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Break 80: The Game Plan

By reading or searching for the topic of “How to break 80” you have already reached a very impressive level of golf, breaking 80 will put you into rarified air in golfing standards as it’s the home of the single figure golfer…so keep reading and I will tell you how to break 80 with more regularity.

New swing…No, New approach

Most golfers have an unrealistic view of players who break 80 on a regular occurrence and that is that they swing it better than players who shoot 80 and above. The realism is that they don’t, yes some do but the majority of these golfers get the ball around the

course more efficiently…in short they avoid big numbers.

On a par 72 course shooting 79 can be broken into the following’

11 pars & 7 Bogeys

For most of you this will be easy enough to envisage as you will most likely of par or birdied every hole on the course you are playing, the only things stopping you from do it in one round is you. A strong mindset is worth several shots on the course. So let’s have a look at my plan to get you there.

Skills required

At this stage we should be pretty efficient in all areas of the game, so when looking at the skills required and how to improve them we are going to be looking at the full bag. I have outlined the key areas of each department and how to get the best out of your training sessions with specified testing to help you feel comfortable under pressure.

Driving: If you read my other two guides (Breaking 100 & 90) you would have read that I don’t believe you need driver to achieve those targets, unless of course you hit the ball straight. When it comes to breaking 80 unless you can really hit your long irons, we are going to need at the very least a 3 wood to play off the tee. As we need to be able to hit the ball far enough to reach a minimum of 11 greens in regulation.

Testing your tee shots: Create a fairway which is 30 yards wide, you are going to attempt to hit 10 balls into this fairway, if you miss one, you have to go and hole a 5ft putt. If you hole the putt you can continue from the number you were on. If you miss the putt you must start from zero again. This builds in consequence to missing a fairway and helps you to deal with pressure, especially when you get to the last few shots.

Iron Play: As with the other articles, knowing your distances and misses is vital to scoring well but now we also have to look at the accuracy at which you pull off each shot, this is going to give you basis of which shots you can and cannot execute on the course whilst also giving you feedback on where you need to improve for greater consistency in scoring.

Have a Go to Shot: This doesn’t just mean, I always hit my 7 iron good! It’s more in depth I want you to know how far that 7 iron flies, what is the trajectory of that shot and what shape does it have. This will give you something most golfers don’t: When you are in trouble or need to hit a fairway…you can pull that club and with confidence put the ball in play. You never know that could be key when pressure is on to break 80.

Testing the irons for distance: Select your target and club accordingly, give yourself a 10 yard window, left/right/front/back, the goal would be to hit 8/10 balls into that window. Track your misses and also the shot shape, did the ball draw or fade into the target area.

Shaping: Set up 3 balls and with each iron in your bag try to hit the following:

  • One Draw

  • One Fade

  • One Straight

Repeat the drill 4 times in total

Be critical of yourself that the ball ended up back on your intended target we are looking for a 75% accuracy.

This will help you to know which shots you are capable of playing when on the golf course for instance if you failed to hit 3 draws with a 6 iron on the driving range, they chances of you pulling it off on the course are low, so pick another shot. DO NOT try and play a shot that you cannot.

Short Game: With the short game at this point I would expect it to be fairly consistent, to improve upon this we are looking to be 100% sure on what shot we are going to play, be able to visualize the shot and feel how we are going to play the shot. These 3 skills will paint a picture in your mind of what you are looking at.

Testing the short game: I like to use 2 games for this, the first one is similar to your iron testing in which you place 3 balls down and try to hit a variety of shots with the same club.

  • Pick a distance 20-100 yards

  • Pick a club

  • 3 balls: One high, One low and One standard

Playing around with the ball flight will help you to add more shots to your arsenal and also give you feedback on where you need to focus on improving.

Par 18: Take one ball and select 9 different start points around the green, all different lies and distances. The goal is to get the ball up and down each time with the par of each hole being a Par 2. A great target score would be 22 or better.

Putting: To be at this level your putting will already be at a good standard, however, improving upon your current skill level can still be possible. I would encourage you to keep on top of your alignment, this is the one area where even the professionals slip up, as we need to be able to start the ball online. As holing a 10ft putt for par or birdie could be the difference between 79 or 80.

Improve your alignment: This can be done simply by placing a club or alignment stick down on the line of the putt (make sure the putt is fairly straight). From this set yourself up and get comfortable looking at that square to target set up. Many times it just takes a few minutes of calibration to get yourself back seeing the straight line again.

Testing your putting:

Par, Par, Birdie: Select one hole and place 2 balls 4ft away on different lines, then place one ball 10ft away. You now have three putts to hole out; two for par (4ft) and one for birdie (10ft). Do this to 6 separate holes and record your score. Each putt should be holed out. A perfect score where every putt is holed in one is -6 (Six under par) in the beginning par or better is a good score.

One Ball: Putting multiple balls to one hole is great for building up consistency in your stroke and distance control but it also has a negative effect in that you don’t focus as much as you always have another ball. With the one ball drill, go to the putting green and play 18 holes of varying distance 10-60ft, putt until the ball is holed out, we would be looking for a score of 32 or better.

With all of the training and test drills above its important that you keep the pressure level high on yourself, if you struggle with this try and train with a partner, the key to improving is being comfortable with the uncomfortable…training what you are already good at will not make you better at what you can’t do.

Game Plan

Mental agility: For the first time we start to look at how the mental approach is going to help you score better, we have already covered some of it above but to look at it more and recap the main points as it’s a lot more than just: Be Positive.

Know your game: This has been one of the corner stones in all of my guides yet this is more relevant now to knowing what your abilities are. You have to know your yardages that is a given but you also have to know your percentage success rate, for instance if you have 15% success rate hitting a 4 iron in the air, it’s not the shot to take if you have to carry something 50 yards in front of you, at that low a % it may also be worthwhile leaving the 4 iron at home so there is no temptation. Play to your strengths and your success % rate.

What do you like and what do you fear: Most professionals and golfers have a number they really like for me it is 110 yards, it’s a smooth 52 degree wedge so when I am looking to lay-up that is the yardage I want to leave myself, I don’t like shots around 40 yards as its in between clubs so I will try to avoid this distance, however if I do find myself this distance from the hole I will try to play the sensible shot and aim for the widest part of the green and try to hole the putt. Be smart with your numbers!

Minimize Risk, Maximize Reward: This is true mainly on short par 4’s or reachable Par 5’s where the temptation is to give it a go, again you have to play the percentages, but also look to where the good spots to leave yourself are. Generally these holes come middle or late in the round so you will have an idea of how you are playing that day. Remember these holes are designed to tease you…be focused.

Focus: At the level you are at you have enough ability to be complacent and this can be the downfall to scoring your best, with each shot be focused on shot selection and course management. Try not to just pull the club for the distance take in everything that’s in front of you and if need be take your medicine. Your playing partners may try to entice you into the miracle shot which you may have done before but it is your scorecard, not theirs.

Train for what you may encounter: To make better decisions it can be helpful to have made them already. Next time you are out on the course getting in some training look at certain scenarios and go through the decision process for instance: If your ball ends up behind a tree, or in a fairway bunker…what is the best shot to play from there to keep your score intact, it’s not always the first thing that comes into your head.

Routine: Watch any top players before they hit the ball, they all go through a routine…now ask yourself do you? If not why not? Being mentally and physically prepared to hit every shot is the way to play better golf. Find the routine that works for you and stick with it, not every shot will be perfect but the % will increase.

Game Day:

Warm Up: I listen to golfers all the time tell me it takes them 2-3 holes to get warmed up, well that could be your score done and dusted and for the majority it is. I am not saying that you need to be on the range for hours before you play but a simple warm up could be the key to shooting your best score yet

  • 2 balls with each club (26 shots)

  • 2 balls additional with the club you will tee off with

Note: Take stock of what shot shape you are hitting that day, remember this is a warm up not a training session so play with what you have in the locker for that day.

  • 10 chip shots, varying distance and lie

  • 10 putts (5 short and 5 medium, trying to hole them)

  • 5 putts (Long distance for speed)

As you can see a very simple warm up which should take no more than 30minutes.

Stick to the plan: Breaking 80 is going to be difficult and you are going to be in some tricky spots but remember to stick to your plan and not tempted to go for the miracle shots, you have 7 bogeys to spend on the course, spend them wisely and don’t waste them on needless doubles and triples. Also stay patient and don’t panic, there may be several holes that you get in trouble but play to your strengths and keep the ball in play.


Above is a lot of information on how to approach the game to get the most out of it, I truly believe that if you implement the above not only will you start to break 80 on a more regular occurrence you will find that breaking 70 is well within your grasp.

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