As a kid growing up, I was introduced to the game of golf by driving the golf cart around for my dad when he would play a round. I took the job very seriously and loved being out there with him and his friends. As I started to get older, I would start to hit some shots on the course and then eventually practicing on the range. The game became an obsession of mine at age 12 and by age 15 I was able to get 2nd place in the AZ state high school golf tournament. The reason that I was able to progress so quickly is that I had a great understanding of the game after watching my dad and his friends play golf for the previous couple years. They were all established golfers who shot in the 70's every time they played. There are smart ways to both play and practice golf that can speed up a golfers development tremendously. I will discuss physical and mental techniques to help you lower your score whether that's to break 100,90,80, then finally, 70.
Tips to break 100
If you're a golfer who wants to break 100, you most likely have just picked up the game and a couple pure shots have you coming back. Your favorite club is most likely the big dog aka the driver. While the driver is no doubt a fan favorite, it is also the most guilty culprit in adding strokes to your score. Most high handicappers think that the object of the driver is to swing as hard as they can to hit the ball as far as possible. While distance is a great asset, accuracy is a much more important aspect off of the tee box. Until you can consistently put the golf ball in play off the tee with the driver, it is essential to leave the driver in the bag and use whatever club you can consistently hit straight, whether that's a low iron or a fairway wood. There are many tips to hit a driver straight which I will discuss in another article. Putting the the driver away coincides with a mental approach I tell golfers that are trying to break 100. I tell them to approach every hole as a par 5. For example, if you hit your tee shot in the fairway on a par 4 but have over 200 yards into the green, it's not always best to try to go for the green. If there is water or bunkers surrounding the green, it is smarter to advance the ball up the fairway 100-150 yards then pitch the ball up to the green. If you hit the pitch on the green, now you have a birdie putt in your mind rather than par since every hole is mentally a par 5. It's amazing how this approach can keep you in it mentally rather than trying to make scores that aren't within your abilities yet. The chances of a high handicapper hitting a wood or low iron onto the green from over 190 yards are slim to none. If there is no trouble up by the green then the risk of going for it is much lower obviously but you'll most likely still end up in a better position by laying the ball up. Golf is much more fun when you aren't on a search and rescue mission every hole so play within your ability, and keep the ball in play.
Tips to break 90
If you are a golfer looking to break 90, congratulations, you've made it through stage 1. Golfers that can consistently break 90 are better than about 75% of all golfers out there. To get here, I feel like it's all about the short game. Inside of 100 yards are crucial shots for any caliber of player but can be especially important when taking the next step from breaking 100 to breaking 90. There are countless tips to improve your short game but in this article I will only discuss a few. First, practice your long putts. Being able to lag any length putt outside of 25 feet to inside 3 feet can easily shave at least 3-5 strokes off your score in the first couple weeks. Before you play, make sure to take some practice putts of all lengths so you can get the feel for the speed of the greens. After you have a feel for the speed, hit about ten 3 foot putts. On short putts the important thing is to keep a still body and head. Just rock your arms back and forth , keep your head down, and release the putter towards the hole. Along with putting, try to put a little extra work in with your wedges. While on the range, try to hit shots from 30 yards up to 100 yards to begin and end your practice session. In order to take the next step to breaking 90, you will want to hit the green every time inside of 60 yards. A couple tips for hitting wedges are: keep the ball middle/back of your stance, and keep your hands forward. The picture below displays what I mean by keeping your hands forward. Keeping your hands forward on your chips is also a great way to keep you from hitting your chips fat.
Tips to break 80
Going from breaking 90 to breaking 80 consistently is the toughest jump to make in my opinion. To make this jump it means that your golf game is becoming well rounded. By this I mean every facet of your game doesn't hold any extreme weakness. For example, you can get out of a bunker in 1 shot, and you're able to hit your driver consistently straight. I would recommend practicing whatever part of your game that you continue to see being detrimental to your score. Whether you see yourself spraying your low irons, flubbing bunker shots, or missing 3 footers, start putting a little extra time in practicing those shots when you can. It's always fun to hit what you hit best on the range, but you won't evolve your golf game. The main tip I will discuss on how to break 80 is to really start honing in how far you hit every club. When you're on the range, try to hit every shot at a target , and try to figure out how far that target is. Once you know how far you hit your clubs , put your ego away. So many golfers do not take enough club for a couple of reasons. First, they think they should be hitting the same club as their playing partner, and second, they don't take in account their miss hit. This is especially true for high handicap golfers since the chances that they hit the ball right on the sweet spot is slim. Next time you're out on the course,take an extra club and start noticing that you're getting more shots back to the pin. Below is a link to an article to show you how to hit the ball like Rory Mcllroy.
Tips to break 70
The final jump that I will discuss is how to break 70, or really how to break par. If you are a 3-5 handicap, it's likely that you're an excellent striker of the golf ball. Most likely what is holding you back from breaking par is your short game. As good as your ball striking is, you still hit less than 10 greens a round on average. It is a necessity to develop both a high lofted chip shot, or a flop, along with the ability to hit a running shot . I will discuss how to hit these shots in another article. If there is one main difference that I see between a 3 handicap and a golf pro is the amount of feel the golf pro has. When I say feel, it mostly pertains to knowing the speed of the greens. When you are comfortable with the speed, you are able to make an aggressive putting stroke without worrying about 3 putting. It is essential to be able to accelerate through the ball to be an effective putter, which is much easier when you have good feel. Playing golf at an elite level takes a lot of practice and the ability to stay mentally disciplined on every shot. In order to break par you can't afford more than a bogey or 2 so it's paramount to be aggressive but in a calculated way. There are holes where you can look for birdies like short par 5's then there are holes where it's more prudent to just aim the ball at the middle of the green, like long par 3's. It's all about taking calculated risks only on shots you're comfortable with.
Whether you are trying to break 100 or 70, there are 2 tips that I guarantee will help your golf game immediately. The first tip is to have a pre shot routine that you execute on every shot. Routines can vary but it is essential to pick something out on the ground a couple feet in front of your golf ball to help you aim at your target. I like to set my club down first, aiming towards that object on the ground, then I align my body to the target. The second tip is to always try to have one swing thought that helps give you muscle memory to get your swing in the right position. I always play my best golf after a good range session because I'm not just mindlessly banging golf balls. If my tendency has been that I'm hitting the ball left, maybe my swing thought would be open the face a little at address or swing more up towards the target instead of "third base" after impact. Have a mindful approach when you're on the range so you can be ready to shoot your lowest score yet!