How To Break 90: Our Top Tips For Consistently Breaking 90
Golf is so great because no matter how good you get, chances are you always want to get better.
Whether you’re in the 120s or a scratch golfer, the quest for greatness never stops. If you haven’t shot in the 80s yet, you might have asked yourself, “Is it easy to break 90?”
According to the USGA, the average male handicap is 14.2, meaning that they “should” break 90 during most rounds. So if the majority of male golfers can do it, that means you can too.
Keep reading to learn our 13 best tips to help you learn how to break 90 consistently.
How to Break 90 in Golf – 13 Strategies
Breaking 90 and shooting in the 80s is a great accomplishment for any golfer.
Some players might get there quickly, while others it might take years of hard work. But as long as you keep trying, improve your practice, and manage your game on the course, you can make it happen. Here’s how…
1. Play the Right Equipment
If you want to start breaking 90 consistently, before changing anything with your game, I would first evaluate your equipment. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should (or need) to go buy a whole set of brand-new golf clubs. But playing the wrong clubs that are either too heavy, too stiff, or not very forgiving, is likely holding you back from shooting in the 80s.
Specifically, I suggest looking at three aspects of your golf clubs.
Hit the Right Driver
Your driver plays a big role in scoring your best as it sets up the rest of the hole. Since you likely use a driver 10-14 times per round, you need to love this club and have confidence swinging it.
If you’re not breaking 90 yet and suffer from a slice, I suggest buying a club that has a built-in draw bias. These clubs are an “anti-right” club and will help you hit it straighter, longer, and hopefully play from the fairway more often.
If you don’t want to splurge for a new driver, make sure your driver is optimized to help straighten out that slice. If the hosel is adjustable or you can move any weight around, make sure they’re in the toe of the club. This will make it easier to square the face at impact and hit it straighter off the tee.
Make sure to check out our best driver for high handicappers here.
Add More Fairway Woods and Hybrids
The second equipment piece to evaluate is your longer clubs. Too many amateur golfers play long irons instead of hybrids and fairway woods and suffer as a result.
Long irons are tough even for great players to hit so make life easier by playing more forgiving clubs. An extra high-lofted fairway wood or hybrid will help you on long par 3s and a go-to shot on tight par 4s.
Check Your Putter
The last piece of equipment to evaluate is your putter. Make sure the type of putter matches your putting stroke.
For example, if you prefer to have an inside to outside stroke (like Tiger Woods), you need a putter with plenty of toe hang. This is usually a blade putter and will help you close the face so you hit the putt squarely.
Conversely, if you’re more of a straight back, straight through putter you would benefit most from a mallet or high MOI putter like the TaylorMade Spider.
Also Read: How To Read Greens
2. Don’t Add Up Your Score
Now that you have the right equipment, let’s get you in the right mindset to break 90. This tip is simple – don’t add up your score until after the final putt drops on the 18th green.
Far too many golfers add up their score after 9 or 17 holes. Newsflash, these numbers don’t mean anything, all that matters is the total after 18 holes!
When you add up your front nine score, it’s easy to get in your head and stop doing what you did on the front nine. It’s easy to think, “I shot 42, all I have to do is shoot 42 or at worst, 47 to break 90.” But this leads to playing cautiously, guiding your swing, and thinking too much about score instead of playing golf.
3. Have One Swing Thought
If you ask consistent single digit players what they think about during the round, you will probably hear answers like:
- “I just focused on my target.”
- “I made sure my alignment was good.”
- “My focus was on one non-technical swing thought.”
To break 90, quit thinking about mechanical swing thoughts on the course.
Save that for the driving range and instead, take one swing thought with you on any given day. Otherwise, it’s easy to confuse your brain if you’re trying to think of 2-3 things on each swing.
Instead, trust your swing and have one easy to remember swing thought. I tend to find the best thoughts are about tempo, rhythm, takeaway, or something else simple.
Don’t overcomplicate your swing on the course as it makes it nearly impossible to get into a groove and swing freely.
4. Stop Hitting 3 Wood off the Deck
If you aren’t breaking 90 yet, you probably don’t have the distance to always get to on every par 4 in two shots. When most golfers find themselves in this long distance, they hit 3 wood in hopes to get it close to the green.
The logic makes sense but a 3-wood off the deck is also one of the hardest clubs to hit consistently (even for good players). Due to the low loft and length of the club, it’s not easy to hit well.
Instead, I offer you a new way to play these tough, long holes.
Let’s say you hit a decent drive and have 240 yards to the green but your 3 wood only goes 200 yards. Instead of pulling 3 wood from the bag, hit 5-wood or hybrid instead. You’re much more likely to hit it solid, set yourself up for the next shot, and minimize your misses too.
Related: How to Increase Swing Speed
5. Club Up with Approach Shots
Did you know that most trouble around the greens is in front, not long?
Here’s the thing, most 90s golfers don’t take enough club and as a result, end up short and in trouble. This leads to bogeys, double bogeys, and kills confidence levels.
Instead, club up on your approach shot for two reasons:
- If you hit it perfectly you will be long and avoid water, bunkers, and other tough up and downs.
- If you only hit 70-80% due to a mishit, you’re still more likely to end up on or around the green.
Clubbing up with your irons should give you a better chance of avoiding big numbers and having more looks at birdie.
6. Always Aim for the Middle of the Green
Since you aren’t shooting in the 80s (yet), I suggest playing more conservative with your approach shots into greens.
Aim for the middle of the green (or the widest part) at all times, regardless of club, distance, or pin location. This will give you the best chance to hit the green and give yourself a putt.
Boo Weekley famously said, “The middle of the green never moves.” This statement was further elaborated in Golf Magazine showing why the middle of the green should be your target.
“If you take on the middle of the green the worst you will get is a putt, a routine chip or a basic bunker shot. Birdie becomes a heightened possibility; par is largely a guarantee, and bogey or worse is mitigated.”
If you go flag hunting, you risk short siding yourself and inviting double bogeys or worse into the round. Instead, play conservatively so you can minimize shots on and around the green.
If you hit the middle of the green for all 18 holes, you’ll likely have an average of 30 foot putts. These are relatively easy two putts and one or two might fall. Even if you have a few three putts, you should still break 90 with ease.
7. Practice Recovery Shots
The key to breaking 90 is not letting a bad tee shot sabotage your hole and possibly the round. Bad drives happen to even the best of golfers but what separates them most from is the ability to get back in play and avoid big numbers.
To help you learn how to break 90, I suggest hitting plenty of recovery shots in practice. Find a club that is reliable to help you punch out, get back in the fairway, and will help you avoid big numbers.
When you do find yourself in the trees on the golf course, play it safe. Don’t compound an error off the tee by playing overly aggressive on the next shot. Instead, chip it out, try to hit on the green, and settle for par or bogey.
8. Improve Your Self-Talk and Body Language
Even the best players lose their swings and have off ball striking days. When this happens, it’s important to observe your mental game so you can stay in the fight to shoot your best.
Specifically, you want to focus on two things:
- Self-talk: Don’t make the round harder on yourself by mentally beating yourself up. You don’t get any extra points from the Golf Gods by verbally harassing yourself. Instead, say empowering, positive things to have the right mindset. Plus, it’s more fun for you and everyone else in your group too.
- Body language: Aside from using empowering language, make sure your body language is sending the right message to your mind. When bad shots or bad holes happen, keep your chin up, shoulder back, and don’t sulk.
9. Learn to Get it Up and Down
Whether you’re looking to break 90 or 80 or 70, I’m convinced you can’t practice your short game enough. To shoot in the 80s, master these three shots:
- Putting from the fringe. This is usually the highest percentage play vs. chipping or pitching and is very similar to putting on the green.
- Bump and run. Try out different wedges or short irons to find a consistent shot for around the green.
- Basic pitch shot. This shot will help if you’re short sided or need to go over a bunker when you miss the green.
The key to a good short game is making sure you accelerate and hit the ball aggressively (even if it’s a short shot). Greg Norman described this perfectly on his website.
“Acceleration through impact is as vital to the short game as it is with your longer irons and woods. It is the only way to put proper backspin on these shots, for maximum control. So be crisp and aggressive on even your shortest shot, leading the clubhead with your hands as you make a descending hit on the ball.”
As you advance into the 80s, then you can work more with bunker shots, flop shots, and more.
10. Tee it Forward
Sometimes breaking 90 (or any score) is more mental than swing related. An easy way to break 90 is to tee it forward so you have shorter clubs into the green and should shoot lower scores.
Overcoming this mental hurdle and seeing a score in the 80s might be just what you need to step back to your normal tee and do it from there. This is also a great way to work on shots inside 125 yards, which are some of the most important in golf.
11. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and play with better golfers. When you tee it up with players who can shoot in the 80s or 70s with ease, it will start to rub off on your game.
Golfing with these types of players will let you see how they act, think, and navigate the golf course on any given day. Plus, I’m sure they’ll share tips and tricks that helped them out to help you accomplish your goals too.
12. Practice Less, Play More Golf
One of the last tips to start shooting in the 80s is to get off the range and start playing more golf. Think about it, the driving range doesn’t replicate on course conditions for most shots. If you’re hitting off mats, it’s even less like real golf course conditions.
Instead, get out on the course so you can learn how the ball reacts in different weather, different lies, and playing with wind. Plus, when you’re out on the course, you also learn more about your game so you can practice more effectively too.
13. Stop Dwelling on the Past
The final tip to become an 80s golfer is to have a short term memory. Even the best players in the world hit bad shots but the great ones get over them quickly.
As the great Ben Hogan said, “The most important shot in golf is the next one.” Leave the past behind you and focus 100% on the next shot to play your best golf.
Top Questions to Shoot in the 80s
What does it mean to break 90?
Breaking 90 in golf means scoring in the 80s. Since most golf courses are a par 72, that equates to shooting 17 over par (which is nearly bogey golf).
When you think about it like that, breaking 90 should get easier. You can make bogeys on 17 of the 18 holes and only need to make one par!
Is it good to break 90 in golf?
Yes, this is a huge accomplishment for most golfers. Once you break 100 and shoot in the double-digit range, breaking 90 is usually the next goal.
Since the average male handicap is a 14, that means most “average” players are right around a score of 90. Use the tips above to make sure you shoot in the 80s more often than not.
Do you need a driver to break 90?
The driver is one of the three most important clubs in the bag (alongside a putter and sand wedge). While you don’t “need” one to break 90, it will help tremendously… even if you don’t hit it straight.
Length is better than accuracy when it comes to scoring; the shorter the shot you have into the green, the better chance you have of a birdie putt. Plus, a lot of golfers try to “lay up” with a 3-wood and then miss the fairway. Which leaves them further back than a driver and in the rough.
If you struggle with your big stick off the tee, click here to learn how to hit longer drives.
Breaking 90 is 100% possible when you put in the work and follow these tips. As you go through your golf journey, chances are you will get disappointed but that’s part of this great game. Keep going and push through the tough times so you can play your best golf ever.
Remember, if the average handicap is around 14 for men, that means you can do it too!
What’s your biggest tip for someone trying to break 90?
Let us know in the comments below!