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A modern blueprint to breaking 90

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In May of 2017, I contributed an article that generated a lot of interest from GolfWRX readers:  “A Modern Blueprint to Breaking 80.” I recently got a call from Jeff Isler, a long-time client who runs a successful golf academy in Dallas.  Jeff enthusiastically uses my Strokes Gained analysis program (ShotByShot.com) with all of his students, and also uses my breaking 80 goals as his “road map” with aspiring elite junior golfers.  Jeff wondered if a similar roadmap could be created for golfers attempting to break 90. Certainly!  In thinking about it, I believe there are also the number of interested golfers in this scoring range in the vast GolfWRX.com world.

Want to break 90?  Here is my blueprint

The game is a puzzle and all the pieces fit together. Each round is a mix of good shots, average shots and bad shots or errors. The challenge is to find the piece of your game’s unique puzzle that is your greatest weakness so you can target your improvement time and money on the highest impact area. If you track the simple good and bad outcomes listed below for a few rounds, your strengths and weaknesses will become apparent.

Tee Game or Driving

Goals:  Hit 7 fairways, and limit your driving errors to 2 – preferably of the No Shot variety (see Errors below).

Distance:  I will ignore this and assume that you are playing from the appropriate tees for your game.

Fairways:  Hitting fairways is important as we are all more accurate from the short grass.

Errors:  Far more important than Fairways hit is your FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of misses. ShotByShot.com users record THREE types of Driving Errors:

  1. No Shot:  You have missed in a place from which you do not have a normal next shot, requiring some sort of advancement to get the ball back to normal play.
  2. Penalty:  A 1-stroke penalty due to hazard or unplayable lie.
  3. Lost/OB:  Stroke and distance penalty.

Approach Shots

Goals:  5 GIRs and 1 Penalty/2nd (see below)

Penalty/2nd:  This means either a penalty or a shot hit so poorly that you are left with yet another full approach shot greater than 50 yards from the hole.

Short Game

(Shots from within 50 yards of the hole)

Chip/Pitch: If you miss 13 greens, you will have at least 10 greenside save opportunities. Your goals should be:

  • % Saved:  20% (two saves)
  • % Errors:  15% shots that miss the green (approximately three every two rounds)

Sand:

You should have 2 greenside save opportunities.  Your goals:

  • % Saved:  10%
  • % Errors:  30% of your shots miss the green (approximately 1 in every 3 attempts)

Putting

You need 36 putts.  Aim for:

  • 1-Putts:  3
  • 3-Putts:  2

Good luck and please let me know when you are successful!

For a complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, log on to:  shotbyshot.com.

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In 1989, Peter Sanders founded Golf Research Associates, LP, creating what is now referred to as Strokes Gained Analysis. His goal was to design and market a new standard of statistically based performance analysis programs using proprietary computer models. A departure from “traditional stats,” the program provided analysis with answers, supported by comparative data. In 2006, the company’s website, ShotByShot.com, was launched. It provides interactive, Strokes Gained analysis for individual golfers and more than 150 instructors and coaches that use the program to build and monitor their player groups. Peter has written, or contributed to, more than 60 articles in major golf publications including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf for Women. From 2007 through 2013, Peter was an exclusive contributor and Professional Advisor to Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Peter also works with PGA Tour players and their coaches to interpret the often confusing ShotLink data. Zach Johnson has been a client for nearly five years. More recently, Peter has teamed up with Smylie Kaufman’s swing coach, Tony Ruggiero, to help guide Smylie’s fast-rising career.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Myron Miller

    May 7, 2019 at 10:33 am

    His comment that distance is ignored because you are playing the correct tees. On some courses, I can play the up tees and can still not reach the greens in regulation. I am a super senior (over 70) disabled and cannot consistently hit any longer than 150. Par 3s of 160 or more ( even from the up tees are almost impossible to reach in 1). Par 4s of 330 or more (and I’ve seen 350-370 a number of times) cannot be reached in two.

    With highly exceeding the rest of his suggestions, one cannot score below 100 period. Personally I can break 90 most of the time, if my approach game is reasonably decent and my short game is pretty good (at least 70% from 20 yards on the green within 20 yards). And I only mishit 2-3 fairway woods. Due to my short driver, I hit a lot of fairway woods as my second shot (and I’m playing the up tees). His suggestions to me are a load of crap. I could never break 110 or 120 if i followed them.

  2. Bob Jones

    May 6, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    Are we talking to people who are on the verge of breaking 90 but never do? If that is the case, I would say learning how to play the game better will do it. Golf is more than hitting good shots; it’s also about hitting the right shot at the time. Leaving the driver home should help, too.

  3. Johnny O

    May 6, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    I shoot in the 90s and I keep stats: tee shots, approach shots, GIR, putts, dropped shots and eff-ups. Dropped shots are penalties, like OB, re-tees, water. Eff-ups include the dropped shots and other duffs and stupid hits that cost a whole shot. I can tell you that when I get some sleep and play well and shoot in the 80s, the key stat is the eff-ups. A reduction in stupid mistakes, shots I’d never hit again if I placed another ball and repeated the attempt. I don’t suddenly become a dead straight driver or genius green reader. Yeah, if you have a bunker phobia, then you know you need to work on that. But if you’re just generally ordinary, then reducing errors will also get those other target numbers into line. 7 to 9 good drives and 5 or 6 GIRs sounds about right.

  4. dj

    May 5, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    “If you think 18 handicappers have the patience or commitment to do a rote breakdown of their round by sifting through GIRs, penalties off the tee, and 3 putts.”

    Anyone that wants to improve should keep stats to know where to improve. I’m not 100% in agreement with the topic but believe GIR are king. If you don’t know where you are losing strokes, you’ll never improve. Most people have a false sense of strokes lost/gained.

  5. Leezer99

    May 5, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    No offense but this is a joke of a blueprint. The Brady Riggs Breaking 80 plan actually gives you a step by step plan over time to improve your game.

  6. Eric

    May 5, 2019 at 11:37 am

    This is not the best way to break 90. If you think 18 handicappers have the patience or commitment to do a rote breakdown of their round by sifting through GIRs, penalties off the tee, and 3 putts.

    A more practical approach includes hitting the shot you know you’re capable of and never putting yourself to a difficult decision on the subsequent shot.

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Clement: Find big power in the flying elbow!

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Matt Wolff, Bubba Watson, Jack Nicklaus, and so many more have been criticized for their golf swings and the flying elbow has been a subject of those criticisms.

When you watch a baseball hitter, a baseball pitcher, a tennis player, a lumberjack and so many more sports and disciplines, you realize they were all good to go all along!

This video will hopefully nudge you to experience this power for yourself too!

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Clement: Smash your fairway woods!

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This video is chock full of fairway wood wisdom that will allow you to understand several things including why a low spinning 5-wood would go much farther and what to focus on feel wise and sound wise with the SOLE of the club through the turf and ground. At least four solid nuggets throughout this video that will be sure to sharpen your fairway woods and hybrids!

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The Wedge Guy: Chipping away strokes

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I’ve always admired golfers who can really chip the ball well. Through my years in golf, I have seen players of all handicaps who are excellent chippers, and all tour professionals are masters of chipping it close. But for such a simple little stroke and challenge, chipping seems to be a part of the game that eludes many of us.

A good short game just cannot be achieved without a commitment to both learning and practicing. In watching the best chippers, it seems that their technique or chipping “stroke” is very similar to their putting stroke in style, form and pace. I think that’s because both chipping and putting are primarily “feel” shots. Yes, technique is important, but I’ve seen good chippers with all kinds of form and fundamentals.

This brings to mind two of my golf buddies who are both good chippers of the ball while employing totally different styles, but each one closely resembles their individual putting style. One uses a more stiff-wristed technique and quicker pace and tempo — just like his putting. The other, who is a doctor with a delicate touch, uses a more rhythmical pace not dissimilar from his syrupy smooth putting stroke.

Now let’s talk about techniques.

I personally prefer to use two different chipping techniques, depending on the chip I am facing. If I simply have to carry a few feet of collar and then get the ball rolling, I’ll choose a mid-iron or short iron, depending on the balance of carry and roll, and grip down on the club so that I can essentially “putt” the ball with the club I’ve chosen.

In employing this technique, however, realize that the club you are “putting” with weighs much less than your putter, so you want to grip the club much lighter to make the club feel heavier. It takes just a little practice to see what different clubs will do with this putt/chip technique.

On chips where the ball has to be carried more than just a few feet, I prefer a chipping technique that is more like a short pitching swing. I position the ball back of center of my stance to ensure clean contact and set up more like a short pitch shot. I usually hit this kind of chip with one of my wedges, depending on the balance of carry and roll needed to get the ball to the hole.

On that note, I read the green and pick an exact spot where I want the ball to land, and from there until impact, I forget the hole location and focus my “aim” on that spot. Your eyes guide your swing speed on chips and short pitch shots, and if you return your eyes to the hole, you are “programming” your body to fly the ball to the hole.

So, while sizing up the shot, I find a very distinct spot on the green where I think the ball needs to land to roll out with the club/trajectory I envision. From that point on, my complete focus is on that spot, NOT the hole. That loads my brain with the input it needs to tap into my eye/hand coordination. I think many golfers chip long too often because they focus on the hole, rather than where the shot needs to land, so their “wiring” imparts too much power. Just my thinking there.

One of my favorite drills for practicing chipping like this is to take a bucket/bag of balls to the end of the range where no one is hitting, and practice chipping to different spots – divots, pieces of turf, etc. – at various ranges, from 2-3 feet out to 20-30. I do this with different wedges and practice achieving different trajectories, just to load my memory banks with the feel of hitting to a spot with different clubs. Then, when I face a chip on the course, I’m prepared.

I’m totally convinced the majority of recreational golfers can make the quickest and biggest improvement in our scoring if we will just dedicate the time to learn good chipping technique and to practicing that technique with a purpose.

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