How To Break 85 In Golf (Practical Guide)


Tired of shooting in the 90s or even higher?

Looking to take your game to the next level?

Maybe it is time to follow a formula to truly take your game to the next level and start to shoot in the low 80s.  Once a golfer reaches this level the potential is there to keep getting better with the right practice, instruction and training.

At golfjourney365, we love the game and look to play as often as possible for the challenge that golf brings and the amount of fun there is.

There is nothing better than the physical, mental and emotional challenge of trying to get your game to the next level. 

Every golfer will have ups and downs and the key is to have a system to help you know where you need to get better and then how to get better in those areas.

Golf can be played for many years, so view your game improvement as a journey and follow our tips below in each of the three categories.

Shooting an 84 or lower can be simple if you follow our breakdown below under our course management section.

Make sure you check out our Course Management guide below for breaking 85 in golf!

How to break 85 in Golf?

They key is to start with an assessment of your game and then look to improve in each of these 5 areas:

  • Practice routines
  • Knowledge of the golf swing
  • Proper instruction
  • Training
  • Course Management

Below, we will provide tips in each of these 5 categories and if you follow this formula and commit, I believe your game can get there quickly!

Are you ready to finally take your game to the next level!  Let’s dive right in!

Start With An Assessment

Many people will tell you that the fundamentals of the golf swing are based on the grip, stance, alignment and posture.  We would disagree with this take and instead look to these three fundamentals below as the true basics of golf. 

If a golfer can improve in these three areas, they can start to shoot lower scores through more consistent play.

Three Fundamentals in Golf

  • Fundamental #1: The ability to strike the ground on the intended spot 100% of the time.  The best golfers in the world can do this 100% of the time.  While the high handicap golfer might not even do this 50% of the time.
  • Fundamental #2: The ability to control the start line and the curve of the ball.  Every golfer needs a stock shot that they can utilize a higher percentage of the time.  We prefer the stock draw shot for several different reasons.
  • Fundamental #3: Having enough distance to play the course.  This is directly correlated with swing speed.

Here is your quick checklist.  Hit 20 balls trying the different methods and swing feels and use this quick checklist:

  • Ability to control the bottom of the swing in 20 attempts?
  • Ability to control the start line and curve of the ball in 20 attempts?
  • Ability to have enough distance to play the course, did you hit the ball shorter or further than your typical distance in your 20 attempts?

This is your baseline for where you are at with your golf swing.  The key is to strike the bal solid (fundamental 1), control the start line and curve of your ball (fundamental 2) and have enough distance to play the course (fundamental 3).

This will serve as our guide as we explore the 5 categories and a formula for you to get better.

#1 – Practice Routines

We have to create some sort of practice routine.  Look at your 3 fundamentals above and see where your weaknesses are.  Do you struggle to strike the ball solid?  Or do you struggle to know where the ball is going? 

Or do you strike the ball solid and straight, but lack the distance it takes to play the course in a score lower than 85? 

Everyone will have different issues with their swing.  However, we provide three tips/drills for each of these three fundamentals.

Fundamental #1

Tip: They key here is that we must be able to control the spot where the club strikes the ground.  This starts with having the weight of your swing int he proper spot.  We would recommend putting 60% of your weight in your setup on your front foot. 

This will help control where the club bottoms out.  If you are trying to shift your weight to your back leg and then to your front on your downswing you will have struggles unless you are playing every day and have time to work on your timing. 

The golf swing has become more centered over the years as we know the importance of fundamental 1.

Drill: In your backyard or some place where you can safely swing a club and have access to some grass where you can take divots, spray a line across the grass. 

Go ahead and practice simply hitting the ground in the right spot.   If this is your weakness, practice this drill at least 3 times a week.  Adjust some weight forward and see if it makes a difference.

Fundamental #2

Tip: In order to control the start line of the ball, we must have control of the clubface.  Did you know that the ball will start where the club face is pointing at impact? 

From there it will curve away from the path of your swing.  So if your club face is 2 degree open at impact, the ball will start to the right. 

If the path more to the right than the face, the ball will draw back towards the target.  If the path is left of the face, the ball will start right and fade or slice to the right.

Drill: Go ahead and follow these steps for your drill:
  • Set up and alignment stick about 6-8 yards in front of you at a driving range.
  • Hit and practice to get 8 out of 10 shots that start to the right of the alignment stick.
  • Once you have become proficient at the start line, monitor which way the ball curves.

If this is your weakness, make sure you hit 30-40 balls, 3 days a week utilizing this drill in your practice routine.

Fundamental #3

Tip: If you lack distance, there are some solutions other than buying a new driver.  We would highly recommend checking out SuperSpeed Golf.  I personally use this system and have experienced an increase in swing speed. 

I was on average between 98-101 miles per hour and now play golf in the 103-107 range.  My goal is to continue to train and try to reach the 110-113 level!  

Drill: The SuperSpeed System consists of three different swing sticks that are each weighted differently.  Two are lighter than your average driver and one is heavier. 

You simply follow the training protocols every other day.  The great part is that the protocols only take 10-15 minutes and you do this every other day.  This approach is based on science that we must be able to train our minds to allow us to swing faster and that this is accomplished by actually swinging faster. 

I swing the green stick in the system at over 120 miles per hour.  This let’s my brain know that I can do this safely and you start to reprogram your brain to allow you to swing faster.  Phil Mickelson and many others on tour utilize this system on a regular basis.  They are worth checking out!

Use discount code Golfjourney365 for a savings at SuperSpeed Golf!

Find where your weakness is and make sure you build a routine.  A normal routine might constist of the following:
  • Monday: Speed Training
  • Tuesday: Bottom of swing control
  • Wednesday: Speed Training
  • Thursday: Start line and curve control
  • Friday: Speed Training and maxing out with driver
  • Saturday: Play some golf and test your results
  • Sunday: Work on all three fundamentals and short game

*While we didn’t spend time talking about the short game, it is a different maker if you are looking for the quickest way to break 85.  In the long run, improving your swing and short game will give you the greatest results.

Keep in mind that to practice the short game is easy.  You can chip in your backyard, putt somewhere in your house or stop at your local course and take 15-20 minutes a day to practice your short game.

Here are some great short game practice games.

#2 – Knowledge of the Golf Swing

Learning more about the golf swing and being able to make adjustments on the course is key to managing your game and continually getting better. 

The more you understand about the game, the more you can correct your swing when you are struggling.  I believe understanding the ball flight laws is vital to understanding what you need to do with your swing.

Why? If you understand the ball flight laws you can start to become your own swing instructor and make corrections on the range or the course by reading the flight of your golf ball.  Too often golfers turn to the video of their swing when everything you need to know can be read off of your ball flight.  Did you know that your ball flight can tell you the following:

  • Where your club face was at impact.
  • If your swing path was left or right of the club face.

Once you know these two items you can make the corrections by checking out our 2nd Tip on understanding what swing thoughts can help you get the proper matchups.

So let’s dive into the ball flight laws:

  • Generally speaking, the golf ball will start where the club face is aiming.
  • The golf ball will then curve away from the swing path.

There are two different lines that we must understand.  The target line and the start line.  The best golfers start the ball left or right of the target line and then curve the ball back towards the target.

Let’s go over some examples to help you better understand the ball flight laws.

Example A:  Let’s say that the club face is 3 degrees right of the target line and the swing path is 5 degrees right of the target line.  What will the ball do?

Answer: The ball will start right of the target line and draw back towards the target.  This is known as a push draw.

Example B: Let’s say the club face is 3 degrees right of the target line, same as in example A, but the swing path is only 1 degree right of the target line.  What will the ball do?

Answer: The ball will start to the right of the target line and will fade to the right.  Keep in mind that the ball will curve away from the swing path.  In this example, both the club face and the swing path are to the right and the ball will curve away from the path.

Example C: Let’s say the club face is 3 degrees to the left of the target line and the swing path is 5 degrees left of the target line.  What will the ball do?

Answer: The ball will start to the left and curve to the right.  This would be a pull fade or pull slice.  Keep in mind that even though the face is closed to the target line, it is open to the swing path and the ball will curve away from the swing path.

Example D: Let’s say the club face is 3 degrees to the left and the swing path is only 1 degree to the left.  What will the ball do?

Answer: The ball will start left and curve left.  This shot would look like a pull draw. 

Hopefully, these examples help you understand the club face and swing path correlation and how they match up.  Once you understand these ball flight laws, it will help you read your own shots and possibly make in round adjustments.

#3 – Proper Instruction

One of the wonderful aspects of playing golf in the era that we are in is the access to the best golf instructors in the world.  No longer are we forced to only learn from our local golf pro or the big publications that are out there. 

We can take online lessons, get swing analysis and even dive into some artificial intelligence on the golf swing.

Here are golfjourney365, we have watched thousands of videos trying to learn more about the swing and to get better.  We have reviewed many of the best online golf instructors in today’s golf world. 

Some people might say not to dive down this rabbit hole and to go see someone, but I would highly recommend checking out these instructors and figuring out who is the best for your swing!

Here is a list of golf instructors that we have reviewed:

The other option is to pay and go get a lesson in person. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but I believe part of the formula to breaking 85 is to follow an instructor, learn as much as possible and apply that system to your game.  

  • If you are looking for a rotational based swing then George Gankas would be perfect for you!
  • If you are looking for a teacher that has a focus on vision and making an athletic, natural movement then Shawn Clement would be perfect for you!
  • If you are a former baseball player and want to utilize your hands and make a simple golf swing then Mike Malaska might be the perfect instructor for you!
  • If you want to explore an alternative swing then check out Jim Venetos.
  • If you want to get free feedback on your swing from a positional stand point, check out Bobby Lopez.  He runs quickfixgolf.com and has a light hearted approach to the game.
  • If you want a great communicator that has taken on some of the traditional teachings and has excellent solutions to the most commons faults, check out Monte Scheinblum.


There is an instructor for every swing out there no matter where you are at in your game!

As Arnold Palmer said,

“Swing your swing.  Not some idea of a swing.  Not a swing you saw on TV.  Not that swing you wish you had. No, swing your swing.  Capable of greatness.  Prized only by you.  Perfect in its imperfection, Swing your swing.  I know, I did.”

Arnold Palmer
There are many options for golf instruction in today’s golf world!

#4 Training

Staying physically fit or at least staying active is a key.  Make sure you are finding a way to ensure you can play golf as long as possible.  Golf is a lifelong game and we must take action to help us enjoy the game and perform at our highest level for as long as possible.  

I also strongly believe in training for speed and making sure you tap into a system like SuperSpeed Golf.  As you age, it is key to work to not lose distance each and every year.  Even a 5 yard decline will result in 25 yards over 5 years.  We must reverse the trend and ensure we are working on what is important. 

There is plenty of research that shows the importance of distance in today’s golf game.

Consider this data below and then check out SuperSpeed Golf!

Average Driving Distance By Age
10-19234.2
20-29239.7
30-39233.7
40-49225.9
50-59215.4
60-69204.5
70+190.4
Accros golfer on course driving distance – Based on 26 million shots
My SuperSpeed Golf training has been a difference maker!

#5 – Course Management

One of the quickest ways to get break 85 in golf is to manage your game and have an awesome short game! 

Here are golfjourney365, we have laid out how to improve your golf swing above utilizing the three fundamentals, drills to get better in these areas, growing your knowledge of the game, and giving you a swing instructor to follow.

Now when you hit the course, it is time to put it all together.  Course management and short games are vital.  Make sure you are assessing your course management after every round and then practice that short game as frequently as possible! 

With the combination of improving your swing, training and then having a great short game you just might break 80 quickly!

Here is the formula we recommend!

Do you think you could make one par out of every three holes?  I think once you get your ball striking and short game to certain levels this is very achievable.  This approach starts with the proper mindset.  We like to break each set of three holes down into their own little segment.

If we can play 2 over par for every three holes we would be 12 over par and shoot an 84 on a par 72 course.  Sounds somewhat simple doesn’t it?

Let’s provide some examples:

Example 1:

Looking through the scorecard of a course I play frequently, here are the first three holes:

  • Hole 1: 360 yard Par 4 with a hazard to the right
  • Hole 2: 440 yard Par 4 with a creek at the 165 out distance
  • Hole 3: 340 yard Par 3 with no danger

Looking at these first three holes, my goal would be to par hole number 1 or 3 and make sure I make bogey on #2 at the worst.  I would hit a 3 wood off the tee on number two, hit something up within 20-30 yards and then chip it on and if I one putt for a par great!  If not, I take my bogey and make sure I don’t destroy my round early on.

You see, most people make enough pars to shoot an 84 or better, but turn difficult holes in round busters.  Instead, manage the course and your expectionats.

Remember, if you have a solid short game, you could miss just about every green in regulation and get up and down only 30% of the time and still shoot an 84.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Makes you want to go practice your chipping and putting I bet.

Example 2:

Here are holes 16 thru 18 at my home course:

  • Hole 16: 540 yard Par 5 with out of bounds right
  • Hole 17: 310 yard Par 4 with no danger
  • Hole 18: 440 yard Par 4 – Have to hit a draw to have a chance

If I were playing to shoot an 84, I would make sure I play for a bogey or better on hole #18.  This is the most difficult hole on the course outside of the 2nd hole. 

I may take a three wood of the tee, hit something within 50 yards on my second shot and then hit the green with my 3rd shot.  You see, I have taken the high number out of play by doing this!

I then would take my chances that I would make a par on the par 5 or the simple 17th hole.  I would like my chances of making par on one of those two holes!

The key overall here is to look at the difficult holes and make the right decisions!  It starts with the tee shot and ends with a decent short game!  

I learned this approach from my high school golf coach as an undersize 9th grader who couldn’t drive the ball further than 220.  He encouraged me to try to be around every green in regulation and then rely on my short game. 

Of course, every golfer is going to hit at least 1 or 2 greens for every 9 holes.  Then if a golfer can get up and down 33% of the time, they can break 85!

I have taught this approach to many high school golfers as their coach and it has worked.  It starts with the proper mindset and having an approach to the game. 

Write out and think through your plan before you hit your first tee shot.  Know how you are going to manage each set of three holes and make it happen.  Try not to let the emotions override your game plan if you have a great hole or a bad hole.  Stick with the plan!

Here is a view back at this difficult par 4 that has an approach shot over water! This is a hole you would want to ensure you score nothing higher than a bogey by playing smart!

Final Thoughts

This formula will work.  It will take some commit to practice, train, learn and then manage your game on the course.  Healing out to play 18 holes might seem overwhelming, but I truly believe in the 3 hole approach and breaking it down! 

Keep those high scores off the card and make sure you manage your game.  In the meantime, work every week to get better!

My Game Improvement Secret

The ultimate game changer in my golf journey has been building a golf simulator in my garage.  I cannot play golf 365 days a year regardless of the rain, snow, too cold weather.  it also doesn’t matter what time of day it is.

I have access to over 100,000 courses in Pebble Beach, Augusta, St.  Andrews, and Whistling straits.  The features such as the auto rewind allow me to hit the shots that I need to practice that day whether it is the approach shot on number 11 at Augusta for the Tee shot on number 18 at Pebble Beach.

I have seen a 4 to 6 shot duction in my average score, an increase in ball speed through superspeed training and much better ball contact.

The fun you can have and the game improvement for 5 to 7 thousand dollars is impressive!  I am able to practice the three fundamentals and my courage management on a daily basis.  My goal is to play 365 days in this next year and see just how much game improvement I can experience!

I went with the SkyTrak system that came in a package through Rain or Shine golf.

Some direct links to Rain or Shine Golf for pricing and financing:

Take Action – What You Can Do Today to Get Better

What does this mean for you?  I believe in the following recipe to get better:

1 – Improve your motion in the golf swing by identifying a golf instructor.  Here are some options:

Here is a list of golf instructors that we have reviewed:

2 – Train to swing faster and improve your swing speed.  Here are some options:

Looking to gain more Speed and Distance in your swing. Two Options:

3 – Understand course strategy and work to break through your next barrier.  Here is a series on breaking through:

We have provided guides on how to break 100, 90, 80 and 70. Check out more below, if interested.

4 – Practice Frequently

Did you know that I build a golf simulator in my garage and have played over 500 rounds of golf on my SkyTrak system?  It has been a game changer and one worth checking out. Here are some of my other posts on golf simulators frequently asked questions:

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