A key mental strategy for amateurs trying to break 80 for the first time, according to a top teacher

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Breaking 80 is no easy feat, but smart strategies can make it easier.

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Every amateur golfer has found themselves in this position at one point or another. You have a great round going and only a few holes left, and you have already started to think about that glorious final number you might finally sign for.

For many amateurs, that special threshold is breaking 80; for some, it’s breaking 90; and for others, it’s even breaking 100. But your goal is your goal, and whatever it is, it’s not always the easiest thing to reach. Because let’s face it: We aren’t pros, so when we’re playing well and it’s time to buckle up and get through those last few holes with as little damage as possible, it’s usually the mental side of things that’ll derail a solid score rather than the physical. And it’s often the former that causes the latter.

The key to not letting things get out of control, says Matt Wilson, a GOLF Top 100 Teacher and the director of instruction at Baltusrol, is staying in the present moment. But easier said than done, right?

“It’s super easy to play the tape forward, thinking ‘I gotta do this, this, this, this and this, otherwise I’m not breaking 80,'” Wilson said. “So the reality is you have to accept bad shots, but you have to play the shot in front of you right now.”

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His best tip for this?

“To be aware of what they are thinking and have a physical trigger to bring you back into he moment,” he said. Wilson said a physical trigger would be something like snapping fingers, twirling a tee, flicking a ball marker or juggling change in your pocket. He says that strategy helps keep you present and prevents you from thinking too far ahead. “It’s a simple refocusing strategy that gives you a physical cue or reminder to bring your attention right back to what your job is right now, which is hit the ball from here to there. It’s hard to stop thoughts, and it’s also a lot of energy to try and manage your thoughts. But just being aware of where your attention is and where your awareness is, having that physical trigger brings it back.”

For an example of this on the course, Wilson said imagine you miss the green but need to get up and down to shoot 79. It’s important not to get ahead of yourself and stay in that moment.

“First, A), recognizing your train of thought; and B), using your trigger; and then C), asking yourself, ‘What’s my job? OK, it’s my chip shot. Where do I see this ball landing and how do I see it preceding to the hole from the point in which it lands? OK, that’s what I see.’ One stroke, two stroke, hit it, great.”

Might this strategy work for you next time you are nearing (and sweating) that career round? There’s only one way to find out.

Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

Josh Berhow is the managing editor at GOLF.com. The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.