Breaking 80 is one of the most challenging barriers in golf. Getting over that final hurdle requires brains, skill, and hard work. To help you take that final step, we rounded up a handful of the lower handicaps around the GOLF Magazine offices to get their two cents.
Dylan Dethier (+2.7 handicap): I would like to scream this from the mountains! I have a bunch of friends who shoot in the 80s and low 90s, and I think the thing that would help them the most is getting comfortable getting up-and-down. The good news? This is fun to work on. Find someone who’s good at putting and challenge them to a putt-off. Find someone who’s good at chipping and have them show you some shots on the chipping green. Put yourself in real game-type situations. Closest to the pin. Putting contests for a buck. Being comfortable around the green is massive in turning bogeys or worse into regular pars.
Luke Kerr-Dineen (2.2 handicap): When I play with golfers who are right on the cusp of breaking 80, it’s almost always the same problem that holds them back: The two-way miss. It doesn’t particularly matter what your shot shape is — I’ve played with low-single digits who play a borderline slice every time — but as long as you groove a shot shape that is consistently traveling in one direction, you’ll be in good shape. If you’re missing shots left and right interchangeably, you’ll forever struggle to break that barrier.
Ashley Mayo (3.3 handicap): Now that you’re on the cusp of breaking 80, focus on feeling confident in your abilities to execute a good golf shot. After all, you do so on a very consistent basis. The key to taking the next step is mental toughness, and toughening up means focusing squarely on the shot at hand. Carrying the baggage of previous shots and anticipating upcoming ones are the barrier between a good round and a great round. So instead of constantly knowing how many shots over par you are, try this: As you walk off every green, grab the scorecard from your back pocket, write down your score, put that card back in your pocket and move on. That last hole, now that you’ve recorded it, never even happened. The only shot that matters is the one you’re approaching. At the end of your round, you should be surprised (hopefully, pleasantly) by the total number you add up. Score amnesia will help you achieve this next big milestone.
Brendan Mohler (4 handicap): Don’t even pay attention to where the flagstick is. Aim for the middle of the green, at all times, no matter what. A two-putt par is always easier than getting up-and-down when you’re short-sided in deep rough. A fun game to play to help this part of your game: play a match with your favorite foursome, where you must hit the fairway (and then the green) to move on. For instance, if you miss the fairway, you’re out of the hole. If you hit the fairway, then miss the green, you’re out of the hole. No matter the skill levels among your foursome, you’ll be surprised by how few people are left standing once the group reaches the green.
Joe Summa (5 handicap): Although mastering your short game is a crucial method to posting low scores, golfers can shave those final four or five unwanted strokes by eliminating some basic mental mistakes. Position yourself well on the course, and you’ll succeed in breaking 80 consistently. Rather than risking a sliced or hooked drive off the tee on a short par-4, pull a hybrid or long iron instead and you’ll most likely leave yourself a simple 100 yards from the middle of the fairway. Or, knowing you won’t reach a par-5 in two shots, pull an iron and leave yourself with a comfortable third approach shot. Managing your game will leave you with more comfortable approach shots, shorter putts, and more scores under 80.
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