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Giving yourself a putt for par on every hole is step #1.   How you get there depends on where your game is at now. Don't fall into the trap of hitting X club off the tee to keep it in the fairway. If

First, you need to figure out where you are losing strokes.

Are you consistently taking penalty strokes off the tee?How many putts are you taking? Don't guess. Actually track it.Are you losing shots somewhere else? I.e. shanks, skulls, etc.Figure out which of the above three is costing you the most strokes and then work on it.

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The first thing I focused on was making "par" a bogey - aka bogey golf. For every double I made, I would try to offset with a par.

Outside of bogey golf, I focused on eliminating wasted shots: shanks, chunks, penalties, and missed short putts. When you are deciding what shot or club to hit, play the shot or club that you are most confident you can advance the ball forward and keep out of trouble.

Last tip - reflect on your rounds after they are done. What were your big mistakes? Did you try to play a hero shot that got you in more trouble? Did you need to hit driver on that hole? Use your post round reflections to improve your course management moving forward.

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The first time I ever broke 100, I shot an 87. I had a plan that I stuck to. I focused on getting my teeshot as close to the middle of the fairway as I could, no matter how short. I tried to get my second shot close to the green. I got my third shot somewhere near the middle of the green. I got my first putt close enough to the hole so that I wouldn't miss my second putt. If something went wrong, I just stuck to my plan. If something worked out better than I planned, I still stuck to my plan. I haven't had that much sense since, but I got better enough to be a goat track 7, at one point. I no longer care. I just care about having fun and usually end up somewhere in the 80s (unless I've got a new theory).

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When I was trying to break 90, I played every hole like it was a par 5.

Find your magic distance. Early on, mine was 100-110 yards which happened to be a full swing with my 50 degree wedge.

I laid up every par 5 to that number to give myself a great chance at sticking one close. If you can do that, you're bound to "birdie" and even "eagle" some of the other holes (using the all holes are par 5's mentality) making a high 80's score pretty easy.

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For me it was good putting and ballstriking with irons in the fairway. I could offset good ballstriking with laying up that sometimes worked but not always - because a chip was still a stroke.

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I have not broken 90 on a par 72 course. Shot a 90. Par 68, posted a 73

For me , reducing scores has taken a turn when I read somewhere "I'm going to post a better score by reducing mistakes, than I m by getting birdies"

I have been trying to find those mistakes.

-not following a bad shot with a stupid shot

-learning what my club distances are

-playing from the right tee box.

-play the game I have

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Work on driver/tee shots.

If you take more than 3 provisionals and or penalty shots during a round, you need help here.

Watch youtube videos about how to get rid of driver slice...understand what causes it and work to find your own solution.

Understand the proper grip. "Strengthen" grip on driver swing, slow down the takeaway, light as possible grip with your hands.

 

Really focus on short game (putting/chipping) when driver gets better.

I view it sequentially like that...start working on what starts first during the round and each hole.

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i've broken 90 twice in my lifetime back-to-back 85's in 1/2019 and 2/2019 on rain-soaked courses ... unfortunately, haven't sniffed it since. I do remember only pulling out my driver on wide fairways otherwise it was a lot of 3-iron off of the tee. I also tried really hard to leave myself 80-100 yard approaches onto the green and i averaged 1.83 and 1.94 putts per hole for each round. (I'm usually at 2 or slightly higher) Oh and no penalties. It really comes down to not playing the hero shots, taking your medicine when you do (i.e. just get it in the fairway), and practicing putting... like a lot. It's one of the easiest areas to drop strokes in my opinion as you just need to be consistent with your stroke and have a good idea on how to read greens.

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Only you can answer your own question by looking hard at your game and your tendencies. There's no one answer to this because it all depends on what you do on the course. As you've said, it seems like your putting is the main issue. Work on that and try to lag long putts so that you can have a high percentage of make for your second putt. Anything above 8 feet for me, I just aim to get close as much as I can. IF I make it, then that is just a bonus. Having this kind of mentality took away the "I must make this putt" ideology. Even pros are 50% and below when the putting distance is 8 feet and above.

In my case, I started shooting in the 80's all the time when I have finally accepted my fade and slice on the driver and stopped fighting it. On holes that were really tight, I just lay up and take my bogey. Ever since I started, my irons were consistent and they got better as I played more. I just polished my putting and short game a bit and combined that with good planning off the tee and I never shot in the 90's again.

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The key things have been mentioned. You need to know where the hole(s) in your game are. Do you know how far you actually hit your clubs? Do you have a predominate miss? Are you close to the hole when you miss a green? Etc.

 

# of putts is a difficult metric because 36 putts may not be bad if you are always 20 feet from the hole because you can't hit a green and have no short game. So your putting needs to be looked at in context with the length and difficulty of the actual putts.

 

For me it was getting my swing to a point where I could use driver off the tee. I was taking lessons the entire time to get the swing to where it needed to be. The extra distance, while not losing strokes to sending the ball into the trees, shortened holes. That in turn made it easier to get on/near the green in regulation. An okay short game took care of the rest. I was already a good putter.

 

Mental game was big too. I had to learn to not let a bad hole derail me. The inverse was true as well, not leeting a good round cause me to get nervous at the end. Nothing worse than just needing a bogey on 18 to break 90 and carding an 8...

 

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Find a club that you can always keep in play off the tee.

Become very proficient at chipping.

Avoid bunkers.

Make all your 3 and 4 footers.

Essentially, don't lose balls, get all your approaches simply within 10-20 yards of green, no 3 putts. Almost impossible to shoot over 90 if you can do this.

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The mental side should never be ignored. It's something I've learnt over the last couple of years of finally taking part in official competitions. In social golf at my club I'm high 80s, low 90s off either standard or competition tees. But going through the official process of signing in, swapping score cards and generally 'playing serious golf' and something changes. Bad shots and mistakes suddenly loom in my mind. It doesn't take much for me to flip into the mindset of 'oh Gawd, just get it over with' and my game suffers. The only times I've ever scored in triple digits have been in competitions. In fact most of my competition scores have been low 100s. And pretty much every one of them started off reasonably well then I suffered a collapse mid-round.

One of my best rounds was when I was paired in a twosome due to drop-outs. He was a nice chap, also a high handicapper, and it felt like two blokes out for a relaxing game of golf.

What I find annoying is that this isn't the result of pressure to score well. I don't really care about the score. I don't particularly care if I win. I only enter competitions as a way to get to know other members. So it's really quite silly that I should go to pieces when I hit a bad shot :-/

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I found that the mental lessons I had to learn took longer than the swing changes. Part of it comes with experience, such as realizing you can still break 90 with a triple or quad on the card. It's obviously harder to do but a bad hole or two is no reason to go in the tank when playing. I'm not playing as well as I once did and I am finding that I can take pride in playing well after a bad hole. Sure my total score is bad but stringing together bogey or better golf after playing a few holes at triple bogey+ is something positive. And that may be why it was so hard to learn for me, it's a lesson in being positive.

This is an oversimplification but mental game can hold you back as much as not being able to make a good swing. I definitely think it can prevent you from playing to your best. It's a limiting factor, just as much as mechanics, and physical condition can be. I used to play with a guy years ago that had a single digit index. He was serious about getting his index lower and worked on his game. However he also would go in the tank if something bad happened. A bad hole or two and he stopped caring and would try stupid shots and it'd snowball. For him, a good swing could hide the mental fault but not erase it. I don't know if he ever got over it or not but his mental game was going to hold him back.
@andrue In your case I wonder if it is tied to perception. A competition round is as you say 'serious golf' and a way to get to know other members. Could you be putting pressure on yourself to play well in front of others under the competition setting? You said the best time was with a high handicapper and it felt like it was just the two of you playing a social round. One reason could be that you were playing with someone that doesn't have a great game and maybe you felt like they wouldn't judge your game.

Another reason, and this may be more likely now that I think about it more, is you are picking up something from your playing partners. If you are with a group of people taking the round very seriously, maybe that is causing you to subconsciously take it more serious. You hit a bump in the round and the wheels fall off the cart. You didn't start the round with pressure to score well and win but somewhere along the line you end up feeling the need to play well. A little while into the round something goes wrong and it snowballs on you.

I don't know you in the least but I'm guessing this is something regardless of actual cause that you will find a way to overcome. It just boils down to finding the same mental composure you have playing that social round. It sounds so easy, if only it were. Good luck and keep at it.

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Yeah mental plays a bigger role, more than people think. I have a buddy who is a very decent ball striker but has very low or inexperience mental game. When I started giving him tips that I learned through the years, he started breaking 90 without changing anything with his swing. He was so happy and amazed at how much his game changed by just changing his way of thinking when he is playing.

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Impossible to shoot over 80 with those goals.

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Yeah I'm sure it's a judgement thing. Our members do take competitions quite seriously so I think it's a fear of 'showing the club up'. But it's all in my mind. I've seen plenty of worse shots than what I do and for the most part they are a friendly crowd. But I do feel like I'm 'on show' in competitions. I got better toward the end of last season so I'm hopeful that I'm working through it.

I was in Turkey last week and played a championship course designed by Colin Montgomerie that I'd never played before. Played it three times, two scrambles and one better ball where my gross for the better ball was 94. So I reckon I have the swing of a high-teens capper but my brain likes to throw a spanner in it seems :-/

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Only if you become reeeaallly good at chipping or become quite accurate with irons.

The scenario i see the person who struggles to break 90 is they take a hybrid off the tee, hit an iron off to the left or right 'or short of the green, then chip on and two putt. Don't see many higher index players with Phil like short game where they are getting up and down all the time.

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Like you said, become proficient at chipping. So if you are consistently inside 20 yards from the green on approaches and you chip well and make all your 3-4 footers and no penalties= sub 80 (even a 25 handicap can hit 3 greens). 15 handicap could hit 5 or 6, throw in a birdie, save par on 4 holes (33%)=79.

I guess you'd have to clarify what proficient at chipping is. Like if you are 20 yards from the green and 30 yards from the hole, is proficient just barely getting on the green or is it getting within 10% of chip distance (90ft away to 9ft)? 10% is basically scratch level by the way. Someone with that consistency would shoot under 80.

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For the purpose of just breaking 90 you only need to probably just get your pitches on the green, period. But only if you can basically avoid 3 putting almost all the time. Idk really what proficient is as far as a concrete number. .. But I'd say it's just the distance you can get the ball to where you can feel very comfortable not three putting from. Some guys that could be as much as 30-40ft others it might only be 12-15ft.

 

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OP - lots of good info in here for you, but honestly you really haven't given anyone much real insight into your game. No idea of what you average scores are, real handicap is. Nothing about your short game and wedge play. Nothing about penalty stroke issues. Maybe you don't putt so well, maybe you miss fairways more than you should - you toss those out there, but what is the context? You need to follow the advice given of analyzing your own game and maybe you need to learn how to analyze it.

Without more I'd say you need to improve your ball striking, improve your short game and work on distance control with your putter. Blind leading the blind a bit, but those things got me from 90s to 80s and from 80s to 70s. Just got a bit better at everything, honestly.

And if you aren't keeping some stats and reflecting seriously on your rounds, you won't have any realistic recipe for improvement.

Doing some purging about the house I came upon a scorecard from last fall, one of the last times I played. A two over par round (explains why I still have it, lol) which is far from normal for me - shot 72. So what do I do this morning while having some coffee? Start flyspecking it and telling myself but for this or that shot I would have broken 70! Wow, just a couple of bad breaks! Then I get out a pad and start totaling up and looking at numbers I had marked on the card during the round for up and downs, fairways hit, GIRs and putts. Looked at my historical averages on the holes over the past many years to see how I did on the harder ones for me and the easier ones for me. Well, I'm not just a couple of unlucky breaks away from shooting in the 60s. I played better than usual on the harder holes, worse than usual on the easier holes and with hitting only 4 fairways my short game and 9 one putts saved my butt and things simply came together for a scrappy score. Good news is a couple of years ago that would more likely have been an 84 not 72. But it was kind of a "one off" and still a lot to improve on to be consistent and maybe get there someday. Not adding this to the discussion to brag on one good round, lol, but as a cautionary tale. We are golfers -- at lunch or dinner it is always "if only _____ then I'd have shot ____" But we didn't shoot ____ and need to figure out the real reasons why not.

 

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My $0.02 worth ... Analyse your game and accurately (correctly) attribute lost shots.

For example:

- If you chip on and end up 2 or 3 putting, is the lost shot due to putting or the fact your chip wasn't close enough?

- if 3 putts, why? Was first too short or too long? Why? Any usual errors? Line, miss reads or execution. Silly misses like missing a simple tap in because you didn't concentrate enough?

- when putting, do you leave it short and thus no chance of ever dropping, or do you leave it long where it a least had a chance of dropping if line was correct?

- missed greens, why missed? Was it tee shot too short to be a genuine, real chance of ever getting GIR, or is it because you miss hit your approach shot club?

- miss hit irons, approach shots, are they fat, thin, short or left right direction errors? Was it due to swing or the lie of the ball? Or, did you not read conditions correct, allow enough for the wind, or bounce of the course?

- are tee shot errors all the same? Left or right? Or mixed bag? If just an odd errant shots, why? Are you trying to swing out of your shoes? Or not confident and committed to the shot for fear of a lost ball?

Once you have YOUR analysis of YOUR errors, do you have a trend over several, say 10 rounds? What's the common trend? What can you do about them? Lessons, practice, etc. ??

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Giving yourself a putt for par on every hole is step #1.

 

How you get there depends on where your game is at now. Don't fall into the trap of hitting X club off the tee to keep it in the fairway. If you can't hit the X club any better than your driver, hit the driver or hit your most reliable club.

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