There are many psychological barriers in sports. For example, many people thought the 4 minute mile would never be broken. For many golfers the big psychological wall to crash through is How to Break 80.
It cannot be overstated how big a difference there is between shooting 80 and 79. It’s only one stroke but when you are trying to break 80 for the first time that one stroke is the size of the Pacific Ocean. It’s just not the same as the difference between 85 and 84. No one grinds or gets butterflies over that putt on the last hole. So how do you break 80?
First, make sure you know what it takes to break 80 in terms of golf statistics. To be very simple on a par 72 course you need to have 11 pars and 7 bogeys. So here’s how that breaks out statistically speaking. You will likely hit 5-6 greens in regulation. You will need to make par or better on those holes. That means there are 12-13 holes where you miss the green in regulation. You will need to get up and down on 5 or six of those which means 5 or 6 one putt greens with no 3 putt greens. That means you are going have a total of 30-31 total putts at most. We haven’t talked about driving but to hit 5-6 greens you will need to be in play on at least 7-9 holes off the tee.
So to summarize here are the stats to help you break 80:
Fairways Hit- 7-9
Greens in Regulation- 5-6
Blow up Holes/Others- 0
It is important to understand what it takes so you can move on to the next phase of breaking 80.
Your Game Analysis
You need to chart your next 5-10 rounds of golf and be brutally honest. It’s very easy to trick yourself into thinking you are better in a particular area of the game than you really are. So record every shot.
For driving record:
How many fairways you actually hit
How many times did you leave yourself no shot or a risky shot to the green?
How many times did you cost yourself penalty strokes
For irons record:
How many greens hit
How many miss short
How many miss long
How many miss right
How many miss left
Around the green record:
How many ups and downs
How many sand saves
How many chips result in a tap in?
How many missed greens
How many times you get down in 3 or 4
On the green:
How many one putts
How many three putts
There are software programs and scorecards out there that are designed for this and even more detailed tracking. They can be a great aid because they force you to record your actual shots.
You should analyze this data relative to the stats provided above to see where your game needs work to break 80. Start with the green stats and work back to the tee. Remember you need to be around 30 putts. If you are averaging 30 putts or better you can move on. If not, you need to start working on your putting. You may start to incorporate your stats from around the green. I know many people who blame their putting but actually they don’t chip very well around the green. They never give themselves a tap in and they always leave a 10-12 foot putt. Even the pros only make 50% of those. So you have to chip closer than that once in a while to get your number of putts down and ultimately break 80.
From there move back down the fairway to your approach shots. Do you really hit enough greens in regulation to break 80? If not, where are your shots missing. Almost all amateur golfers have the tendency to leave every approach shot short. They pick the club they have to hit perfectly to get to the hole. Trust me on this; the pros don’t play this way. The typically pick a club that will get them there comfortably. Try picking one more club than you usually play from a certain yardage. You don’t have to tell anyone what club you hit. Remember after the round the only thing anyone wants to know is what you shot? Also, remember on approach shots there is always a good place to miss the green. If you do miss the green, playing to the safe side will make your chip shot easier which means fewer putts which means you guessed it, you break 80!
Last but not least comes driving. It’s easy to get caught up in the macho aspects of driving. It’s too bad that it’s called driving. You should probably think of it as placing the ball instead of driving the ball. Off the tee all you want to do is place the ball somewhere where you can have a reasonable shot to the green. It doesn’t have to be your longest drive ever, but the easiest way to break 80 is to put the ball in play on every hole. This really takes stress off of the rest of your game. Think about it, if you have a good shot at the green after your drive on every hole you are going to hit more greens. You also have eliminated the blow up hole because those tend to come from a wildly errant tee shot.
Focus on scoring. That is the part of the game you want to grind on. As stated above, try and take pressure off of the first part of the hole and really focus as you get closer to the hole. In other words, grind it out around the greens and take it easy from tee to green. All you have to do is get there in reasonable fashion.
Finally, not to be Zen about it but let go. Don’t try to hard. It really ties up your full swing. Relax and have fun. Focus on the positive.
In hindsight this article should be called how to shoot in the 70’s not how to break 80. How to break 80 is the negative way to express the score you’re trying to get. So stop worrying about how to break 80 and start shooting in the 70’s.