Top Five Tips to Break 100
Breaking three figures is golf’s first big challenge when you’re new to the game. It sounds like it should be easy, right?
The pros on tour are shooting 66s and 67s with ease. But golf is a cruel mistress and is different from every other sport in that you’re playing the same game as the best in the world. Friendly little league baseball matches aren’t played against MLB players, but in golf, you play against the same opponent as the pros: the course. In this article, I’m going to lay out five easy tips to help you break 100.
Know The Math
Golf is a game of strategy, and so it helps to look at the big picture before you start a round. Breaking 100 can seem a daunting task when looked at over the course of eighteen holes, four miles, and up to five hours. So make the task a little easier for yourself, and work out exactly what you need to do.
Most golf courses play at a par seventy-two, which means to break the big triple digits, you’ll need to shoot twenty-seven over. But let’s break that down even further. That’s nine bogeys and nine double bogeys. That sounds more doable.
As a higher handicapped golfer, you shouldn’t really be thinking about ‘par.’ Because par is relative! The point of a handicap is to compete against difficult courses and better players and still have a fair shot. Some golfers make the mistake of subtracting their handicap from their score at the end, but I think there’s a better way: add it to the course’s par at the beginning!
With this method, that brutally long par four is suddenly a par six. Those tricky little par threes become easier to manage par fours, and you might have seven strokes to complete a difficult par five.
Rather than being demoralized by the stacking up of bogeys and double bogeys, which years of watching the tour have told us are bad, feel comfortable in the net pars and birdies that will start flowing when you play a course the right standard for you. And sure, you might still make a triple on one of the harder holes, but that’s only +1 to your par, rather than a depressing +3!
Distance Isn’t Always Your Friend… But Sometimes It Is
Nothing feels better than crunching a driver, right? Watching that ball sail hundreds of yards down the fairway and settle into a beautiful lie, a mere flick from the green. But what about the inverse? Nothing feels worse than watching your drive arc out of bounds or into the water for the third time that round.
Penalty strokes are the death of a good round of golf. Sometimes it’s worth weighing up the options. For most local courses, the longest par four you’re going to experience is about 450 yards. That’s three seven or six irons for most golfers, giving you two putts for bogey or three for double, depending on the stroke index. If you’re struggling to keep your ball in play, taking the conservative approach can shave strokes off your game.
But there is a flip side to this. Statistical analysis in recent years of golf is unanimous: across all levels of the game; players score better by being closer to the green – the caveat obviously being as long as they stay in play. So while staying too aggressive can be a flaw, so can being too defensive.
There’s no blanket rule here, more just a thought process. Over every shot, ask yourself this question: what’s the longest shot I can hit CONFIDENTLY, the last word being crucial if that’s the driver, great! If it’s seven iron, that’s okay too. The crucial thing is keeping that little white ball on the course and cutting out those costly drops.
Straight Down Central
Picture it for me. The pin, tucked into a little swell at the back of the green, is surrounded by deep rough and deeper bunkers. You set up and play that perfect little draw, firing straight at the flag and setting up a tap in birdie. Beautiful, right? But what about the other nine times out of ten that you overdo it, stick it in those awful bunkers or unplayable rough, and turn a good drive into a triple?
Greenskeepers are tricky folk. They spend hours, days preparing the course, and they want to protect it. So they stick pins in dangerous locations, tempting ego boosted golfers to take it on and often ruining their rounds.
Here’s the truth: if you can have a putt for par – ANY PUTT, no matter how long – on every hole, you’re going to break 100. Suppose you can have a few putts for birdie, even better. So aim for the center of the greens! Play for the meat, giving yourself a nice bit of leeway on either side.
We’d all love to be Phil Mickelson and get up and down from those treacherous locations every time, but we’re not. The truth is, if you go at pins and miss, you can often end up chipping back to where you would have been if you’d played for the center of the green anyway! So cut out the middle man by being the middle man and playing for the center. Center is your friend.
That does, however, bring us on to:
Practice Range Putting
Go to your local club’s practice green, and I can guarantee what you’ll see: a bunch of people ramming in fifteen-footers. Maybe they’ll try a few six-footers, a few three-footers, and maybe whack a couple of long putts to get between holes. But what they’ll practice is those glory putts, the ones that feel amazing when you drain them on the course.
The truth is, as a golfer trying to break 100, you don’t need to be holing fifteen-footers. You don’t even need to be holing eight-footers! All you need to do is two-putt, most of the time, from twenty to thirty feet.
Let’s say you’ve taken on board the other tips. You’ve played safe but confident off the tee; you’ve hit the middle of the greens. You’ve had a perfect ball-striking day and hit every single green in regulation-plus-one. Job done, right?
Not quite. If you two-putt every single one of those greens, you’ll shoot +18, and be threatening the eighties! If you three-putt half of them, you’ll about break 100. But if you three-putt them all, you’ll miss your goal by almost twenty strokes.
As higher handicappers, we don’t stick the ball close every time. And we’ve got the shots to forgive us for the occasional missed short putt. What we can’t come back from is leaving thirty-foot putts more than eight feet from the hole. So get on your practice green, and work on pace putting. If you can lag the ball up to gimme range even half of the time, you’ll see the shots come tumbling down quicker than you used to see them rocketing up!
The Old Cliche…
This one might sound a little twee, but hear me out. Golf is hard. Golf is frustrating. If you let it get to you, it’ll eat you up, and those nice shiny clubs will be in a garage sale before you know it.
But golf is also wonderful. It’s a great way to stay fit. It’s a chance to get out into nature. It’s a great way to meet people or to spend some quality time with your buddies. So enjoy yourself! Have fun!
If you’re playing badly, be a little liberal with the rules. Take some mulligans, give yourself a free drop from that tree root (obviously only in casual golf! Don’t do this in competitions). Make sure that even your worst day on the course is enjoyable. Because then, when you start playing well, you’ll have all the good memories of your worst days, and better days will follow.
Try not to worry too much about your score, if you can. I like to play the three-hole game with myself: rather than thinking about the whole round, try and play three holes at a time, always trying to beat your last three-hole-stretch. Play mini competitions with your playing partners. Play match play!
Just take your mind off the numbers on the card. Because I guarantee, the round you’re not counting as much will be the round that has a 9 in front of it when you come to tally up at the end!