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Want to break 80? Here’s what to practice



Reaching a new plateau in golf requires hours of practice, playing and thinking about your game. But all too often, as a full-time coach, players ask me how to improve their scores… but they never ask how to practice more effectively. It’s like they think I have some secret to lowering scores without having to put in the work.

Even those who come to take lessons and really care about improving often rush straight from the lesson tee to the course expecting their swing to be fixed. Most of the time, nothing is particularly “broken,” except the way those golfers are practicing. If they’re willing to practice more effectively, however, they can take their newly learned skills from the lesson tee to the course, and actually start seeing better results.

First of all, golfers need to have a keen understanding of their game and what needs to improve. I believe this knowledge should come directly from facts. I personally use a stat-tracker on a web-based program called (pictured below), which allows me to look at dispersion from the hole, and then give it a value.


For example, Player A hits a 40-yard pitch 5 yards from the hole; that is a Break-80 number (I talk more about Break-80 numbers later in the story). So what we would do with a student is look at their entire game and work out their strengths and weaknesses. We then design an appropriate practice plan.

If there are specific changes to be made in the swing, then practice sessions should allow time to work on technique. If technique is decidedly sound, then practice should be mostly of a performance nature.

Regardless of the type of practice — technical or performance-oriented — I believe that golfers should change clubs and targets at least once in every 10 range balls. This allows our minds and bodies the best opportunity of ingraining a new movement or thought pattern.

Remember, practice needs to be…

  • Planned
  • Meaningful
  • Purposeful
  • Engaging
  • Error-full
  • Task-oriented
  • Reverent
  • Involve decision-making
  • Challenging

Credit: Matt Bridge Golf

Measurement practice for me is the best form to help produce better scores on the course. For this, we would set up a game that gives us a score, and that score would be set at the optimal challenge point to maintain motivation and provide failure, which are both keys to the learning process.

So, for example, if the player wants to break 80, we would pick four key areas on which to concentrate.

Break-80 Numbers


3-5 foot putts: Score needed is 37 percent success rate to break 80, or about 4-out of-10 putts. Every putt should be hit on a different line.

20-40 yard pitch: Proximity needed is 5.3 yards or 15 feet. So let’s aim for a 6-foot proximity and see how many attempts it take to get five balls in that area. Every ball should be hit from a different angle.

140-160 yard iron shot: Proximity is 15.9 yards. So select a 5-yard wide target and see how many shots it takes to hit five balls in that gap.

Driving: Proximity is 37.9 yards: So let’s go for a 20-yard fairway and try to hit it 60 percent of the time on the range, ideally a different target each shot.

All shots are to be hit with your full pre-shot routine, and all results to be recorded and measured against previous tests. You can then play the same tasks on the course and see how the results compare.

Remember, the key to reaching your goals is not just hard work and beating balls, but practicing with pre-defined purposes.

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Find him on YouTube at: Advanced Fellow of the PGA Head Golf Professional The Marriott Forest of Arden The Golfing Machine Authorised Instructor TPI Certified Fitness Golf Instructor PGA Swing Lecturer PGA Swing Examiner PGA Qualified in 1999, Achieving 3rd position Trainee of the Year Roles Former Academy Coach Wales South West Squad Performance Director Midland Performance Golf Academy Coach to GB & I Squad Member Head Coach to Birmingham University Teams Coach to Solihull College AASE England programme Coached Numerous County Squads including Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Derby. Philosophy I am a highly self-motivated full time coach committed to improve players of all standards. Through continually developing my skills and knowledge I am considered one of the leading coaches and have been recently voted in Golf Worlds top 100 coaches. Having excellent communication skills enables me to be able to deliver first class tuition to all levels of golfers and this is reflected in my achievements from my players and personal accolades.



  1. Isac

    Sep 17, 2017 at 6:23 am

    Do one of these for breaking 60, i would want to se which numbers who would be need to break that

  2. Mat

    Sep 23, 2016 at 6:45 am

    Want to break 80 even faster? Learn how to not add all your shots like the scorecard image…

    (Not 80)

    (Not 83)

  3. Luke

    Sep 14, 2016 at 9:36 am

    This appears to be blatant plagiarism of Mark Guadagnoli’s book “Practice to Learn, Play to Win”. Author went as far as to use the exact same diagrams.

    • Mat

      Sep 24, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Yep. This is a rip off. “Optimal Challenge Point” occurs in that book 7 times. I’m fairly certain that if GolfWRX wants a recycled dialogue, they can check the forums about “blades”. I guess it makes the scorecard cheating image suddenly and ironically accurate.

  4. Bob Jones

    Sep 8, 2016 at 11:31 am

    I would take out the 20-40 yard pitch, which doesn’t get hit that often by an 80 player, and substitute the greenside chip. You’ve got to get this easy up and down to break 80

  5. mr b

    Sep 6, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Good article but there are missing % goals in here that are key.

    Example: what are the goals of the following drills:

    20-40 yard pitch: are we aiming for 40% 30% 20% to stop within the given distance?
    140-160 yard iron shot: what is the % goal here for a break 80 golfer?


  6. Vincent Lafon

    Sep 5, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    A good drive to avoid a bogey, a good put to get a birdie

  7. Mats B

    Sep 5, 2016 at 5:51 am

    Can you please post one simular article, for breaking 70? Thanks in advance.

  8. Shallowface

    Sep 4, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Whether one is trying to break 80, 90 or 100, the biggest killer is to score is poor driving, which comes from swinging too hard and too fast, both of which can be aggravated by playing from the wrong tees. And in case anyone thinks this is a criticism of the current generation, trust me, it has been this way as long as I have been playing (43 years) and before that I am sure.
    The object of the game is to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes possible, not to hit that one drive that outdrives your friends. Three of “them” and one of “those” is a par on a par 4, and two of “those” is a bogey. Make no worse than bogey, eke out 4 or 5 pars and you are in the mid 80s overnight. From there it is a short journey to the 70s.
    Play the proper tees. Swing easy at that driver and get it in play. Hit those pitches inside 15 feet as the author suggests. Fatten your wallet with your friends’ cash. The formula for success

    • JustWellsy

      Sep 6, 2016 at 1:32 am

      Good advice!

      Also, the odds are the stock shaft in your driver is killing your game if you have any sort of swing speed. So if you can’t afford an upcharge (or at least heavier) shaft, then ditch the driver and stick with the 3 wood.

      I know people have said this in the past, but I really do think most would benefit from a 44.5″ driver length instead of the “new standard” of 45.5″

    • larrybud

      Sep 6, 2016 at 7:25 am

      I swing as hard as I can at the ball and hit the FW 80%. “Swing easy” is just a misunderstanding of what’s going wrong in the swing.

      • Mr. Wedge

        Sep 6, 2016 at 1:09 pm

        Agree – Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to swing easy or slow. You should swing as fast as you’re able to while keeping good tempo and form.

      • Skept I. Cal

        Sep 6, 2016 at 3:35 pm

        Boy. Better driving accuracy, by far, than the top drivers on the PGA Tour.
        Sounds like you’ve got some swing misunderstandings of your own if you hit the ball like that off the tee (allegedly) and we aren’t watching you on Sundays.

  9. Jnak97

    Sep 3, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Post one for breaking 70 please!!

  10. KK

    Sep 3, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Great tips. Although it’s rare, those are the areas where I remember doing well when I break 80. Mostly, I remember not getting into trouble with the driver and hitting greens in regulation with one or two fantastic saves.

  11. Uncle Buck

    Sep 3, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. We call it “pencil sliding,” when guys get creative with score keeping. Much like the ‘ol foot wedge. That dudes round is no where near 80. Lol!

  12. Iutodd

    Sep 3, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    The star/clock drill is awesome for putts inside of 5 feet. I’m so much more confident now over those “knee-knockers” than ever before.

  13. B Hock

    Sep 3, 2016 at 11:19 am


  14. B Hock

    Sep 3, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Probably shouldn’t be that guy…..but….the scorecard on the picture doesn’t actually add up to 80…

    • Double Mocha Man

      Sep 3, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      You don’t know much about creative scorekeeping, do you? At least there don’t seem to be any eraser marks.

    • Rich

      Sep 4, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Haha! That’s hilarious!

    • larrybud

      Sep 6, 2016 at 7:10 am

      I know I don’t break 80 often with two 7s on the card!

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