I have played a lot of golf and achieved all the golfing milestones. I’ve reached milestones like 100, 90, 80, and 70. I have yet to get that magical 59.
Every stage presents different challenges. Here are my top 10 tips to help you break 90.
(1) – Learn the art of taking risks to break 90
You become a risk manager every time you approach a shot on the golf course. Although your risk management strategy will not cause financial ruin the way banks’ risk departments did in 2008 (which it did), it will affect the score of your scorecard and how you feel in the end.
Golf risk management is an art. While I cannot give you a set of rules to help minimize your risk-taking on the course, I can recommend some things to avoid. Let’s get started:
- When you are in thick rough, it is best to use a 7-iron. It’s not uncommon for a 4-iron to be thrown 200 yards from thick rough by Tiger Woods. Because Tiger Woods is (a lot) more skilled than you, he can do it. Accept it.
- You shouldn’t aim at your target if there are more trees than you can see between you and it. Use your 89 strokes. Keep three from escaping the trees on the 2nd hole.
- Don’t play the “correct shot.” Stop trying to be the “correct shot.” Practice shots are not recommended for those who aren’t confident with them.
- Lay up if any hazard surrounds a par-5 green and you are less than five irons from the green.
- Please don’t aim at the pin unless it’s in the middle of the green. If you need help to break 90, you shouldn’t aim at any of the nails. Instead, focus on the middle of your green. Let’s now briefly discuss this “middle” concept. This is only sometimes going to be the geometric center. The green portion is the “middle” of the green. This is usually easy to determine, but if in doubt, aim at the dead center.
These are only a few risk management strategies you can use next time you’re out on the fairway. However, they will make you a mediocre course manager like Ben Hogan or Tiger Woods. Keeping a golf journal is a great way to improve this area.
(2) – Learn how to create a “playing focal” to break 90
This idea comes from the fact that Every shot must have a purpose. It might be the best thing you do for your game.
It’s simple: set a goal for your round that doesn’t have to do with the outcome. Keep this focus regardless of how your game goes.
These are some tips I used to get through stressful rounds of college golf.
- “This round, my finish will be on every shot I hit.”
- “This round, my preshot routine will be done on each shot. I will then focus my attention on my target and only this one.”
- “This round, I will focus on good tempo in the swing for every shot.
A “playing focal” can be either a swing thought or a general theme for your round. The pieces could be described in my first and second examples, while my third example is more specific to a swing thought.
Stay caught up in details. Pick one thing that you can control and move on.
(3) – Focus on your score to break 90
You just told me that I should stop focusing on something I cannot control. Now, you want me to be focused on my score. ?
This was something I struggled with for a long time. But I finally have a grasp of it. Many golf instructors will tell players to forget about their scores, including me in the previous tip. But here’s the thing: the human brain is more complex.
Our brains need a goal. While your “playing focus” in the previous tip should still be your primary thought throughout the round, your subconscious brain needs something to work towards.
Tiger’s Post-Round Interviews
I gained this through personal experience and listening to Tiger Woods speak after each round. Tiger always had a target score before each round, which I noticed as he spoke to reporters. To determine his target score, he would consider the weather, course conditions, and where he was on the leaderboard. He might target 66 if he was at five back on Sunday. This would determine his overall round strategy, also known as “play aggressive golf.” His target score for Sunday would be either 71 or 72 if he led by four shots. If he had less than that, his strategy would be conservative (“make lots of pars”)
Although I haven’t done any extensive analysis on this, I play my best rounds when I set a score for myself before the game. The score goal must be realistic. If your goal is to score 75 and you haven’t broken 90, you will win. You’re shooting 105, guaranteed. If your best score is 92, and your goal is to hit 88, this will set off a subconscious process that will guide you through the round.
The night before or the morning after a round, set a scoring goal and create your round strategy around that number. Your “playing focus” should be the only thing you focus on during the round. The scoring goal should not be in the back of the mind.
(4) – If you want to break 90, your head must stay down when you are putting.
You should finish all your putts. You know how terrifying those three-footers can be. It’s so close, yet so far.
Sometimes you might think, “Don’t worry about that 3-footer…You deserve a par after the nice chip shot that you just hit.” You can go tap it in.
Then… It’s gone.
Then you start to make a fool out of yourself when you get to the next hole. You get mad at yourself for being angry. Then you realize your D.O. care about missing 3-footers. You’re now behind a tree, hitting your second shot because you lost your focus on your drive.
Do you sound familiar?
How to keep your head low
There’s a way around this. These instructions will save you at least two shots per round.
- Treat your 3-foot putts as if they were tee shots. Take your time and go through the process.
- After making contact with your putts, keep your head down for at most 1 second.
Here are two more tips if you find it challenging to keep your head down:
- Keep your left eye closed just before you start your putting stroke. This will keep you from seeing your 3-footers and will increase your confidence.
- If you don’t like closing your eyes, choose a spot 1cm in advance of the ball (between your ball and the hole). Keep your eyes fixed on this spot until the ball goes in.
(5) – In practice, make lead-handed chip shots to break 90
Humans weren’t meant to play golf correctly, or they had no understanding of physics.
It’s because 9/10 beginner golfers have a bent wrist during the impact. This is CHOKING their chances of scoring low scores.
Golfers can maintain centripetal force integrity, keep the swing low, and have a lot of confidence in the short game by keeping their lead wrist flat geometrically through impact.
This video is from my Break90 in 90 Days course and explains the “lead hand-chipping” drill in great detail.
This drill should be repeated daily until you hit a pitch/chip.
(6) – Develop a preshot routine to break 90
Zach, I have one already!
Although you may already have a preshot routine, it is possible to make it better. Is your preshot routine meeting the following criteria? I recommend that you work on your preshot performance if it doesn’t. It is the glue that holds everything together in golf, especially when you’re nervous.
Preshot routine criteria
- Consistent length (look at Tiger’s preshot routine through the years). Since he began playing golf, it has been approximately 14 seconds.
- Include some visualization of the desired outcome of the ball in the air
- It is clear, concise, and deliberate enough to keep evil thoughts from creeping into your mind.
- It is the same for all shots (but you can have slightly different pre-shot procedures for full photos than short shots).
(7) – Clean your clubs to break 90
Although it may seem trivial, this point is essential.
It amazes me that many high-handicap golfers don’t wash their clubs before hitting a shot.
The following will occur if you hit a clean sand wedge on your first hole and a dirt-covered sand wedge at your second hole:
- Because dirt on an iron’s face affects distance and spin, you won’t be able to tell how far your clubs hit the ground.
- In dry conditions, you won’t be able to spin the ball.
- You won’t feel as confident. Golfers won’t clean their clubs because they don’t believe it matters. While you might wear a suit to a job interview and clean your clubs before you hit a shot, it could significantly impact the outcome of your round. Ok, that’s a stretch, but you get my point.
How to clean your golf clubs
Use a Frogger groove cleaner to clean your club.
Although it’s not pleasant, your golf score will be grateful.
(8) – Read a mental gamebook to break 90
I still remember the 90s and 100s times I was a golfer. I was a mental failure.
Unfortunately, I realized the importance of mental game books for golf much later. I want a better outcome.
These are my top picks (in alphabetical order)
- Every shot must have a purpose, Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson.
- Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect. Bob Rotella
- Zen Golf – Joseph Parent
Take a few minutes to read this book before starting your golf round. Golf is Not a Game of Perfect is a great book. Rotella shares many fun stories about his coaching experience with professional golfers. This book will take your mind to a new level.
How books helped me during college golf
You must “qualify” to play collegiate golf. A team usually has 10-15 players, and five are allowed to play in every tournament. Some players have a track record of success, making them confident to play in games. I wasn’t one of those people. I had to work hard to get into tournaments. I remember one qualifier that involved seven rounds of golf over seven days. The contest awarded the five lowest scores.
I had scores of 73-72-73 in my first round. But, in the fourth round, I scored a staggering 82. I thought I was dead.
After shooting the 82, I read a few chapters from Every Shot Must have a Purpose. This helped me regain my focus on my preshot routine and mental state while on the course. I shot 70, 71, and 72 in the last three days, making the tournament by one shot.
These books will help you get from 95 to 75. I cannot guarantee that. So get reading!
(9) – These shots are necessary to break 90.
All shots are equal in scoring, but some shots significantly impact your overall score.
You could tell me to practice your iron shots and driver, but I want something else. These are going to be hard, no matter what I say. These problems are challenging for everyone and often require much practice to be fixed reliably.
These are the things anyone can quickly improve upon. These are the things I want to share:
- Putts 3 to 6 feet
- The basic shot
- The punch shot
Your scores will stay high if you perform marginally well in these three areas.
How do you do it?
Although I charge money for these videos through my Break 90 in 90 Day Course, I will give them away here for free because I want you to shoot lower scores.
(10) – Watch golf on T.V. to break 90
Tell your family you are doing “homework.” It doesn’t matter what it takes. Golf on T.V. It’s a great way to learn about course strategy and to visualize yourself hitting great shots (since pros do it often).
Even if you don’t like T.V., Here are some YouTube videos that will allow you to watch the game. Because Tiger is one of the best “course managers” in the game, it’s great to see him.
- Tiger Woods at the 2000 U.S. Open
- Tiger Woods 2019 Masters
- Jordan Spieth 2015 Masters
Here’s a list I recommend you focus on while watching:
- Which club are they playing at? What is it that they are hitting off the tee?
- What is the best place to land the ball on the green relative to the pin? Why?
- What are their pre-shot routines like?
- Are they able to keep their heads down when they are putting?
- What type of short game shots do they play? Do they hit high-flop shots every time? Are they hitting lots of bumps and runs or high-flop shots all the time?
What can I do to make it past 90?
This blog is free, and considering this post is about breaking 90, I need to mention my online training course, Breaking 90 in 90 Days. We go through the following:
- A full-game audit
- These are the five essential skills of golf.
- Short game deep-dives
- Management 101
- An in-depth walk-through of all the golf swing parts and how they work.
- A mental game framework
- My complete college golf practice routine
If you find it interesting, here’s the link to learn more. I only open it once a year so make sure to sign up for the waiting list if it still needs to be opened.