Breaking 100-90-80: A monthly guide to the scoring basics

I advise golfers, no matter what level they play at, to look at their “potential” score rather than the actual score they happened to make that day. This breeds confidence, and it shows you what you’re capable of doing. You also need to be objective when looking at your weaknesses. Analyzing your worst-hole scores gives you an idea of where to make improvements.

Breaking 100: Grip it, rip it

There’s no question in my mind that the two biggest obstacles to breaking 100 on a consistent basis are a poor grip and a poor setup. The way you hold the club determines the way you’ll swing that club. And if you can’t get off the tee with the driver, you simply won’t have much fun.

Hold the club more in the fingers, not in the palm

Work on forming and re-forming your grip at every opportunity–even at home sitting in front of the TV. Start with the left hand. Hold the club so it runs diagonally from the base of the little finger to the crook of the forefinger. Don’t hold the club in the palm. The in-palm position may feel more secure at first, but it actually creates tension and reduces the mobility of the wrist. With your left hand, raise the club in front of you with the toe up. You should see two or three base knuckles of the left hand and a distinct “cupping” of the left wrist. Feel how the last three fingers support the weight of the club? That’s a key to being able to hinge the wrists correctly, which allows you to “set” the club at the top of the backswing.

`Button up’ your chips

On-chip shots, make sure the buttons on your shirt are in front of the ball. If you are leaning to the left, you’ll be in good position to hit down on the ball.

Remember your best drive ever

When faced with a tough tee shot, think of the best drive you ever hit. Then try to re-create it. Have a mental picture of a perfect shot going down the middle of the fairway.

How to steer clear of trouble off the tee

If there’s trouble to the right of the fairway, tee up on the right side of the tee box. That gives you the best angle to hit away from any hazards.

Get in position to get behind the ball

People who don’t break 100 set up poorly with the driver. Typically, they position the ball toward the back of their stance and then chop down on it as if they’re hitting a 5-iron. To set up correctly, first put the ball forward in your stance, in line with the left heel. Place 60 percent of your weight on your right foot. Your shoulders are square to the target, with the right shoulder lower than the left. You want to put your body in position to really “get behind” the ball on the backswing. On the downswing you’ll be able to shift your weight forward, hitting the backside of the ball with a powerful, slightly upward blow.

Breaking 90: Make it a habit

It’s tough to be consistent, but that’s what you need to be to break 90. At this level of the game, you need to begin creating routines. Make “policies” for every aspect of your game, from preshot routines to on-course strategies. Practice those set patterns until they become second nature.

Rock your shoulders straight up and down

People who aren’t breaking 90 often are so eager to follow the progress of their putts, they open their shoulders through impact (above). The result? Inconsistent contact and direction. Instead, stroke putts by rocking your shoulders up and down, keeping them parallel to the target line. To ingrain the proper feeling, hold the front of your right shoulder with your left hand (left). Stroke putts with just the right arm; focus on moving your shoulders straight up and down, as if they were a connected, pendulum-like unit.

Cut down on fairway mis-hits

Better players hit down on the ball with fairway woods from a tight lie. They play the ball back in their stance a bit and “squeeze” it off the turf. You’ll cut down on topped shots.

Take more iron on shots into the green

On approach shots, make it a policy to always take an extra club. Most 90s-shooters are habitually short of the pin. Taking more club also encourages you to swing more smoothly.

Hit it thin off the sand

From a fairway bunker, don’t use any club stronger than a 5-iron. Hit the ball at the equator to pick it off the sand. This is better than fat.

The pause that can refresh your swing

One of the best ways to become more consistent with your full swing is to make sure that you complete your backswing–even to the point where you feel you have a slight pause at the top. Visually it won’t look like there’s any pause at all. But in your mind, you should feel as if there’s a point that you are trying to get to before you start back down. Many golfers never get to that point and start down before they’re ready. As a result, their rhythm and positioning are out of whack. Complete your windup so that you feel a pause. Then you’ll be in good shape to start down smoothly.

Breaking 80: Try workin’ it

Players at this level have got to have enough “game” to control the ball with their scoring clubs–the short and middle irons. This is the fun part of the game: If a pin is tucked right and the wind is left to right, you need to know how to shape the shot to get it close enough to make a birdie.

How to draw the ball

When you want to draw the ball, think of finishing with your hands held low and your shoulders on a more horizontal plane. By finishing flatter, you’re encouraging your right arm to rotate over the left through impact, which closes the face slightly.

How to fade the ball

To fade the ball, finish with your hands held higher. This encourages the face to stay open.

Remember: Working the ball is more than just technique. You need to practice draws and fades so that you can visualize the shots and hit them instinctively.

A rock-solid takeaway

Your abdominal muscles are the core of your swing. Focus on your abs and use them to start your backswing. Your hands and arms will follow in unison.

How to hit a pitch that bites

Better players need to be able to hit pitch shots that bounce once and check. To hit pitches with more spin, strengthen your left-hand grip and hold the left-hand firm through impact.

When to forget punch shots

When hitting into the wind, forget the punch shot. The more you hit down on the ball, the more it spins and the higher it goes. Swing easy in the wind.

How to hit a pitch that bites Better players need to be able to hit pitch shots that bounce once and check. To hit pitches with more spin, strengthen your left-hand grip and hold the left-hand firm through impact.

Don’t get stuck at

8 o’clock’ in your swing

The problem with many players who fail to break 80 is this: They might be in great position on the way back, but they tend to get the clubhead way behind their bodies on the way down. To keep from “getting stuck,” picture your body as a clock face. At the 8 o’clock position going back (left), the clubhead should be closer to the target line than the club handle is. The ideal position for the club at the 8 o’clock position on the downswing is nearly identical. That pre-impact position is really important because where the club is at 8 o’clock determines where the club is at impact. Practice working the club down to an 8 o’clock position in which the clubhead is outside the handle. It’s a drill Nick Price often uses.

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