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89 or better: How to break 90

So for many of you reading this you have successfully navigated your scores below the 100 barrier but wish to get that little bit lower. It is one of the most common questions I get asked during lessons: “How can I hit the ball further?” “How can I be more consistent?” And “How do I break 90?”

Below I have outlined my game plan to help you see that breaking 90 is not so difficult after all, again this is not a guide on how to swing the club but more a guide of how to approach the game to get the most out of the skills you already have.

The Math

On a normal par 72 course we are looking at:

89 = 17 bogeys and 1 par

Most of you reading this will at some point have made bogey or better on every hole at your home course so what is stopping you from doing it in one complete round…in one word: YOU!

No Penalties & No 3 Putts

This is the cornerstone of all my “Breaking” guides, I understand that we will all encounter these as we play yet doing your best to play smart and safely will minimize the effect these have on your scorecard and your enjoyment for the day.

Shots needed

It is still a no for the driver, if you read my breaking 100 guide you will know that I don’t see the need to hit driver to break these milestones as it is normally the club that puts golfers into more trouble, yet if you are comfortable hitting driver off the tee then that’s an extra string to your bow and by adding the below skills breaking 90 should be on the horizon.

  1. Putting: Again a no brainer, better putting will lead to better scores (unless you one putt every hole, you can always get better)

  2. Pitch Shot: From 20-100 yards we should be comfortable that we are going to hit the green.

  3. A 150 yard shot: Notice I didn’t put a club on this, everyone will be different, yet having a shot that goes consistently 150 yards is going to be critical to getting your scores down.

Testing your skills

Putting: A consistent and reliable putting stroke is required at this level to help lower your scores especially when it comes to holing out from inside 10ft. The following tests will help you to develop confidence closer to the hole:

How Many

A very simple drill which builds consistency: Place your ball 4ft from the cup, how many in a row can you get in without missing. The goal would be 20 in a row.

3, 6 & 9

Put 3 balls at 3ft, 6ft and 9ft from the hole. The goal would be to hole all 9 putts in a row without missing. If you miss start again. This drill helps to test your patience and ability to handle pressure.

Play around

The same drill as breaking 100, putt from distances 10-60ft from the hole, do this 18 times and hole out every time. Your target score would be below 34 putts for 18 holes.

Pitch Shot:

Forget the flag, hit the green.

That would be the best piece of advice I can give you here, there is no need to go flag hunting by aiming for the middle of the green you have increased you target area, you will have more success and you will save shots.

The technique you use to hit these shots is irrelevant all we should be looking at is you can alter the shot as required, unlike breaking 100 we would be looking to add in a more variety of clubs to help us approach all the different distances.

In training vary the distances you are hitting the ball and try not to hit the same distance more than 3 times in a row, this will help you to have a better understanding of swing length and speed requirements to manipulate distance.

Testing your skills in this area should be done with a variety drill. Place 10 balls at different distances from the centre of the green or if your practice facilities don’t allow pick 10 different targets. The goal would be to hit all 10 balls onto the green (or your desired target).

Remember: Take stock of your misses and work on improving this, then re-test.

150 Yard Shot:

Consistent Distance Control

This club is going to vary from golfer to golfer yet for the example let us say that it’s your 7 iron, from here we also need to work out how far your 8iron, 9iron etc.… goes. This will help you to be more confident when approaching each shot.

Track your misses

Unfortunately we will not hit every ball dead straight, we are going to miss every now and again, yet knowing where you are likely to miss is half the battle. I know if I hit a bad shot my tendency is to miss left, so especially under pressure or if I am not swinging the club well on a certain day I will make sure to aim a little more right to make sure my miss is more on target.

Remember: Never aim into trouble, because if you do hit it straight you will not like where it ends up.

Testing your iron shots.

Looking to land 9/10 balls into a target area 40 yards wide 150 yards away. Be critical of yourself if the ball flies less than 140 or more than 160 yards then this must also count as a miss.

The Game Plan

Par 3’s: Whilst these holes offer the best opportunities to make pars and possibly birdies they should be approached carefully, majority of courses are designed to be very punishing if you miss these greens in the wrong place.

For short par 3’s (Holes less than 150 yards) select the correct club and aim for the middle of the green, forget where the flag is as it will usually be in a place protected by a bunker or some other hazard waiting to ruin your card.

For holes longer than this, look for the safe zones to miss, do not be tempted to try and hit your long iron and land on the green, you can still make par from playing short and pitching on (remember its skill you have been improving). In the end remember you have 17 bogeys to spend, don’t waste them by trying to be a hero.

Par 4’s: Good strategy off the tee is important on these holes, if you don’t hit your driver well play to a position with your 150 yard club and then play it again. You will hit more shots from the fairway, you will then have easier shots into the greens and you will have more putts for par. The key to breaking 90 is avoiding big numbers.

Par 5’s: These holes offer the hardest mental test to my outlined plan as the temptation is to get the driver out and try and hit it as far as possible, this will usually lead to a bad swing which will put your ball into unnecessary trouble and lead to wasting shots. With these holes break them down, most likely if you hit 3 shots 150 yards (450 total) you would only have around 100yards and a comfortable pitch onto the green, 2 putts and you have made the easiest of bogeys which keeps you on plan.

Remember: There is no requirement to hit driver, or any wood for that matter. Yes I know it is fun to smash one out there…but I can tell you something that’s more enjoyable and that’s scoring better. Keeping the ball in play is vital to scoring better at every level.

The last piece of advice

Whilst you may have stuck to the game plan and feeling like it’s your day, golf has a nasty habit of derailing you with bad shots or luck. My last piece of advice would be “Do Not Panic” you have plenty of shots to play with, so if you miss a fairway, a green or hit it into trouble anywhere avoid the temptation to play the miracle shot. Get the ball back in play and get the best score you can. Even a double bogey can be a good score if it saves you from making triple bogey or more.


Keep the ball in play, don’t try and play the hero shot and stick to the plan. If you do this and stick to the improvement strategy, you will join a very exclusive group of golfers…the 80 shooters.

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