable result of a putting stroke that is too small for a given distance. One thing I consistently preach with my Academy students is the bigger the putt the bigger the putting stroke. If you’re hitting it progressively harder as you get farther and farther from the hole, try instead to let that stroke get progressively longer, and watch how much more often that first putt rolls up to within tap-in range.

5) Start closer to the hole

There’s only one reason the average men’s handicap in this country hovers around 18 while the average woman’s around 33, but it’s a very big one. Distance! The average woman hits the ball 140 yards off the tee while the average man hits it 210. Over the course of 18 holes, that’s about 1300 yards, and it doesn’t even account for the approaches. Research has been done which suggests that, in order for players to be able to hit most greens in regulation, they should play from tees that are about 30 times their average drive. That would put most women at tees that measure 4,200 yards, and most men at 6,300 yards.

Sadly, most clubs aren’t offering tees at 4,200 yards, but we should be, and until then we should all be realistic about how far we hit the ball off the tee, multiply that number by 30, and find the closest set of tees we can to that number and play from there. And if we do that, we not only might finally break 100, and speed up the pace of play at the same time, but we just might have a bit more fun in the process!

So there’s your five tips! And now that I’ve guaranteed you’ll all be breaking that milestone number in your game, I expect the editors of big-time golf magazine publications to come knocking on my inbox for that 101st cliché cover story. Hope it helps!

image credit: sacrededge on reddit

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Mike Dowd is the author of the new novel COMING HOME and the Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life series. He has been Head PGA Professional at Oakdale Golf & CC in Oakdale, California since 2001, and is serving his third term on the NCPGA Board of Directors and Chairs the Growth of the Game Committee. Mike has introduced thousands of people to the game and has coached players that have played golf collegiately at the University of Hawaii, San Francisco, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, University of the Pacific, C.S.U. Sacramento, C.S.U. Stanislaus, C.S.U. Chico, and Missouri Valley State, as men and women on the professional tours. Mike currently lives in Turlock, California with his wife and their two aspiring LPGA stars, where he serves on the Turlock Community Theatre Board, is the past Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock. In his spare time (what's that?) he enjoys playing golf with his girls, writing, music, fishing and following the foibles of the Sacramento Kings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and, of course, the PGA Tour. You can find Mike at mikedowdgolf.com.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Larry Covey

    Sep 12, 2018 at 2:08 am

    The PGA pros play to a factor of 25 or lower! Most pros drive the ball 300+ and using a 25 factor equals 7500 yds! For me, being 77 years of age and hitting my driver 225 yds, my factor would be 5625 yds! Pretty hard to find courses offering men’s tees less than 6000 yards, raising my factor close to 27! I normally play 6100 to 6350 yds and carry a high single digit hdcp. I hit my #4 hybrid 200 yds, pros hit their 7 irons the far!
    So using that as the average men’s factor, (27), the pros SHOULD be playing courses at 8100 yds or more!

  2. joro

    Sep 11, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Another great article, Truth is most people that play Golf have no ability to do any of that and play for fun until they get an overload of articles telling them how to swing, hook it, hit it solid, and a million other things to think about, get frustrated and quit. And the great gurus keep on writing and confusing more people.

  3. Bob Jones

    Sep 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    (5) The PGA Tour presents courses that average 25 times the average drive, the LPGA 26 times. 30 times is too long for recreational golfers.

    Instead, I use this rule: add together the distance of my average drive and the carry distance of my average 7-iron. Half the par 4s should be this distance or less.

    • Aztec

      Sep 10, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      Excellent idea, makes a lot more sense than suggesting 30 times average driving distance. Too bad it’s not backed by ‘research’ like Mike Dowd’s statement.

  4. Michael

    Sep 10, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Mike – Do you have a video explaining 2) Stop short-siding yourself?

  5. DaveyD

    Sep 9, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    Good article- I try to focus on a few other things- get as many greens in regulation as I can; avoid the penalty stroke situation by staying in the fairway; no three-putts. Not as successful as I would like, but I’m down to a 14 handicap.

  6. Richard Douglas

    Sep 9, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    6. Stop lying to yourself about your carry distances. Seriously. You don’t hit it nearly as far as you think. Also, on most holes, it’s better to miss long than short. Short is where they put most bunkers and water hazards. Sure, you sometimes see these in the back, or drop-offs back there that are horrible. So change your approach there. Better yet, aim to the center of almost all greens, unless there is a specific reason to aim long or short. Besides, it feels awful and weak to come up short, but missing long is almost a “good” miss. Slammed it!

    • BigHitter

      Sep 9, 2018 at 11:37 pm

      I increase my carry distance by 20 yards annually with each new driver model. I’m projecting 300 yard carry in 5 years at this rate of improvement.

  7. Aztec

    Sep 9, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    So, if someone drives 250 yds on average they should play tees at around 7,500 yds? And the big hitters at 300 yds should play tees at 9,000 yds?
    Really, this is what ‘research’ is suggesting? Your credibility is very tenuous.

    • Jason

      Sep 10, 2018 at 9:55 am

      I agree, I think a factor of 25 is much more reasonable. For people hitting the ball 250 yards that would be 6250, which is about what I do. For people hitting it 210 yards that would be 5300 yards.

      Since you are talking average handicaps and giving them a factor to use for what tee boxes to use 25 makes a lot more sense than 30.

      Now you could say “I’m a scratch golfer who hits it 250 yards. Playing from 6250 is too easy.” Well congrats and this general reference wasn’t made for you. It was made for the group of 15-20 handicaps in the group in front of you that are playing from the tips while you complain about the round already taking 5 hours while you are standing on the 15th tee.

    • GMR

      Sep 10, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Haha I was wondering the exact same thing! I’m a long hitter averaging about 290 off the tee, and thought it might be fun to play the back 9 at Kiawah Ocean Course off the tips at around 4k yards (for 9 holes)… Let’s just say that while that was an interesting experience I won’t be doing that again anytime soon (or ever). And yet by Mr. Dowd’s math that course was actually TOO SHORT for me!!!

    • Josh Leyes

      Sep 10, 2018 at 1:34 pm

      Agreed! Not sure where he got that “research” from, but for golfers to hit the most greens in regulation possible, they should play from the most forward tees possible. Duh. I know a lot of guys who hit it 250+ (myself included) who struggle to hit greens on some days playing courses 6300-6500 yards. Not a well thought out point at all by Mike Dowd.

  8. Jim

    Sep 9, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    They arnt whats wrong here… you are. Go back to bedding your sister and collecting confederate flags and dip cups.

  9. Tom

    Sep 9, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Mike…. you are talking to the 1% of golfers who are committed to the game of golf. These people will make an effort to improve, while the remainder only play golf for yuks and fun. I suspect you already know that.

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Instruction

Stickney: Sit on it (for a better backswing)

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As we know golf, is a very tough sport and one that involves many moving pieces. Whenever something overreacts or moves too much on the way back, you end up playing catch-up on the way down. One of my favorite things to watch is how the head moves or doesn’t move on the backswing. Sure, you can have some movement, but you can’t have too much or you put yourself behind the eight ball.

I have charted the head position of a tour player at address and we can see that this is a very normal set up position. It is one that looks positioned to do great things.

However, en route to the top, you can see that this player has put himself into a position where his rear knee straightened too rapidly off the start of his backswing. When this occurs the pelvis “runs out from under” the upper body on the backswing the hips will react and begin to slant downward. (You can see a -10 degree tilt versus 3 degrees the opposite way at address for you number people.)

This causes the head to move out in front of where it was at address. This is not a bad position for the irons but for a driver we have a pending issue. If you don’t make a compensation from here then the player will have an angle of attack that is too much downward through impact with their driver.

As the player moves into his transition, the hips have leveled as the rear shoulder lowers the club into delivery but the head and pelvis are still too far out in front of the ball. The only thing you can do from here is fire the lead side upwards and hope that your head falls back into the correct position. If so, you will have the correct angle of attack, if not, you will chop down on the ball causing your launch conditions to be faulty.

And as we see here that this is precisely what this player did at the very last minute…not the easiest way to swing the club but it is functional IF you make the right correction. So, now that you understand how simple things like the action of the lower body can cause your head to move and your angle of attack to become faulty, what is the secret to controlling your lower body?


Just “sit” on the rear knee flex slightly longer during the backswing as you see here. This will slow down the tilting of the pelvis on backswing and thus your head will stay more in position en route to the top.

Personally, I teach both flexion and extension of the rear knee to the top, depending on what the player is wanting to do, so it really does not matter. However, what does matter is the rate at which it begins to straighten for those of you who do allow it to lengthen. I try to make most of my students hold the most of their address flex until the club moves between belt and chest high, any sooner and you risk the faulty pivot we saw above.

Therefore, take it from me and “sit on it” slightly longer for more quiet head motions as well as a more balanced backswing—your angle of attack will thank you!

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Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing

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He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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