The thought of breaking 100 for any beginning golfer seems like a difficult task. For a lot of new golfers, it’s hard to consistently make good, long shots from tee to green, and then turn around and do it 17 more times. Over the last two years of working on this project, I’ve put a lot of thought on what I need to do to break 100, and I’ve practiced many hours trying to make those shots that will get me there. So I thought I would take a little bit of time and talk about some of the things I focus on during my practice sessions at the driving range and my rounds on the golf course.

Of course, and I understand, it’s all easier said than done. But, let’s get started.

How your score actually adds up to 100

First of all, before you play your next round of golf, take a little bit of time to think about what’s actually needed to score a 99. On a typical 18-hole championship course, the par is 72, and a score of 99 equates to 27 over par. Think about that… that’s a lot of shots over par. You have 18 holes to accumulate 27 more strokes than what the course thinks you should make.

Break down 27 over par for 18 holes… that’s 9 bogeys and 9 double bogeys. If you happen to make par on just one hole, then for the other 17 holes, you’re allowed 7 bogeys and 10 double bogeys. So if you are a golfer that consistently makes bogeys and double bogeys, you’re already very close to breaking 100 (just make sure the number of bogeys made versus double bogeys stays close).

I used this thought many times during my rounds. If I make a couple double bogeys, I don’t think the goal is lost for the round. I have many more opportunities to catch up with where I need to be to break 100.

It’s all about course management

I’m going to credit this thought to my friend and fellow golfing buddy, Trent. Trent carries a single-digit handicap, and previously played golf for his college. While playing my rounds with him, I’m constantly being taught about course management. In my interpretation of course management, there are two main ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Play the shots you can make – If you are more strong and consistent with a 4-iron compared to your fairway wood or hybrid (like me), then use the 4-iron, and skip the risk of topping or duffing a shot, only because you want to hit it an extra 20 yards. If you can hit a wedge straighter and more accurately than an iron, then play the wedge, just to keep your ball in play and out of the rough. Moral of the story: don’t play a shot you are not good at, just because you are trying to score low. By playing those shots, you could actually hurt your score. Work with your strengths, and practice on your weaknesses at the driving range.
  2. Play the safe lines – When you watch the pros play on TV, you will see they take a lot of risks in order to shoot those low scores. We (as in, us beginners) are not professional golfers. We are not trying to win tournaments for a living. So don’t take those risks if you don’t have to. For example, and you’ll see this many times, when you approach a green where the pin is protected in the front by a bunker, yet there is a small section of green to the side of the bunker. It’s far better to aim for the visible green and putt 20-30 feet, than to aim for the pin, because a short shot could end up in the sand than on the green.

(Once again, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, I am still a beginner. If you have a handicap of 20 or better, then either you know of these ideas, or you are just that good. If you disagree with my thoughts on course management, oh well…)

Your approach and chip shots matter

As important as it is to make long, straight tee shots and solid iron shots, the one shot that will start to allow you to finish the hole is your approach and chips shots. While at the driving range, don’t forget to practice your iron and wedge shots. When I start a session at the driving range, I start with my 7-iron, and a large percentage of my practice time is with the 7-iron or a similar club. So many of us beginners go to the driving range and just hit with the driver, because if feels so good to smash a ball 200+ yards.

Take some time at the range to hit with your irons and wedges. Your main focus (as usual) should be to hit it straight and consistently at a certain distance for each club. When making approach and chip shots during the round, you’ll want to give yourself the best chance to 1-putt or 2-putt (3-putt at worst). A consistent approach and chip shot should always give you that chance.

At all costs, avoid 3-putting

Moving right along from the last thought… do whatever you can to not 3-putt. The one extra putt on a couple holes can hurt your score… big time. Spend a lot of time practicing putting from 3-4 feet (I’ve heard that Phil Mickelson has a drill for this). If your first putt starts from more than 10 feet out, do whatever you can to get the ball in that 3-4 foot “circle” for your second shot. You should feel comfortable making 3-4 foot shots.

Looking back at my goals for this year, I actually find the thought of not 3-putting kind of… funny. My main goal of the year was (of course) to break 100, but further down, I made another goal to “Play a full round without 3-putting”, then right after that, I said “This probably will have a direct correlation with breaking 100.” In my mind, I think not 3-putting during that round had a huge effect on me breaking 100.

Wrapping up

By all means (and it’s easy to see from my posts), I’m not an expert at this game, and I don’t claim to be, nor does finally breaking 100 just a week ago, and only doing it once so far, actually warrant me the requirement to talk about how I accomplished the feat. I just felt that I should pass along the things, whether they are common sense or not, that helped me reach my goal. If you currently find yourself in the same situation I found myself over the last two years, I hope these tips provide some more help and encouragement for you to reach your goal of breaking 100.