How to Break 80 in 2023
For those of you who are trying to break 80 or better for the first time: we know how you feel.
There’s something special about writing that 79 in the “Total” box for the first time.
No matter where you are on your journey to the good side of 80, we have good news:
There are things every golfer can do to make their goal of breaking 80 a reality.
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What You Will Learn In This Post
Course Selection Matters
Before we get into any of the Four Mini-Goals, it’s important for us to discuss how the type of golf course you play has an impact of your ability to break 80.
Once we’ve covered how to choose the right kind of course to maximize your chances of shooting 79-or-less, we will delve into the specific things you can do in your game.
As a default, most golf courses are designed to be ether a par-70, 71, or 72. There could be a par-73 sprinkled in here and there, but, for the most part, you’ll encounter a par between 70-72.
Another point to consider is how the course is designed to reach its respective total par.
For example: a common par-72 consists of ten par-4s, four par-3s, and four par-5s. Any changes in the total par is usually altered by the amount of par-5s. A typical par 70 course will usually have the standard number of par-3s (4) and only two par-5s, with twelve par-4s.
There are, of course, exceptions. The most famous exception is the Old Course at St. Andrews, which is comprised of two par-5s, two par-3s, and fourteen par-4s.
What Does This Have To Do With Breaking 80?
- #1: The lower the course’s par, the more bogeys you can afford to make while staying under the threshold.
For example, let’s say you play two separate rounds of golf with the same result:
One birdie, ten bogeys, and seven pars. On a par-72 course, the result would be a nine-over 81; however, on a par-70 course, the result would be a nine-over 79. Just in a change in course composition, a player with the same relative results can achieve their dream score.
- #2: Based on your strengths and weaknesses, certain compositions will be more favorable to you than others.
For example, if you really do well on par-3s, but not so well on the par-5s, a par 70 course (if available) with only two par-5s will maximize your opportunities to break 80. It may seem trivial, but finding a course that suits your style will help your chances immensely. Which brings us to…
Not All Courses Are Created Equal
This may go without saying, but a golf course carved out of a mountain, with tall trees tight against the fairway is going to be tougher than the local municipal track where you can miss your drive two fairways in any direction and still have an approach to the green.
Does this mean you should forego your favorite course which may be tougher than the flat, wide open track you only play when your favorite course is closed?
You don’t have to, but it is something to consider if the score itself is more important than where the score is shot.
Ultimately, the determining factor in how difficult the course you choose to break 80 on is what matters more to you: the number itself, or achieving the number on a course that really challenges your ability.
My suggestion would be to break 80 first, on the easiest course you can find, then take the confidence from that round and use it as fuel on the more challenging course.
Don’t Forget About The Yardage
There may be reasons out of your control, whether it be geographical location, budget, or a lack of accessible courses that inhibit you to be able to choose from more than one or maybe two golf courses.
While it may seem like you’re stuck with the course you always play, remember that almost every golf course is customizable in regards to its distance, via the varied tee boxes. Don’t forget!
If you struggle from the back tees, don’t be afraid to move up a set. Or, maybe you move up a set on the longest holes only. Once you reach your goal of breaking 80, you can always move back to the tees you normally play.
Despite what your friends might say to tease you, playing from shorter tees can only help your game. Not only will it help your game, it will also make the game more fun and the round play a lot faster.
It’s important to remember that the act of breaking 80 is very much a subjective accomplishment.
Whether it’s done from the tips of a difficult layout or from the front tees on a flat, easy track, the most vital aspect is how you feel about achieving that score. The rest doesn’t matter.
Breaking Down The Path To <80
Once you have your course of choice, the most important aspect to reaching your 79-goal is to divide it into mini-goals.
In order to shoot your desired score, you need to, as an average, make no more than seven bogeys with no birdies and no doubles-or-worse.
One thing most golfers have difficulty understanding is that there’s little control in the score we post.
Sure, we have the ability to put our best foot forward and execute each shot as well as possible.
However, results can vary; good shots can often go unrewarded and sometimes bad shots can get lucky.
There are simply too many variables to control to be able to control the outcome.
What you can control, and what every golfer should strive to control, is the process of how you approach each shot.
The easiest way to do this is to focus on things you can do during the round that has nothing to do with the actual score you shoot. This is covered in fuller detail in the last Mini-Goal.
Here Are The 4 Mini-Goals To Break 80
Here are the Four Mini-Goals, regardless of how close you are to the magical 79, that you can use to track your progress:
- #1: Hit Half or More of Your Greens in Regulation
- #2: Have a Par Putt on Every Hole
- #3: Keep the Ball in Play Off the Tee
- #4: Stay In The Present
In the next chapters, we will take a closer look into each mini-goal, including how to use your scorecard to keep track of your stats and progress, drills you can use to successfully achieve them, and case studies on how the best players in the world use the same processes to play their best golf.
CHAPTER 3 / MINI-GOAL 1:
Hit Half of Your Greens in Regulation
In golf, most of your success revolves around the type of strategy you use, not what your golf swing looks like or what your stats are.
The biggest reason why hitting at least nine greens during your round will help is the pressure it takes off your chipping and pitching.
Our first mini-goal of hitting at least half your greens in regulation serves as a minimum guideline that can help you focus on something specific throughout your round.
Focus on the “Middle” Holes
Most golf courses are going to have a few easy holes, a few tough holes, and the rest will be somewhere in the middle.
For demonstrative purposes, let’s say there are four easy holes, four tough holes, and four medium holes.
Being a player who is close to breaking 80, you should have no problem hitting the green on the easy holes, and any shots that find the green on the tough holes is just a bonus.
That leaves the ten middle holes, which you will most likely need to hit at least half to give yourself the best chance of breaking 80. The easiest way to do this is to practice the shots you would normally have on these holes while on the driving range.
Before your next round of golf, grab a scorecard and take a look at each hole:
Mark an X through the four holes you think you can easily be able to find the putting surface on, as well as the four hardest holes that will only be a bonus if you hit them. This will leave you with your 10 middle holes.
If you’ve played this course often, you should have an idea of your average length for your second shot. What you want to find is the narrowest range of approach shot distance and categorize them.
For example, out of the ten middle holes, you find that five holes require an average approach of 155 yards, give or take 5-10. You’ll want to emphasize your practice time on sharpening your skills with this specific shot distance, maximizing your potential to hit all (or at least most) of these greens in regulation.
Once you have your target distance set, take 50 range balls and pretend to play each hole on the range.
Visualize each shot, where the green will be easiest to find, and what trouble to avoid. Play one shot at a time, going through each hole, until you’ve played each one a total of ten times.
The more you do this, the better prepared you’ll be to execute on those middle holes.
By emphasizing your practice time on the most common approach shot you’ll face, your green in regulation percentage will increase.
CHAPTER 4 / MINI-GOAL 2:
Keep the Ball in Play Off The Tee
While the title of this Mini Goal seems obvious, what it really means is to avoid hazards and out-of-bounds.
As any golfer can tell you, adding penalty strokes to your score can be detrimental in your quest to break 80.
The key to this specific mini-goal is the verbiage.
Out-of-Bounds is a Score Killer
The same feeling applies to any shot where you have to take a “stroke-and-distance” penalty, which is the only way out-of-bounds shots can be played.
Depending on where you play, the course may have no out-of-bounds, or several areas marked with white stakes or fences.
The key to tackling out-of-bounds is to have a plan to make sure you can keep the ball in play. For that, we are going to add a “go-to” shot to your arsenal.
Having a plan for out-of-bounds is also useful for tee shots where water is in play. Even though you may not have as severe a penalty as you would with an out-of-bounds drive, one-stroke is still one stroke. Plan accordingly.
For those tee shots that can cause you the most trouble, we head back to the driving range, with a similar approach as we used with your approach shots.
Find the holes on the scorecard which you feel will be the most likely to cause trouble off the tee.
In this instance, you want to determine what minimum length you want to have, as well as what shot shape you need to maximize your chance of keeping the golf ball playable.
Set-up some imaginary boundaries on the range, focusing on keeping your tee shots within that specific range. It will also help if you pick a side which is a no-go zone based on the hole you’re pretending to play (most holes will have a bailout spot on either the left or right side).
The goal is to get each tee shot in play or missed in the right spot for three straight rotations. If you miss one, you start over. If that’s too tough, scale it back to one rotation. Over time, as you play the tougher holes, you’ll have a trusted shot shape to lean on.
CHAPTER 5 / MINI-GOAL 3:
Have a Putt for Par on Every Hole
More often than not, your ability to break 80 will come down to your ability on the greens.
Your prowess on the greens is why the Mini-Goal 3 is based on the putting surface.
Put simply, if you make putts, you will have a great chance for a sub-80 score.
A Look At The Worst Putts
Pro Tip: It may not be the easiest thing to accept, but it’s true: everyone misses putts. When you watch golf on TV, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that the pros don’t miss putts inside a certain distance, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The reason it’s easy to believe that most Tour professionals are near-invincible from short range is because we typically only see the players at the top of the leaderboard.
The players who are usually in the middle of the pack aren’t shown much, if at all, and there’s a chance that they are missing their fair share of makeable putts.
Case Study: Most Famous Missed Short Putts
#3 Most Famous Missed Putt
Doug Sanders 3-putts Final Green to Force a Playoff in 1970 British Open
In all fairness to the great Jack Nicklaus, Doug Sanders gave him one of his eighteen major championships.
On the 72nd hole, Doug had a 3-foot par putt which would have sealed his first major championship win. Instead, he probably made the worst stroke of his career, missing the hole entirely, which meant he had to play a four-hole playoff with Mr. Nicklaus.
#2 Most Famous Missed Putt
Bernhard Langer misses 3-footer to hand the Ryder Cup to the U.S. Team
Not many golfers on earth know what it’s like to have a putt that carries an entire team and a three-day match on it.
Yet, that’s exactly what was on Bernhard Langer’s shoulders at the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island. Faced with a 3-footer that determined whether Europe retained or the U.S. won, this was probably the wrong man to be given such a task.
Before he became the 2nd-best over-50 golfer in history, he battled the yips during the middle of his career. The putt caught the lip but spun out, giving the match and the Ryder Cup to the U.S.
#1 Most Famous Missed Putt
Scott Hoch misses two-foot putt to win 1989 Masters
With a putt not much longer than one’s forearm, Scott Hoch seemed to have the Masters locked up.
With Nick Faldo watching, preparing himself for the slim chance of a sudden-death playoff, Hoch stepped into his winning putt. Similar to the Doug Sanders putt, the ball missed the hole entirely, causing Hoch to toss his putter in the air. Faldo would beat him in the playoff, winning his second-consecutive Green Jacket.
The moral of the story: If you miss a short putt, don’t sweat it. It happens to us all.
This section applies to those eight-ten greens you’re likely to miss during your round, and the things you can do to make pars, or at worst, bogeys.
The key to this mini-goal is, if you find yourself in trouble, or even just as simple as missing a green, you want to get the ball on the green somewhere to have a par putt.
If you hit half your greens and keep the ball in play, this part will be about minimizing damage.
Taking Your Medicine
No matter how good your round is going, chances are more than likely that you’ll encounter some trouble spots. The two most common examples of trouble are missing the fairway (having obstacles between you and the hole) and missing a green in a tough spot.
In the case of missing the fairway, the first and most important goal is to get the ball into a position where you can find the green with the next shot. The quickest way to ruin a good round is to attempt a high-risk shot, leave it in the junk, and take a double-bogey or worse.
When you miss a green on the short side, where you have very little green between your ball and the hole, the best plan of action is to change your target. Focus on your ball landing as close to the hole as possible.
Chances are, you’ll likely leave yourself a 15-20 foot par-putt, but that’s a far better result than trying to be so precise that the ball doesn’t reach the green.
Giving yourself a par putt on every hole minimizes your chances of making doubles, which will take considerable pressure off the rest of your game and on your psyche.
CHAPTER 6 / MINI-GOAL 4:
Stay In The Present
If you’ve watched golf on TV, you’ve no doubt heard the phrase “One shot at a time.”
In fact, it’s said so often that many may think it’s cliché; yet, for the best players in the world, it’s imperative you find a way to not get caught up in the score.
As you attempt to break 80 for the first time, this is the one mini-goal that is the hardest, but also the most important.
Keep Score, But Not the Total Score
If possible, have one of your playing partners keep track of your score for you, with a polite request to not mention how well or how poorly you’re doing.
This includes adding up the total after nine holes. A sub-80 score is going to happen whether or not you know where you stand in the round.
Game Day: Preparing Yourself for Success
A great round of golf starts with being rested, nourished, and ready to play.
Be sure to get at least eight hours of sleep, and wake up at least two hours before your round. The last thing you want to do is show up with only a few minutes before your tee time.
Have your golf bag filled with a few snacks (nuts and seeds store well and will help keep you satiated; if you’re allergic to them, a couple snack bars will suffice).
Eat your favorite breakfast, something that will not only satisfy your nutritional needs but will also put you in a positive state of mind.
We discussed this in detail, check our article about the Golfer’s Diet.
If possible, have your playing partners pick you up and drive you to the course, spending the commute visualizing your thought processes, and seeing yourself making that putt for 79.
Stretching and Warm-Up
Before you do any golf motion, make sure you are properly warmed up and loose.
With the last few range balls, practice your go-to shot just like you would as if you were on the golf course, setting your boundaries and committing to the shot.
Practice a few chip shots, get a feel for the green speed (no need to focus on making them; save that energy for the golf course).
Now, you’re ready to play.
The Most Important Concept to Remember
Golf, as a whole, is a difficult game.
There will be days where you feel great and score poorly or slap it around and score pretty well.
The most important thing to remember is that an 18-hole round is only a small snapshot of your entire life as a golfer. Here are my best tips to keep this concept in mind and play your best golf.
- Take each shot as it comes.
This is under the same premise as “one shot at a time,” but this concept needs to be repeated. Thinking of the past shot or worrying about the next one won’t help you. Staying present and focusing all your attention on the task at hand is the only way to go.
Other than putting your best foot forward and doing the best you can to play your best, the rest is out of your hands. Once you’ve hit your shot, take a look around. Laugh with your buddies. Sip your favorite beverage. When you get to the next shot, bring everything you’ve got.
- Don’t give up
Remember that every shot is a learning experience. Even if you shoot 50 on the front (which you shouldn’t pay attention to anyways), give every shot your full attention. You never know what you’ll learn about your game that you can apply to your next round. And there will be another round.
Now It’s Your Turn
If you can apply these Four Mini-Goals to your game and commit to them each every time you play, breaking 80 will become a scorecard on the mantle.
With the right methodology training and resilience, this is within your reach.
We hope this guide provides you with this guidance. Go now on the course and let us know when you hit 79 or less!