How To Break 90 in Golf (Practical Guide)


Once a golfer starts flirting with breaking 90 in golf, they can feel a sense that they belong and can have a great time on any course.  Breaking 90 in golf pretty much comes down to being able to average bogey on every hole. Once a golfer reaches this level the game becomes even more enjoyable and starts to bring making the occasional par or even a birdie a reality.

Keep in mind that the average 18 hole score is right around 90.  So if we can get you to occasionally breaking 90 and shooting in the 80s you have reached that level of above average golf.  Having been through this journey both as a golfer and a coach of high school golfers, we have some solid tips, strategies and the overall mindset to help you reach this goal.  Practice will become more fun and that beautiful 80 degree day with the sun shining becomes a day you can’t wait to get out and play some golf.

Below we will talk through each of the categories listed and and provide some of the best online golf instruction videos in the various categories.  This practical guide to breaking 90 will put you in the right frame of mind, provide key strategies and help you improve your overall game.

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Play your best golf ever and reach your goals with our practical guide to breaking 90.

The wonderful part about the internet and the advancement of online instruction is that we all have the highest quality instructors at our fingertips.  Having viewed hundreds of videos from many of the best instructors in the world, I bring you the best free videos out there to guide you in the right direction. Once we get you to breaking 90, you will soon be looking at how you can get to the next level!

  1. The Score Breakdown and Mindset
    1. Set the “New Par”
    2. Course Management
  2. Tee Shot
  3. Approach Shot
  4. Chipping
  5. Putting
  6. Mental side
  7. Online Golf Instructors
  8. Practice
  9. Have fun!

The Score Breakdown and Mindset

Thinking of breaking 90 might seem overwhelming at first, but we guide you through the mindset to take it one hole and one shot at a time.  This all starts with a strategy when you head to the course and before each hole. Let’s take a quick look at what it takes to break 90 in golf.

Set the “New Par”

The typical par for the majority of the courses is right around 72.  This breaks down to the following:

  • 4 Par 5’s
  • 4 Par 3’s
  • 10 Par 4’s

Total par of 72 on average.  

Let’s start with the right mindset.  Consider this – one of the most frustrating parts of golf is feeling like you are never good enough.  Par has been set by the management at the course, but we are going to reset the par and break it down, so you can score an 89 and feel success along the way.

We are going to have you take the par for every hole and add one stroke.  

Tip: The father of Tiger Woods, Earl Woods, would look at the scorecard and create a new par for Tiger for every hole.  You too can utilize this strategy. For example all par 3’s are now par 4’s. All par 4’s are now par 5’s and all par 5’s are now par 6.

This completely changes your mindset and makes shooting par for each hole seem realistic.  We know that you might be good enough to get an actual par several times throughout your round – we will use this as a bonus to build a buffer.

  • If you made your “par” on every hole that would equate to 18 over par which would be an 89 at the majority of courses.  You have 18 strokes above the normal par to play with.

Tip: If you know the course really well and have played it multiple times, we can make adjustments to our “new par” setup.  If there is a short 100 yard par 3 or an easy par 5 that you are confident you can make an actual par 7 out of 10 times, then keep that par at the normal par and take the most difficult hole and allow for a double bogey.  Maybe that long par 4 or the 200 yard plus par 3. You know the course, go ahead and make the adjustment.

Now that we have the right par for each hole and it seems like something we can accomplish, we want to talk about course management.  This new mindset frees you up to pick the correct shot and reverse engineer the playing of each hole. Here is an excellent read to help you manage your mind, “Golf Is Not A Game of Perfect” by Dr. Rotella – Check Current Price on Amazon).

Club selection is a major part of course management!

Course Management

Let’s say the first hole of the day is a 360 yard par 4.  There are two ways to play this hole:

  • Option 1 – Hit Driver off the tee and brining the potential danger into play.  Possible fairway bunkers, trees or water. If you have a solid drive of 220 yards, you only have 140 yards left.  Hit it around the green on your second shot and chip it on for your third. Two putt and you have your “par” and you move onto the next hole feeling good.
  • Option 2 – Hit something safer off of the tee, maybe a 3 wood, hybrid or even a 4 or 5 iron.  Let’s say you only hit something 180 off of the tee. You can now hit a 130 yard second shot and leave your “approach” shot distance somewhere around 50 yards.  I am confident that most people can hit the green from 50 yards. Hit the green on the third shot and make a two putt for your “par”

Tip: The psychological advantage of feeling that you made a “par” will help you continue to manage your game and shots throughout the course.  This will keep your self talk positive and help you be free to make a quality swing.

Let’s say the second hole is a 200 yard par 3 that you struggle with consistently.

  • Option 1 – Hit your 3 iron and bring in all types of potential bad shots.  Hope that you end up somewhere positive and chip it on for a two putt “par.”
  • Options 2 – Consider pulling your 7 iron out and hitting a 150 yard shot and then hitting a 50 yard approach shot.  Two putt for your “par.”

Tip: As you can see from both scenarios we have shown if you build up your ability to hit the 30-70 yard pitch shot, you will increase your chances of breaking 90.  It’s not about how far you can hit your driver, but rather if you can hit those 50 yard pitch shots and chip around the green.

“Everything that happens from the tee to that 120-yard range is almost insignificant compared with what happens thereafter.”

Bob Rotella, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect

Over the course of the day, you will end up making decisions with your course management on shots that you can pull off.  If you are playing a 125 yard par 3, go ahead and try to stick the green. Or if you are playing a 475 yard par 5, try to make an actual par.  These pars that you can make throughout, will give you bonus shots for that occasional double bogey as a result of a 3 putt or a chunked shot.

Here is an excellent read to help you manage your mind, “Golf Is Not A Game of Perfect” by Dr. Rotella – Check Current Price on Amazon).

Tip:  Being able to make some puts from 4-15 feet will drastically help your score.  The occasional chip shot within this range, might produce some 1 putts and you can make actual pars or “birdies” according to your scorecard.  You will leave that hole feeling good and with that positive vibe that you are on your way.

Your overall course management and self talk over the course of the 4-5 hours that it takes to play 18 holes will play a major role in helping you reach your golf of breaking 90.  You should be saying positive things to yourself and understanding that you don’t control everything. You might get a bad break or two, how you respond will ultimately be key to staying on task, selecting the right shot and then executing the right shot.

Enjoy the journey and the challenge.  Taking on difficult situations and looking forward to them will help you improve and be better prepared the next time.

“A golfer has to learn to enjoy the process of striving to improve. That process, not the end result, enriches life.”


Bob Rotella, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect

Now let’s get into some of the actual shots you will need to hit.

Tee Shot and Mindset

As you approach the tee getting ready for the tee shot, think to what strategy you have set for that hole.  Or if is your first time playing the course, look at the hole, the yardage and come up with a game plan. The instinct is the reach for the driver right away, but you must keep in mind that you have an extra shot above regulation to hit the green.  This allows you to take even a 400 yard par 4 and break into 3 shots to reach the green.

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This will help take pressure off. Now if you are good driver the ball, hit it confidently and trust your swing. Too many times, we are feeling the pressure of breaking 90 and try to control everything.  Do you struggle off the tee with either power or consistency? I believe Shawn Clement’s video below is top watch to help you make progress with this issue.

Struggling with your Power and Consistency – Make sure you watch this video by Shawn Clement.

Tip: Play the shot you are hitting that day.  If you have curving the ball right to left or right to left about 15 yard, go with it.  Try not to make swing changes on the course. This will only get you more into trouble. Head back to your basics and make the simple swing or club down and keep the ball in play.

Approach Shots and Mindset

One of the biggest fears that can take over once in the fairway is the concern over hitting the ball solid and crisp.  We can fear chunking the ball or completely hitting the top of the ball. We have to let go of the the control and trust the athletic motion that you are making.  I have seen too many golfers over the years panic themselves and ultimately make poor contact. Here is another quality video by Shawn Clement to help you make clean contact.  We need you to make clean contact to help you break 90.

Tip: If you can make clean contact and get the ball in the air and somewhere close to the green from 180 yards and in, we can start to see some drastic improvement in the overall score.  It also opens up the options when you hit into the trees and have to punch out sideways. It leaves your “par” score in the range of possibilities.

Chipping

Here is the ultimate shot saver.  Let’s break it down for you. If you miss every green in regulation, meaning you are 0 for 18 in GIRs, but you can be somewhere around the green in regulation and leave yourself a decent chip, if you can chip, we will get you to break 90.  

There was a young man, who was a high school freshmen on my team, who couldn’t hit the ball very far because of his size and physical maturity at the time, who we got to shoot in the low 40’s for 9 holes.  The recipe? Be around every green in regulation and then get “up and down” in two shots (one chip, one putt) 50% of the time.

All we need you to do is to get “up and down” a couple of times a round to get some bonus or buffer strokes to help you reach your goal of breaking 90.  We aren’t even looking for 50% of the time, just several times a round. When we start getting you to breaking 80, we will expect you to to 50% of the time.

When I first receive this tip as a young high school golfer, it change my mindset completly and made the game more fun.

Tip: Keep your chipping motion simple and practice it the most.  Not only will it help your chipping, but it will help improve your ball striking as well.

Hands down I think this is the best free resource on the internet right now for how to chip.  It show you the “fool proof” or “chunk proof” method for chipping. Pat Perez works with Trackman Maestro in this video:

Pat Perez – Short Game Video

Putting

The beautiful part about improving your putting is that all it takes is sometime, but very little if at all any money.  The practice green at your local golf course is free to use and so is the carpeted area of your house. Have 10 extra minutes while watching tv? Keep you putter in the living room and make some putts.  You will be amazed how quickly you can become a better putter and start to save shots.

There are many different techniques to putting. Just watch your weekend PGA tournament and you will see long putters and short putters.  People who stand with an open stance, people who stand square. You will see big mallet heads and you will see blade putters. Experiment around and see where you can best see the line and then start the ball on that line.

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Tip: The key to good putting comes down to two things: speed and can you start the ball on your intended line.  You will get quality feedback after every putt if you can do those two things. Please know that not every putt will go in, but rather you job is to put a good roll on it speed wise and start the ball down your intended target.  Make sure you mark your ball before every putt, clean the mud off and line of the line on the ball of where you want the ball to start.

Here is an excellent drill to make part of your routine.

Mental Side

Golf is one of the easiest games to quickly get frustrated and lose focus on your plan for the day.  When you get angry or anxious during a round of golf, positive shots do not happen. You can quickly derail a round after just one bad shot.  There are several keys from a mental game perspective.

Self Talk

Self talk is so very powerful.  You know that little voice in your head telling you a story?  That person, aka you, can be your best ally or your greatest enemy.  The story you tell yourself during the between shots in golf can make or destroy your round.  

So you are on the first tee and your tee shot slices over into the other fairway and only travels 175 yards.  You have two choices at this point from a self talk perspective.

Scenario 1 – You can tell yourself the following, “No big deal at all, it was only my first swing of the day and I have room to make a 6 on this par 5, I will just get it back into the fairway and make a smooth comfortable swing with my next opportunity.

Scenario 2 – Or you can tell yourself the following, “Man, I just suck at this game, it doesn’t matter what I do, I am never going to be good.  This round is over, I am never going to break 100”

Obviously, the first scenario can actually help you reach your goal of breaking 90.  The second scenario will simply make your round miserable and create a long 4-5 hours of not enjoying such a great game.  Everything will seem a bit more miserable and you produce extra stress in your body that will keep you from performing.

Tip: Keep in mind there are other people in your group and they want to enjoy your round.  Do NOT complain about your golf game to your foursome, regardless of how bad you are playing.  You want to get invited back and nobody likes the negative person. Plus complaining never saved anyone a shot on the golf course.

In the book “Zen Golf” Dr. Parent recommends the PAR approach.  Preparation, Action and Response to results. You go through the preparation before each shot, take action, and then response to the results.  How you respond to your results both from a physical and mental viewpoint will drastically impact the quality of your round.

“Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character.”

Arnold Palmer Quote

Online Golf Instruction

One of the major advantages golfers of all ages have today is the online access to some of the best golf instructions throughout the world.  Many have provided free youtube videos or offer a paid premium site at a reasonable monthly dollar amount. I am currently following the Shawn Clement approach to golf, but have spent time learning more about the Mike Malaska approach, Monte Scheinblum, Dan Whittaker, and George Gankas.  I wrote a complete post on my top 5 online golf instructors.

Tip: The key is to find a coach that you are comfortable with and follow that systems.  I believe the best ones try to keep the game natural and are great communciators.

The key here is to pick who works best for you.  I have provided a video to 3 of my top 5 online golf instructors below.  

Brief Summary of Videos Below:

Malaska – Making a natural swing.

Clement – Target based golf swing, get rid of trying to hit certain positions.

Scheinblum – Excellent video on short game.  Do you struggle with clean chips and sometimes chunk or blade a shot then you have to check out the video below.

Mike Malaska – He spends a great deal of time trying to make the swing natural and not getting loss in trying to get into positions.  He has some very helpful videos out there and a premium site that allows you to go more in depth. I believe this video provides a good overview of his approach.

Shawn Clement – He provides a great amount of effort in trying to teach his students to make a natural golf swing utilizing the efficiency of gravity and the human anatomy.  He also spends a great deal of time on the mind and where the focus should be. His unique approach is that he never talks about positions, but rather the motions to ensure you hit the right positions.  I truly appreciate his target based approach and how frequently he reminds his students of this approach.

Monte Scheinblum – What I most appreciate about Monte is his non traditional approach and the drills he provides to help eliminate the issue you are having.  He is excellent at spotting the issue and having a solution. Here is a video where he provides a great overview of his short game method that he wishes he would have been able to use when he was competing.

Practice

This might be the most important part of the entire guide.  The key is to spend your time wisely. We all have different obligations including family, work and other responsibilities that we must take care of throughout the day and week.  Finding time to practice can be difficult, so we want to ensure you are spending your time wisely.

For the time that you have each week, I would recommend the following breakdown:

  • 70% on Chipping and Putting
  • 20% on mid irons
  • 10% on driver

Too often we see the person standing at the range hitting driver after driver, while the real key to reducing your game is from within 100 yards.  I also believe being able to make solid contact from 180 yards and in will help you maximize your time spent on the short game. The best part about practicing the short game is that it doesn’t take a lot money or space to be able to hit the 5-10 yard chip shot or to practice your putting.

If you have plenty of time and it isn’t a barrier, make sure you are playing at least 50% of the time that you have dedicated to golf.  Too many times we can become great at the range but struggle to actually score on the golf course. You want to put yourself in different situations to help you improve.

Tip: Do you have limited time?  If you only have 45 minutes for a driving range session, once you are warmed up, hit the shots you will face on the golf course.  Here is how this works – grab the club you would hit of the first tee, find two markers out out on the driving range and identify the right and left boundary of the fairway – go ahead and hit the shot.  Now estimate how much distance you still have left and determine your next shot. Go ahead and set the boundaries again your target and hit another shot. Go through the entire course with this strategy. It helps you start hitting actual golf shots and not just hitting shot after shot at the driving range.

Have Fun!

The game of golf is supposed to be fun!  I believe the challenge of trying to shoot a score is what makes it fun.  To me, it is oftentimes about the journey as much as it is shooting the score.  Find ways to make the game more fun and your practice sessions fun as well. I have found topgolf to be a blast and something that my kids enjoy as well.  This allows you to combine the family time with game improvement opportunities. As someone that has broken the barriers of 100, 90, 80 ad 70 – the journey and the friendships that are built through golf are incredible!

To learn more about Topgolf read this post.

Summary

Enjoy the journey and spend your time wisely with practicing.  Setting your strategy prior to getting to the course will help you execute that strategy.  Keep in mind that your self talk will be vital to not only help you enjoy your round, but to perform at your highest level.  I have seen too many golfers put so much pressure on themselves that the game is no longer fun.

Always keep in mind that the game is fun and to embrace the challenge of getting better.  The positive approach will make your time well spent and help those around you enjoy their round as well!

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