One of the most challenging golf milestones to pass is that of breaking 90. Any golfer still trying to burst through this particular marker may be surprised to discover that, according to data from the National Golf Foundation, a mere 26 percent of all golfers shoot below 90 consistently in a full 18-hole round. In comparison, 45 percent of all golfers regularly post scores above 100.
While shooting a score in the 80s isn't exactly a straightforward task, if you can develop an ability to limit your mistakes and play bogey golf, you will be breaking through the 90 barrier in no time.
To help you in that quest, we've listed some standout tips which will give you a better chance of going lower than ever.
1) Consider Golf Lessons
We wanted to get this one in straight off the bat. While it's certainly possible for you to break 100 by accepting certain deficiencies in your golf game, your attempts at breaking 90 may all be in vain if you fail to address any obvious swing flaws.
The best way to arrive at a golf course ready to go low is to do the necessary work at the range/short play area. To ensure you're working on the correct improvements, get a golf coach to take a look at your golf swing.
While it's always an idea to get in-person golf coaching, online golf lessons are becoming more and more popular.
A great tool to help you find elite-level golf coaches and work on your golf swing remotely is the Skillest app. You can connect with your chosen coach and send them videos of your swing before arranging a digital lesson. With Skillest, you're only ever a few clicks away from improving your golf game.
2) Pre-Round Practice
In between rounds, time at the driving range and short play area of your local golf course will help you improve each area of your game.
The Core Golf app is an excellent companion for your driving range sessions (available on iOS only). The app helps you fight driving range boredom and allows you to practice with a real purpose.
It's stacked with detailed golf drills and personalised milestones, while it presents a performance radar graph that makes it super simple to track your progress.
On the day of your round, arrive at the golf course in good time to allow around half an hour of practice. Spend equal periods of time going through the bag hitting your driver/woods, irons and wedges, before finally focusing on putting.
In particular, it's vitally important that you get at least 10 minutes on the practice green before hitting the first tee. Getting a feel for the speed of the greens, as well as reminding yourself of the fundamentals of your putting stroke, will only benefit you during the 18 holes.
Find your pace on long putts and spend some time over shorter 'knee-knockers' to develop pre-round confidence.
3) Start Strong
You'll likely feel nervous on the first tee, and that's OK. The world's best golfers experience nerves in the same situation. The key for you on the first tee-box is to avoid letting this anxiety take over and to remember to employ your pre-shot routine as you would on any other hole.
Don't try to crush that first tee shot. Instead, really focus on making a slow, smooth golf swing and you'll likely hit it solid. Now... you're on your way.
4) Accuracy NOT Distance
If you're looking to break 90 for the first time, get distance out of your mind immediately. Accuracy is king.
When golfers fail to break 90, it's rarely because they don't reach a par-5 in three shots, or a long par-4 in two. Instead, they miss out because they waste so many shots by going OB or by hacking out from pretty penal rough.
This is where good course management can pay dividends. You might want to consider the club you're taking on each tee-box by adequately assessing the danger up ahead.
A hole with wide fairways and no OB might be a green-lighter as far as the driver goes. Conversely, a tighter and more unforgiving hole might be better tackled with either a hybrid or long iron.
5) Level-Up Your Lag Putting
When you do manage to find a Green in Regulation, the chances are you will still be quite a distance from the cup. Learn to lag it close, and you can steal a shot off the course in your quest to break 90.
Of course, developing the touch to lag it close doesn't just appear overnight. You'll need to work on your pace control and putt visualisation on the practice green in between rounds.
Check out this lag-putting drill below from the great Phil Mickelson.
6) Take Your Medicine
As an extension of the 'accuracy' thought above, if you can keep the ball in play, you'll limit the number of times you're scrambling to make 'your par' and avoid the double bogey.
If you do manage to find yourself blocked out in the rough, the sensible play will be the right play.
Make sure you can hit a basic punch shot to get yourself out of trouble and back in the fairway. Don't try to be a hero. It rarely goes well.
7) Use the Same Club for Chipping
When you're somewhere around the green, there's an immense benefit to be gained from using the same club when chipping. The predictability that comes from using a familiar club means you can narrow your focus to the chosen landing zone - and trust the strike.
Of course, there will be times you need to be a little more creative - perhaps when chipping over a bunker - but, in the main, try to settle on a 'favourite' club for greenside shots.
8) Don't Count Your Score
When you're on the golf course with a number in mind, this tip is probably going to be the hardest to stick to. We're not referring to totting up the numbers on your scorecard exclusively; it's just as potentially destructive if you let your mind wander and start counting scores in your mind as you walk to the next tee.
If you count your score during a round of golf, the pressure will build, and it's very likely to have an impact somewhere in the back nine.
FYI: If you don't want to count score, you can still play your round with the Hole19 app in tow. Enable the 'GPS Only' mode and you will still get your distances to front, middle and back of the green, without needing to log the number of strokes.
9) Practice Positive Self-Talk
Whether you practice it inwardly or aloud, self-talk can be an extremely powerful tool on the golf course. How many times have you drawn on negative past experiences of a particular hole - or entire golf course - and how has that impacted upon the outcome?
Self-fulfilling prophecies await around every corner in golf. If you expect a negative outcome, you'll get one. Try to revert your focus from what has happened in the past, to what lies before you. Banish those thoughts of slicing one OB and visualise the ball plum-centre of the fairway.
Golf isn't easy, so learn to give yourself a break.
'I can't putt today at all' is a pretty negative statement. Instead 'I can putt better that this' draws on positive memories from bygone rounds.
10) Don't Panic
No matter what happens out there on the course, don't panic. Don’t deviate from your plan. If something goes wrong, keep your head in the game and stay focused on playing the percentages.
If you miss out on breaking 90 this time, it's not the end of the world. But if you manage to use these tips every round you WILL get there.