Ways to Break 90

(Back to the 80s)

I honestly don’t really remember breaking 100- it sort of just happened without any fanfare and without very tight scorekeeping at the time (very fast and loose with the gimmes when we were beginning).  However, I remember all the details about the day I finally broke 90- that’s when I really started to consider maybe I should try to get better at this game and thinking things are starting to come together.  Unfortunately, it took me awhile again to get back into the 80s and as of last season, I can get under 90 when “everything is on”.  One of my main goals for taking lessons this winter was to try to have more rounds consistently under 90 than above.

As you saw in a previous post, I opened this season pretty much how I ended last season (low-mid 90s) with a round of 95 at one of the easier munis in town.

However, I’ve managed to return the 80s on my next two rounds so far!  I got there in two very different ways and though it’d be worthwhile to dissect how it happened as two separate scenarios with everyone, especially to anyone about to break this mental barrier yourself.

Method One:  Rely on your Short Game

First up was my second round of the year at a shorter course: Eagle Rock Golf Club.  I used to always have problems because the opening hole is a tricky dogleg left par 5.

It felt like Winter still…

However, this was a cold day- it felt more like winter really so I took care to purposely swing slower than usual to protect my back.  I pulled my opening drive way left, where it would’ve normally be blocked in the forest- but today,  it made it through the bare branches and landed me 222y out.

Taking a greedy shorter shortcut (by accident)

I had a perfectly flat lie and decided what better time to test my 3w?

Landed the green!

Ended up hitting a great clean 3W  (um, maybe only 2/5 chance) and 2 putted out for my first bird of the season!  A great start, considering this is my usual nemesis bogey or worse hole.

The rest of the front nine was actually very shaky.  My drives were generally in play but I had a terrible time with my irons.  I topped and flubbed maybe 3 easy shots, but got real lucky with the ball rolling out on the hard dry ground to a playable 130 out (on a second shot layup on another par 5) or else rolled up just a few yards of the green.

For me, what really stood out this round was chipping and putting.

Eagle Rock Scorecard

On no. 5, I missed the green behind a hill and chipped to 7 foot to get up and down.

On no. 6, I chunked a 9 iron from 140 out to greenside.  Then chunked my chip to 25 feet.  (A guy from another group somehow landed his drive onto our green and was trying to figure out what to do while we were chipping and putting).  Somehow, I sank this long putt and made par!

No. 7 is  a short par 4 so I teed off with a 7i to guarantee fairway which made it a simple non-event hole.

I had problems with irons shots going too high and getting caught up in the wind.  My 8i was maybe 20 yards short of an uphill green that left me a very difficult up and down but I was happy to 2 putt out for a bogey.

At No. 10, I had a long downwind drive but missed an 9i to greenside.  Chipped it past the flag by 10 feet and made it again for another par.

At this point, I knew I had a great round going and tried hard not to peek at my score.  But unfortunately, I did peek and saw I was 4 over 10 holes.

Oh boy, what a mistake!

I started racing ahead of myself big time.  Instead of staying in the moment and playing one shot at a time, I started thinking “I need to not bogey or double.” and guess what?  Precisely that- doubles and bogeys all the way for the rest of the round.  My chipping started to get shaky in the back, I would barely miss a green and have it kick backwards back down a hill instead of forwards onto putting territory.  By the time I finished 15, I decided to stop tracking again (um, finally abandoning hope of a low-80s or dare I say sub-80 round) and just play out the rest of the round.

85 is tied with my personal best but they usually happen when my iron strikes are hot.  This day, I start to see really how important the short game is.  The difference between the front 9 and back really comes down to chipping alone.  On the front, for every green I missed, my chips/pitches made it on the green that gave me a chance to putt out.  On the back, a missed chip will require a second chip, and then maybe 2 more putts which can easily lead to a double or worse.

I switched my chipping/pitching method over the winter and am hoping that more practice will result in similar gains throughout the season.  But a hot chipping and putting game is an exception rather than the norm right now but it’s been eye opening to for the first time feel what it’s like to stay focused, concentrate and “grind it out” for par to save your score.  Also, a little success early in scrambling helped with confidence and changed my attitude to “Okay, here we go, let’s do this” instead of the usual “Oh, let’s try to get out of here with no more than a bogey” (which of course, leads to lots of bogeys as I found out!)


  • Don’t give up on the hole- stay focused near the green
  • Don’t peek ahead- just stay in the moment and just try to execute the task at hand
  • Okay, gotta haveta practice chipping to make this a regularity instead of an exception!

Method Two:  Slow and Steady wins the Race

One of my favourite local course is Lewis Estates Golf Course.  They usually have excellent greens, lots of variety and interesting holes.  For my third round, we got a little rattled after the 4th hole when the group behind shot into us.  Luckily, he pulled the screaming shot left so it hit the trees besides the fairway and didn’t reach us on the green.

This round can only be considered routine.  No birdies, no extraordinary scrambling like last time, and back to more steady iron strikes.  (Two buckets of 8 irons the day before!)

Lewis Estates Scorecard

What stood out this time around:

  • Sandplay was nice and safe.  I had lots of problems thinning bunker shots last year so I just made sure to thump sand out onto the green.  Anywhere on the green.  I just want to have a putter in hand on the next shot and not another chip or sandblast out.
  • Pars and Boegys.  I once heard to break 90, play everything as a par 5 since 5 x 18 = 90.  So I never really get down on myself for making bogeys.  If I make bogey, I’d think “okay, good.”  If I make par, then I’d think “okay, good.”  If you look at the scoring pie chart, in both instances, I bogeyed 50% of the time.  And the rest is just a trade-off between pars and doubles.  At EagleRock, when the doubles are a smaller part of the pie, I was very comfortable in the mid-80s.  When they are more even, then it got me right to the limit at 89.
  • Staying in the moment- I think if I had known I was sitting at 82 on the 18th Tee box, I might’ve really over thunk this hole and got myself into a much bigger number.  When we walked up where my tee shot should’ve landed, we saw that depending on the angle, it likely landed in the water hazard so I just dropped as 3 (didn’t hit provisional), and hitting 4.  If I knew where I was, I think I would’ve try to hit 3W to savage my score.  I didn’t.  Instead, I played a really boring 9i to 100 out, wedge to 15 feet, and 2 putted out.  I’m pretty certain a missed 3W would’ve pushed me over 90 easily.

Play everything as a par 5 since 5 x 18 = 90

I hope to write about breaking 80 one day like this but for now, I hope this provide some insight to those of us who still consider breaking 90 a good round of golf.


5 thoughts on “Ways to Break 90

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