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Keys to breaking 80 vs. breaking 90, explained by the senior teacher

Breaking 90 for the first time is a big task, and so is breaking 80. Here are some things you should focus on to achieve these goals.

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Breaking 90 for the first time is a huge feat for golfers, but as players get better and goals begin to change, breaking 80 can sometimes seem attainable again.

But there are different skills required for each, and they are all important to achieving your goals. At the 2023 Top 100 Golf Instructors Conference at the Westin Kierland in Scottsdale, Ariz., last December, coach Jeff Smith bridged the gap between the two.

First, Smith says, it starts with a realistic assessment of your game. How many balls did you hit out of bounds in each round? How good is your short game? How many times can you hit the green when faced with a 30 yard wedge shot? Doing this will help you understand where your game needs to work, and then you can attack those areas.

“To finish 90, you often underestimate the importance of the short game — and I don't mean to be a whiz or anything — I just mean to be able to hit it in one spot or just off the green,” said Smith, who spends his winters teaching at the Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs. , Fla. “The low-hanging fruit we can usually take care of very quickly.”

Smith says that breaking 90 really comes down to a better short game and proper training, which can help golfers play consistent, smart golf.

“If you're trying to break 80 you're playing less golf and you may have to take lessons but you may have some reasons. [you haven’t broken 80 yet] – tension on the tee, two ducks and putt fades in the round, something like that,” Smith said. “Even though breaking 90 is just training, and with a lesson to play you can quickly fix that. Sometimes it's the simple things; you can teach how to chip pretty quickly for a new player. When you get to 80 it might be a bit more of a time commitment or spending time with a mechanic and continuing to refine that short game.”

One important thing to remember, Smith says, is that it all starts with an accurate assessment of your game. He says many golfers say they are shooting in the low 90s, for example, but for some players that score includes one or two mulligans, taking a 3-footer here or there, or taking a higher handicap score on the hole instead. to end it.

Smith says that those players are often more difficult to teach, because they go into lessons thinking their scores are lower than they really are.

“It's a wonderful dream. “If you work with them for two months, now they're shooting a real 93, and it's like, 'Hey, I'm not getting any better,' but now those 7s you're writing down are actually seven times,” Smith says. “It's important to identify exactly what they're shooting, then— then we can have a goal. And that can be a little stressful. You don't have to be overly negative, but you have to face the facts where you are.”

From there, it's all about finding the right teacher, committing and going to work.

Josh Behow Editor

As managing editor of, Berhow manages the day-to-day and long-term programming of one of the most widely read news and service websites in the sport. He spends most of his days writing, planning, organizing and wondering if he will ever break 80. Before joining in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and two children. You can reach him at [email protected].

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