Breaking 100
By Kickntrue on 5/1/08
By Mike Kay, oobgolf guest contributer

The Premise- Are You A Struggling Golfer?
A lot of you are like me. Exactly like me. You picked up golf only recently and are intimidated by the mountain of improvement you are facing. When you are a beginner, you feel intimidated or frustrated close to 99% of the time. But there are also times when a light bulb goes off and you have an epiphany on which part of your game is costing you strokes, and that takes you up the mountain of improvement.

One of my first barriers is the dreaded 100 mark. I've been close a few times, but never managed to do it. It's just a number. It means different things on different courses. It's as subjective as the course record at Putt-Putt golf, and as arbitrary as the 100-RBI mark in baseball. But I felt GREAT when I recently broke the 100 mark for the first time, on a legit 72 par course. And here's how.

Let me step back and discuss the light bulb. In all sports there are aggressive and conservative ways to play. Better players favor the former. Beginners do better by mastering the latter. I would contend that most par numbers on each hole are way too aggressive to play for beginners. Consider a world famous 400+ yard par-4 on the picture (on right). You have to drive off the tee for 200-250 yards, while avoiding the fairway bunkers. Then find the green from 150+ yards out, while avoiding green side bunkers. Not to mention that you need to be good enough to 2-putt the green. Surely you can do it, but such perfect swings are not consistent for a beginner.

Big Idea- Change Your Approach
Let me ask you this, would your approach change if you had to break 100 in this round for all the marbles in the world? If you had to make a double bogey or better on this par-4, is this the way you would play it? What if instead of 2 shots to the green, you intentionally took 3? Forget about the driver that you may slice or the approach shot with a long iron from the rough.

These types of shots carry way too much risk of costing your strokes. You could hit the ball out of bounds, in a hazard, or just plain mis-hit it!

What if you took three nice short reliable 7,8,9-iron shots that each took you 130-150 yards closer? If you are on the green, then 2-putt for bogey. If you are just off the green, chip to the hole, give yourself a chance for a 1-putt bogey. In other words, LAY UP your approach shots!

When you are a beginner, laying up should be the name of the game. Sure, you may not hit your cool new driver in front of your friends, but you will record a better score than them! Is that not worth it? Now let's examine the numbers.

The Math
Consider the following par 72 setup. Four par 3's, ten par 4's, and four par 5's. If you play a bogey on each of these, so that's 72+18=90 shots, and you will have 10 shots to spare! If oobgolf stats are correct, players average 4.1 on par 3's, 5.3 on par 4's, and 6.1 on par 5's.

So, on average, par 72's courses have the following number of shots:

(4.1*4) + (5.3*10) + (6.1*4) = 16.4 + 53+ 24.4 = 93.8

That's 6 shots to spare! You could play six shots worse than an average golfer and still break the dreaded 100 mark!

The breakdown is the following. I will assume that you bogey all par 3's. That's 16 shots. I'll also assume that you will layup all the par 4's and finish half of them with a bogey and half with a double bogey. That's 71 total shots. You have 28 shots left for the four par 5 holes, a comfortable double-bogey on each one that you can lay up the entire way.

This will take some practice to dial in your short irons and becoming very consistent with them, but this approach breaks 100 a lot more often than the 'aggressive' way to play. Moreover, you can mix in some aggressive driver and hybrid shots along the way, if you are comfortable with them.

I hope this takes your scores to the next level. Good luck on the links!

[ comments ]
klangdon says:
congrats on breaking 100.

i broke 100 for first time last year. now i can't think about anything but that 90 mark. i think i am going to try an ultra conservative round to see what happens...
Kickntrue says:
Good article and some valid points. My only arguments come from the fact that you make a lot of assumptions. If you are a "golfer in progress" and you decide to take your lay up approach- I think you can't assume 2 putts or getting up and down on each hole. By taking 3 130 yard shots to get to the green still doesn't really make your 3rd 130 yard shot any less likely to find sand or trouble at the green.
I like your idea but I think it's still a long assumption. Playing smart is one thing- but I think if you lay up on each par 4- you will not break 100.
DeepRough says:
Nice post Mike, and I agree.

If you can putt and have a good short game, no reason why you can't play each par 4 as a 'par 5' and still break 100. Bogey every hole, and you're shooting 90.

The critical thing here being 'a good short game'. If you can get up and down more often than not, breaking 90 is a good target for any golfer who can keep their tee shots in bounds :)

Unfortunately, most people like to spend all their time pounding the driver on the range. Next time you want to practice, rather than going to the range, take 3 or 4 golf balls into your back yard, and just pitch/chip the balls around for an hour...try hitting little targets, make a game of it.
volleyhart says:
Golf Digest uses this same logic when they talk about "how to break 100", "how to break 90", how to break 70", etc. It's too easy to play "like everyone else" ... driver, mid-range iron, layup and putt, but when the average golfer shoots 95, it's obvious we're wasting strokes.

Laying up on every par 4 does seem a little far fetched, but the concept is right on. Control the mid and short-range irons, putt for bogey.
chipotle mg says:
what golf course is that hole from??
sylar says:
thanks for all the comments all. yes, there are a lot of assumptions, that's just the beginner in me. i think of approaches that seemed to work even if i don't fully understand how they work. i simply 'trust' that my short clubs are much easier than the longer ones.

for me, this is why playing to a bogey is easier than playing to par. every shot I hit is that much easier to execute, and minimizes my mistakes. it's the mistakes that cost us strokes.

the hole is from Bay Hill Club, Championship Course.
falcon50driver says:
Here's the maddening thing. I hit a great drive down the middle. My partner flubs his drive 125 yards into a tree and drops straight down. I hit a 165 yard shot to the middle of the green. His second shot hits another tree about a hundred yards and drops straight down. His third shot is chunked 30 yards short of the green. I'm thinking birdie against his probable double bogie. A three shot swing..yessss. He chips up to 15 feet and makes the first good shot on the hole, a 15 foot putt. My 30 foot birdie putt lips out and I only make one mistake on the hole dragging the putter on the tap in par and get a tie his bogie.....where's the justice?
falcon50driver says:
I agree with the author..There are no pictures on the score card, only numbers. The above scenario happened recently to me, and it illustrates how 4 good shots plus one bad is only equal to 4 bad shots plus one good.
Kickntrue says:
M2D- couldn't agree more about that scenerio. Drives me crazy when playing h2h.
waterboy454 says:
I know this is off point but, I finally got a multi-park season pass in the city I live in. I am serious about not only going past the 100 stroke mark but maybe hitting the mid 90's in one season. I usually hit between 108 to 114. I know I can do this but heres the thing, Good to fair "set-up" tee shots always take me to a good fairway or light rough. Hit a good iron 85% of the time and am always left with a chip to get on, no problem. Seems good right?

How do I break a 2-3 putt state of mind and convert to a more agressive 1-2 putt state of mind?

If theres any good tips to help a guy who plays cautiously off the box switch over to an agressive putter I know I can do it. I always leave 3ft+ short and leave 3-8ft after a lag putt. This is terrible, HELP!!!
Kickntrue says:
Someone else should chime in if they have better advice Waterboy- but i have the same issue. Unfortunately the only known solution I've heard yet that works is something I'm unwilling to do... practice.
klangdon says:
but i think deep rough is right. its practice with a lob wedge in your own yard vs anything you can do at a driving range.
sylar says:
waterboy, this is something where i am going out on a limb and advising something i am not sure. you should never be in a 2-3 putt state of mind. even as a beginner. always 2-putt.

as you know or may have heard, the 2-putt actually contains 2 different strokes- the lag putt and the follow-up.

even as a beginner, you should practice enough to lag putt inside 10-feet, usually short. more advanced drills can get that down to 6. the follow-up putt is something you are just going to have to sink. ;)

here's a drill: take 20 balls on one edge of the green. choose a direction and putt all the way across the green, trying to stop short of going in the rough. when done, go there and choose a different direction. this develops feel for the speed and you have a chance to observe the breaks, etc.
klangdon says:
some good stats on putting difference by handicap:
falcon50driver says:
Mom says "thanks for the birthday cake Andrew"
TaylorFade says:
All the pros say the #1 fault of amateurs is alignment, but that's a bunch of hooey. If you are in the 100's, the biggest fault I see is overswinging. Slow it down. Bad things happen when you are trying to swing it 150mph. Oh, and learn how to chip and what club to chip with. Most people use way too much loft. The 9 iron bump and run can be your best friend. Leave the flop shots to Phil.
treycool04 says:
Practice, Practice, Practice. I spend more time in my back yard on my short game than I do on the course. I am shooting in the 80's now when I was having trouble breaking 100 2 months ago.
falcon50driver says:
I think that chipping close enough to one putt from off the green is the single most important shot a person could practice. I have more trouble with that shot than any other. I really think that's what is keeping me out of the 70s.
PapaJoe says:
All you 100, 90, 80, and 70's shooters! "treycool04 says it best: "Practice, Practice, Practice!" If you shoot in the 100's you want to be in the 90's. If you're in the 90's you want to score in the 80's; in the 80's want to shoot in the 70's; and so on and so on! PRACTICE, and know what you are practicing for and about! If you go to the driving range and eventually pound 20 out of 50 drives into oblivion what have you accomplished? NOTHING! Practice in your back yard, or on par-3 courses! Nothing improves your game like sticking it close from 60 or 70 yards in or chipping it to within 2-3 feet from off the green. Nobody, including the top pro's, hits every fairway and green. PRACTICE your weaknesses, which no doubt are getting it up and down from 40 to 15 yards off the green. Every shot, including those 3-foot flubs cost one stroke!
player says:
my best score is 107.
player says:
i have a tip for all you oobers out there to break 100.: it would be easier to play a non par 72 course. lets say u play a par 71. Bogey every one and its an 89, giving you 11 shots to spare! look above. some courses have a par of 70. bogey each one for an 88, giving u 12 shots. some courses have a par lower than 70. so if youre looking for a 100, faver the par 71s and 70s. avoid par 72s and 73s. practice, prectice, practice and play those 71s and 70s and youll break 100 in no time!
player says:
in my last game i came within a hair of breaking 100. on wednesday, which happened to be my 11th birthday, i had 88 strokes with 3 holes left. i made a bogey 6 on the par 5 16th and got up and down from a bunker on the par 3 17th to save par. needing a birdie to shoot 100 i failed to hit the green in 2 and made a 5. i shot a 102.
player says:
let me tell u more about my near miss. i needed to shoot even par on the last 3 holes for 100. on the par 5 16th, i made a bogey 6. on the par 3 17th, my tee shot landed in a greenside bunker. i blasted out and still had a tough putt to save par. i nailed it! it was my 1st par on oobgolf(now i have 2). on the 18th i hit a good drive and attempted to go for the green 200 yards away. i missed, and my final chip for birdie came up short. i recorded a 5.
JWHpurist says:
This is a very nice hole for "Blades Only". #3 iron off the back tee to left center of dogleg, #5 iron to throat between the bunkers, #7 iron pitch & run to 10+ or - of cup and 1 putt for a par! Who needs woods or hybrids on this hole, when accurate iron ahot can produce the desired results? One of my favorite rounds was a +8=(80) at Riviera (PacPal) in 1978 when my dad scored 113 during the same round. Understanding your limits, proper practice, skill development & course management are all keys to confidence & related success in this game. JWHpurist
macl says:
I used to play regularly and shoot in the high 80's to low 90's, I stopped playing for a while but am getting back into it. Hopefully break 100 for the first time in a while today (1st 2 rounds this year were 103 and 100). The technique I used to use was just assume that all holes were par 5's. The par 3's, par 4's and par 5's. If I did that, then of course I would aim for eagles on par 3's and birdies on par 4's, but if I hit a "par 5" on every hole, then I would go round in 90.
M.Nugent says:
I think the main problem is decision making, yeah you can hit an 8 iron 150 yards with a perfect shot but club up with a 7 iron and swing smoothly and you can hit the same distance shot as your perfect 8 iron but you will execute it 90% of the time instead of 60%. Also work on your short game A LOT. I have hit so many iron shots that miss the green by a few feet and the mess up the chip and end up 2 putting for bogey, but when I get up and down from off the green it feels like im stealing a shot back from the course, and Pros do that 70% and many amateurs only scramble effectively 20% of the time
g.p.myers says:
So what should a beginner be hitting off the tee box? A 7-iron?
ibashdaily says:
I golf normally in the 104-100 range and I recently just set a personal record of 96. The few bits of advice that has helped me break the 100 barrier. Go a club higher and swing softer. Loosen your grip when chipping around the green. If you are facing a real tough 2nd shot from the rough/trees/bunker, chip onto the fairway to put yourself in a position to make a realistic shot to the green. Chances are that tough shot is going to turn into an extra 2 or 3 strokes than the one it would have taken you to get it back safely on the fairway. The only other advice that I have is to not look at your score until the end of each 9. You put too much pressure on yourself if you are constantly adding up the score to see what you need to do to reach your goal.
Kurt the Knife says:
wow. thanks for this piece. Makes sense.
"4 good shots plus one bad is only equal to 4 bad shots plus one good."
I've only been playing a few months and been feeling exasperated with 103-106 on a 72 (69/123)course.
I feel a little better now.

Onward and downward!
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