I know that’s a pretty appealing headline, and if you’re struggling to achieve that there’s probably a healthy amount of skepticism flowing through your veins as you read this. The fact of the matter (emphasis on fact) is that people who struggle to break 100 a lot of similar issues and the majority of them fall into these three groups:
When it comes to golf, this might be one of the biggest issues that most people either don’t talk about or may not even know about. When you look at your scorecard the first number that usually jumps out at you is what par is for the hole, right? Okay fine, it might be the distance or what the handicap is of the hole, but if par isn’t the first thing you look at, I guarantee you it’s second.
So let’s talk about it. What is par? Go ahead, say it out loud or in your head. Let me guess, you said something along the lines of “It’s what you should shoot on each hole”. If you said that, you’ve got it half right. Par is what you should shoot on each hole… IF YOUR HANDICAP IS ZERO!
Now I’m not here to make you feel bad, but if you’re reading an article about breaking 100 on the golf course and you actually expect yourself to make par on each hole, you’re setting yourself up for a world of disappointment. Here’s a fun fact to help illustrate my point: players on the PGA tour only hit about 12.5 greens in regulation out of 18. How many greens do you expect yourself to hit in regulation? Be honest now, is that a realistic expectation? For someone who normally shoots 100 (a 28 handicap) they average between zero and 1 greens hit in regulation. Don’t put all this unnecessary pressure on yourself to do something that is a statistical anomaly.
Think of it this way, would you ever take $18,000 out of your bank account and bet that you’d hit every green in regulation? OF COURSE NOT! Your financial guy would slap you across the face, your wife would divorce you, and you’d be left with a much lighter wallet. So if you wouldn’t hold yourself fiscally accountable like that, why does the thought process change just because there’s not any money on the line?
Instead of thinking that you must get on the green in regulation, let’s move the finish line to something a little more achievable. Let’s get MOST of the way to the green “in regulation”. So if you’re playing a par 5, your version of “on in regulation” should be to get within 100 yards of the green in three shots. If it’s a par 4 you want to be inside 75 in 2 shots. If it’s a par 3 you want to be within 50 in 1 shot. This now removes SOOOOO much pressure from your game! Instead of feeling like you have to hit your driver off of every tee box, now you can achieve your new goal with a few easier to control shots that you’re much more confident hitting! Do you think you could hit two safe shots in a row that average about 135 each? That would get you within 75 yards on a 350 yard par 4. You’ve got a lot better chance of doing that then just doing the standard spray and pray with your driver off of every tee box. This will lead to much lower scores and a lot more confidence and consistency in your game.
Any time I think of this topic I’m reminded of my interview with Craig Jones, the founder of Face First Golf, he said from the tee box “you should hit the shot you’re comfortable with”. Sure, it’s not the shot that Golf Digest and the Golf Channel want to give you three quick tips on, but it will lead to a lot better scores because you won’t be spraying it two fairways over with your super unreliable driver.
Before every shot I want you to determine a safe zone and a danger zone (cue Kenny Loggins). The danger zone is pretty self explanatory. It’s going to be anything that would involve a potential lost ball or penalty stroke. Is there water or out of bounds on the right? Then that’s the one place you can’t go, that’s the danger zone.
I know you’re probably thinking “but Marty, that's a negative thought. Don’t we need to avoid those?” Yes that is a negative thought, but we need to get you making the correct decisions first before we can get to the impacts of positive and negative thoughts. It doesn’t matter how positive you’re thinking is. if you pull out a 4 hybrid and try to hit a shot over 240 yards of water you are about to get wet!
Our safe zone is essentially as far away as we can get from the danger zone. Somewhere flat and unassuming where we have plenty of room to land the ball safely so we can have an easier next shot.
This comes into play with other shots too. The real lesson here is don’t be a hero, you’re not going to win a tournament with one swing, but you sure can lose it with one. Learn from your past experiences. Hell, learn from Kevin Costner in Tin Cup! Don’t take the risk, just hit the shot you know you make the majority of the time and continue from there.
This also means play away from other hazards like bunkers or trees. Lastly, if you find yourself in trouble your only choice is to just punch out. Don’t try to make the hero play and try to hit a low hook and roll it onto the green, JUST GET OUT! This brings me back to another one of Craig’s quotes: “Don’t follow a bad shot with a dumb one.”
If you can eliminate penalties, both literal and mental, from your game you’ve just taken a monumental step towards breaking 100.
POOR SHORT GAME
This is a huge problem for people of all handicaps, but it’s even more impactful for people trying to break 100. The fact of the matter (again, emphasis on fact) is that if you were a scratch golfer half of your shots are going to come on or around the green. For a lot of people this is even as high as 60%-70%!
So what does this mean? Well, it means you’re going to have to get real cozy with your flat stick. Your putter is going to be your best friend. You’ll need to master lag putting as well as getting yourself comfortable and confident over your three and four footers. Don’t worry though, we’ve got the perfect practice session to anchor your touch. [link to no 3 putts article]
The other part of the short game is all those chips you tend to chunk or skull across the green. Let’s apply our same betting logic. You’re standing five feet off the green and the cup is 30 feet away, and the ball is in your hand. If you had to bet $1,000 on yourself to get that ball within four feet of the hole, how would you throw it? Would you toss it high up in the air over your head like a jump shot in basketball? No, Steph Curry wouldn’t even do that! You’d probably bend down a little bit and bowl it towards the cup.
I’m certainly not the first person to have this idea, because I watched Tiger Woods do it with a three wood in the early 2000’s, but just make a putting stroke with a fairway wood or hybrid. It will have just enough loft to get the ball up in the air and it will be much harder to chunk or skull than a sand wedge.
The moral of the story here is get the ball on the ground as soon as possible, and if you can keep it on the ground the whole way (putt it) then that’s the perfect scenario.
So the next time you play golf try to be a little proactive about these choices. Let’s keep ourselves out of the danger zones (buzz off Kenny Loggins!), keep penalties off our cards, and have realistic expectations based on our abilities. Let me know how it works for you!
Keep it in the short grass.