For most amateur golfers, breaking 100 for the first time is a big, celebratory event.
Breaking 100 gives you hope that you can keep getting better and likely ready to eventually keep going lower. Even though it’s only one stroke, a 99 feels like such a better score than 100.
The good news is that it’s not as difficult as you might think to finally shoot in the 90s.
In fact, most players overcomplicate the process by buying more expensive clubs and making too many swing changes at once. But breaking 100 is all about managing your game and setting realistic expectations.
For example, are you averaging a 103 right now or 120?
If you are still 15-20 shots away from the magical 99 number, you might need to set more short-term goals first like 110 or 105. Then, once you’re shooting around 107 or less, then you can implement these fundamentals and strategies to help you finally break 100.
Here everything you need to learn to finally break 100 for the first time ever.
How to Break 100 in Golf – Practice Strategies
Believe it or not, you don’t need any pars or birdies to break 100. Shooting a 99 on most golf courses is 27 over par.
All you need is 9 bogeys and 9 double bogeys to finally break 100!
To break 100 in golf, you need to play the percentages, have a game plan, and don’t try to be a hero. Remember, your goal is to break 100, not 80 for the first time. Keep this mindset throughout the round, especially during bad shots or a bad string of holes to help you finally reach your goal.
To help you break 100, we’ll break this article up into two main sections; what to do before the round (and in practice sessions) and what to do on the course. Paired together, you should break 100 on a regular basis in no time.
1. Play the Right Equipment
Before diving into all of our tips and tricks to help you break 100, let’s focus on your equipment first and foremost.
Golf is hard enough, but so many players make it even more challenging by playing the wrong equipment. Way too many golfers spend their money trying to play superior equipment that doesn’t match their current skill level. A lot of us let ego factor into our clubs, instead of going with the ones that are best suited for your game.
Simply put, your clubs need to match your game to hit the best shots possible.
This will ensure that you don’t have a heavy or stiff shift that is more suited for a low handicap player. Or, a set of irons that aren’t forgiving enough and make it nearly impossible to hit greens.
Take ego away and instead, play the clubs that are most suited for your current abilities. Specifically, you want to focus on these three aspects of your golf clubs:
The first item to worry about with your golf clubs is making sure they’re plenty forgiving. At this point, your swing isn’t super consistent so you need your clubs to help you out with bad swings as much as possible.
Forgoing woods and irons make your misses more manageable and hopefully, will keep the ball in play. For woods, you want large clubheads that have plenty of forgiveness across the face.
If you suffer from a huge slice, more offset clubs could help as well. Additionally, if you can buy a driver that lets you adjust it to a draw setting or an anti-slice driver this will help straighten it out too.
The second component to look at with your clubs are the shafts themselves. Because even if you have forgiving clubheads, with the wrong shaft it won’t really matter.
For golfers looking to break 100, you should almost always play graphite shafts. Graphite shafts are lighter than steel shafts and make it easier to create speed. The more speed, the more distance you get on every shot.
Aside from graphite, you also want to make sure they are lightweight as well (in both irons and woods). Too heavy of shafts can alter your swing path, reduce overall distance, and lead to injuries too.
Hybrids and Fairway Woods Instead of Long Irons
Another important piece of your golf equipment is your hybrids, long irons, and fairway woods. If you can’t break 100 yet, I would recommend getting rid of any iron that is longer than a 5-iron. And possibly even the 5 iron too.
Long irons are the hardest clubs to hit in the bag. Don’t make golf harder on yourself by trying to hit long irons that even low handicap golfers struggle with.
Instead, replace all long irons with hybrids and fairway woods. This will make it so much easier to hit more par 3s and better approach shots to par 4 and 5’s.
At the Left Rough, we have done extensive research to help find the best clubs for beginners. Make sure you are playing the right clubs to give yourself the best opportunity to break 100. Read these epic buying guides:
2. Get to Know Your Golf Swing
If you aren’t breaking 100 yet, chances are you don’t know your swing as well as you can. Here’s the thing, to shoot in the 90s (or 80s or 70s), you don’t need to hit a ton of perfect shots.
In fact, you don’t need to hit more than a handful, instead, you need to learn how to manage your misses. The better your misses are, the better chances you have to play your best golf and break 100.
And one of the best ways to have better “misses” is to know your own swing. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive lessons either. It just means that you need to know your common mistakes that happen on your bad swings.
Because whether you’re a 30 handicap or a professional, everyone on the planet hits bad shots! So quit trying to avoid them and instead, make sure your mishits don’t lead to a big number.
So how do you get to know your own swing?
A few ways…
To know your swing on the course, you need to spend time on the driving range. This doesn’t mean you need to become a range rat and spend hours and hours each day on the practice tee either.
But the more you practice, the more you will get to know your swing and your misses. This will help you play better as you know where you’re more likely to miss on specific shots.
Record Your Swing
One of the most valuable things you can do to improve your golf game is to regularly record your swing. When you record your swing, you can:
- Analyze your swing (or have a coach do it for you).
- Learn more about your tempo, alignment, and fundamentals.
- Study your good swings (and bad ones) to learn about your tendencies so you can game plan better on the course.
Plus, it’s fun to see how far you will improve with a consistent work ethic. I still look at old videos from years ago and it helps me remember how far I’ve come.
3. Master the Fundamentals on the Driving Range
Fundamentals are key to playing your best in any sport, especially golf. As NBA legend Michael Jordan said, “Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”
Golf presents a unique twist though as there are so many different fundamentals to master from tee to green. So much happens before you ever swing the golf club which is why you need strong fundamentals.
To keep things simple and not overcomplicate it, let’s focus on these three for your full swing:
Your grip is one of the most important, if not the most, important part of your game. It’s the one part of your body that is connected to the club, so it plays a pivotal role in backswing and downswing.
If your grip is too weak, you will hit slices and fades more often than not. If it’s too strong, you will hit too many snap hooks and draws.
The goal is to develop a neutral grip, or one that is maybe a little toward the strong side. I think it’s important to favor a strong grip, as it will help minimize a slice, which a huge portion of golfers suffer from. You also want a medium grip pressure, so the club is firmly secure in your hands throughout the swing.
Once you get the grip part down, setup is next. With your setup, you want to think about getting into an athletic position at address with knees slightly bent and flat back.
A few things to remember:
- Proper stance: For your driver, it should be slightly wider than your shoulders. The shorter the club, the more narrow the stance.
- Weight disbursement: Whenever you are hitting a golf shot off the turf, you need to hit down on it so it gets airborne. To help with that, have 60% of your weight on the lead leg to promote a descending blow.
- Ball position: Lastly, make sure the ball position matches the club you are hitting. For your driver, it should be off your front heel. Hybrids, longer irons, and fairway woods should be front center. And shorter irons or wedges should be in the middle of your stance.
All of these fundamentals will help you get the ball airborne and let the club do the work. Instead of assisting the ball up, you need to hit down and chase through the ball.
The loft on the club will make the club go high and land soft.
Finally, don’t forget about alignment too. This is the last part of a strong setup and plays a huge role in your backswing and downswing.
Specifically, during your practice session, make sure you always have a target and alignment aids. So many high handicap golfers skip both these steps and inadvertently create bad habits.
For example, you might be aimed way right of your target but think you’re totally square. Even though you might not realize it, your subconscious mind will. Since it knows you’re aimed way right, it will help you “straighten out” by pulling the shot.
Over time, this could lead to a serious over the top move that, if left unaddressed, could wreak havoc on your golf swing.
Fundamentals are the key to success.
It’s funny because even great golfers who shoot under par still focus on fundamentals just as much as anyone. The better you get with this part of your game, the better you will play on a consistent basis.
4. Focus on Making Solid Contact
Contact is crucial to giving yourself the best chance to shoot in the 90s. I’ve written more about how to stop hitting fat shots (and thin ones) but want to mention how important they are to breaking 100.
You need to limit these big misses by keeping your posture the same throughout the swing.
One of the main reasons you chunk shots is because your posture dips and ends up way short of the green. And the only reason you thin shots are because your spine angle changes during impact. This is why you make contact with the bottom grooves and sail the green.
Strive to keep your posture the same throughout your swing.
A good way to think about it is to imagine your head sitting on a fence post. The goal is to keep it there during the backswing and follow through to hit more pure, consistent shots.
Whether you’re hitting a pitching wedge or a driver, maintain your posture throughout the swing.
5. Learn How to Lag Putt
Lag putting is your ticket to shooting in the 90s fast!
When you can lag putt confidently and two putt more often than not, you will be astonished how much your scores can improve. Plus, improving your putting is much easier than your full swing.
Here’s the thing, the golf swing requires a ton of work. Even the best players in the world are always grinding and are never satisfied with their swing. There are so many pieces to it, which makes it very complicated compared to putting.
With putting, it’s a much smaller stroke, which means much less can go wrong and easier to improve. While I’m not saying to ignore your long game completely, learn the basics of putting for fast changes.
If you’re on the green, get it down in two shots by working on long distance lag putts!
The good news is that becoming a solid lag putter doesn’t have to be complicated either. Use these tips so you can two putt more often than not:
- Always read the putt. To give yourself the best chance to succeed, it’s vital to read the putt and not just get up and hit the first putt. This will make it easier to give you a clear understanding of the break and give yourself the best chance for a tap in.
- Try to make everything. One of the common pieces of advice for long putts is to “lag it up there” or “try to get it inside a 3-foot circle.” But I think this is terrible advice. Whether it’s 5 feet or 50 feet, give it your best shot to hole the putt. The reason? Because when you are aiming for the cup, you’re more likely to miss closer to the hole. If you’re trying to get inside an imaginary three-foot circle, your misses will be much bigger. Use the motto “Aim small, miss small” to get more putts closer.
Want even more strategies to lag putting? Check out our guide to avoid 3 putts here!
6. Find A Reliable Club For Your Tee Shot
If you want to break 100 on the course, you need to get the ball in play more often. Simply put, if you want to score you must find the fairway. If too many balls end up in hazards and out of bounds, it makes it nearly impossible to get a double or better.
To keep your golf ball in play, you need to have confidence that your tee shot will stay in bounds. Choose a club that will give you the highest chance of putting the ball in play.
Whether it’s a driver, fairway wood or a hybrid, find something that works. Even if your favorite tee shot is a 15 or 20 yard cut, plan for it and know that you have a “go-to” shot for the tee box.
Don’t Always Hit Driver
If you haven’t gained confidence with your driver (yet), don’t feel like you need to hit it on every hole. When you’re trying to break 100, accuracy is more important than distance. If your 3 wood is 20 yards shorter but almost always in the fairway (or just off in the rough), use it!
While the driver is arguably the most fun to hit, don’t use it if you haven’t trained your driver swing on the range. Focus on getting the ball from a playable lie on your second shot to give yourself the best chances to break 100.
Tame the Big Slice (Keep It Simple)
If you’re committed to using the driver, focus on accuracy before distance. One of the most important things to keeping the ball in play is to minimize your slice if that’s your shot shape.
A slice kills distance, brings in trouble on the right side of the hole, and can be a confidence killer too. Your slice might be for a variety of reasons, but a common reason is a weak grip. A weak grip gets the club off plane and produces an over the top swing motion.
The number one quick fix to tame your big slice is to strengthen your grip.
If you strengthen your grip, you will create a more in to out swing path which will help promote a draw swing. You will also have a more closed clubface at impact, which will minimize your slice off the tee.
7. Make 3-Foot Putts Automatic
Missing short ones is one of the biggest reasons you haven’t broken 100 yet. The reason is that statistically, these are the “easiest” shots on the course to make and not give up.
The further you get away from the hole, the lower your chances are to make the putt. That’s why it’s so important to not give up any putts inside three feet in your quest to lower scores.
Will you miss some short putts occasionally?
Yes, of course, that happens… in fact the PGA Tour guys do it too, so don’t beat yourself up. But in general, if you can make 90% of your 3-foot putts, you are setting yourself up for success.
Here’s how you can make three-foot putts become automatic:
Accelerate Through The Putt
If you want to make more short range putts, you have to get the ball to the hole by accelerating through the stroke. When you decelerate, you will likely leave it short and it will crush any momentum you have during the round.
Phil Mickelson talks about this more in his “Short Game Secrets” video and I think it’s crucial to breaking 100 consistently. In the video, he says that amateur golfers he gets paired with in pro-ams decelerate and leave putts short – which obviously have 0% chance of going in the hole.
The key to making more short putts is to ensure that you are always accelerating through the putt. But to do that, you need a short back stroke.
Instead of taking a long backswing, which can promote deceleration on short putts, do the opposite. Take a shorter backswing and accelerate through the putt.
Think about it like this…
If your back and through swing is 100%, spend 25% on the backswing and 75% on the follow through to always be accelerating.
A good way to practice this is to address 3-foot putts and don’t even take a backswing. Instead, just push the ball towards the hole from address. Do that 5-10 times in a row to get in the habit of accelerating through the putt.
Keep Your Head Steady
One of the biggest mistakes that amateur golfers make with short putts is “peaking” too early. I get it, it’s natural to want to see your golf ball go in the hole. But if you look too early, you are killing your chances of making this distance on a consistent basis.
If you want to hole more three foot putts, keep your head steady and down through the entire putting stroke.
When you don’t stay down through the putt and look up too early, you don’t close your face and often miss to the right. For three footers, you should hear them going in instead of seeing them go down.
A good drill when you’re practicing is to hear them in the hole.
Hit three-foot putts and keep your head down the entire time. The goal is to hear the putt drop, not actually see them drop. By doing this in practice, you will train your head to stay down and not peak too early on the course.
Also, before your next round, practice three footers and make at least five in a row before going to the first tee. This will help your confidence as you head out for the round.
8. Don’t Fear the Sand
Let’s be honest, most amateur golfers are terrified of the sand. This fear and lack of confidence leads to fat shots, skulls, lost balls, and overall, big numbers that make it tough to break 100.
But once you learn the fundamentals, the sand isn’t that scary. It’s important to remember the biggest rule in the sand: you don’t hit the ball, you hit the sand!
Once you realize this biggest rule of the sand, it’s a matter of the right setup, address, and speed of your swing.
Here’s what you should do next time you’re in the sand:
- Setup with 70% of your weight on your front foot. This will promote a descending blow into the sand first, not the ball.
- Pick a spot two inches behind the ball and focus on it, not the ball during your backswing. Remember, your sand wedge hits the sand, not the ball!
- Open your sand wedge so you utilize the bounce of the club. While I won’t get too technical in this article, bounce is your friend. It helps get the ball up and out of the sand.
- Accelerate on the follow through. Like short putting (and any shorter shots), you can’t decelerate in the sand. You need speed to lift the sand and ball out of the bunker, as the sand is much heavier than grass.
If you want more of a step-by-step tutorial on how to hit from greenside bunkers, click here.
9. Practice With Purpose
Practice is a crucial part of becoming a more consistent golfer. As sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella said, “A golfer has to train his swing on the practice tee, then trust it on the course.”
Here are some of my best practice tips to help you practice with intention and have fun in the process:
- Hit every club in your bag. To get more familiar with your game and swing, test out every club in the bag on the range. Don’t just hit wedges, mid irons and drivers like most people. Instead, use all your clubs so that you have more confidence with them for any shot you face on the course.
- Love the practice green. While the range is important, it’s not nearly as important as the putting green. Make it a goal to spend more time practicing your short game than any other part of your game.
- Practice chip shots. Between shots on the range or on the putting green, master your chip shot too. With a pitching wedge, take a simple back and through motion so when you do miss the green, you can get it down in two shots more often than not. Make this one of your main shots and it could be the most reliable club in your golf bag too!
How to Break 100 in Golf – Golf Course Strategies
Now that you’ve built a solid foundation on the range and putting green, it’s time to talk about what to do on the course. Because, as I’m sure you know, you can hit it great on the range and by the 4th hole might question everything and wonder why you aren’t a better golfer.
Whether you’re playing tournament golf or not, playing golf is very different from practicing your golf swing. When you’re on the golf course, you have to deal with so many other factors, including:
- Speed of greens.
- Playing partners.
- Weather conditions.
- Different course conditions and layouts.
- Unique shots with thick grass, tucked pins, long putts, and all kinds of other obstacles.
So when you’re out on the course, use these five strategies to deal with the conditions and break 100 fast.
10. Play the Right Tees
Once you’re ready to head to the first tee, make sure you play the correct tee box. One of the reasons that so many players don’t break 100 sooner is because they play a tee that is too difficult for their current skill level.
Kind of like picking the right equipment, you want to take ego out of it and play the tees for your current abilities. This will make it more fun for you and your golfing buddies too.
11. Use Course Management Strategy
So much of playing good golf and breaking 100 happens before you ever make a swing. Specifically, it comes down to course management and having a plan for every shot.
Don’t get me wrong, just because you have a good game plan, doesn’t mean it will always happen. But the better you plan, the more likely you are to keep the ball in play and minimize your total number of strokes.
Some general rules include:
- Play a tee shot that will give you the best second shot. Don’t hit the driver just because everyone else, if the shot doesn’t fit your eye. Play your game, so your average score will add up to double digits.
- Aim for the fat part of the green. At this stage in your journey, don’t ever aim at the pin unless it’s in the middle of the green. Aim at the biggest part of it, regardless of which club you’re hitting, so give yourself the best chance to hit the green.
- Eliminate big mistakes. Remember, to shoot in the 90s you can have a double bogey (or 9), a few pars, and a few bogeys. But if you have triple bogeys (or a lot of them), you will kill your momentum and make it nearly impossible to shoot in the 90s. Eliminate the triple bogeys (and snowmen or worse)!
- Get over a bad shot quickly. Good shots don’t happen as much as we like, but you can’t let a bad one force you to lose focus and ruin your round. Accept it, move on, and focus on one shot at a time.
12. Get Near The Green With Your Approach Shots
If you can keep it in play off the tee, you will increase your odds significantly to get the ball close to the green in regulation. Remember, your goal is to break 100, not 80. The best players only hit ¾ of the greens in regulation, so don’t feel like you need a good shot on every approach!
If you hit even four or five greens, you have a great chance for shooting in the 90s. This should be a huge relief and eliminate pressure to feel like you need to hit shots onto more greens.
The biggest tip for your approach shot is to take enough club!
So many beginners try to swing hard with less club and end up chunking or sculling their approach shots. Ditch the macho mentality and take enough club to make it to the center of the green.
13. Keep the Golf Ball Low Around The Green
This rule will change your short game skills forever:
If you’re not on the green but close, always try to putt it first. If you can’t putt it, then chip it. And if you can’t chip it, then you should pitch it.
Putting the golf ball, even on the fringe or light rough, is statistically the best play for most golfers. Heck, even a ton of scratch golfers (and even Tiger Woods) use this strategy too. When you putt the ball, you will generally get it closer to the hole than chipping or pitching.
A putt is more predictable than a chip and much easier to execute. Yet, so many golfers want to be a hero and hit a high flop shot instead. This usually leads to big misses and a lot of extra shots around the green, as it’s a much more difficult shot to execute.
A chip shot or putting from the fairway is a safer play than a lofted club from a tight lie. The higher the loft, the easier it is to stub a shot around the green and invite a big number into play. Flight it low so you can get the ball rolling like a putt once your ball lands on the green.
14. Don’t Add Up Your Score
How many times have you been close to breaking triple digits, only to blow up on 18 and shoot over 100? If so, chances are you probably added up your score (or someone else did) and that’s all you thought about. You probably thought, “If I just make 5 or 6, then I’ll break 100.”
Then, all of a sudden, that’s all you think about. All the course management and strategies you have used during the past 17 holes seemingly go out the window.
Needless to say, it’s a bad idea, as you likely look too far in the future and don’t hit solid shots. Instead, ask your group to not tell you until your ball is on the 18th green. Focus only on the next shot and stay present so you can hit a great shot to end the day!
15. Have Fun
Finally, don’t forget to have fun. Golf is a game that can be extremely frustrating at times. But don’t let whatever happens on the course ruin your day.
Remember, golf is a sport! It’s supposed to be fun, it’s not life or death (even if it feels like it). While most shots won’t work out quite like you imagined, oftentimes you can still make magic from the next one too.
Plus, when you have fun, you’re also much more likely to play better, too.
Start Breaking 100 in Your Golf Game
Now that you have the fundamentals and shots needed to break 100, don’t forget the original game plan. Remember, your goal is for 9 bogeys and 9 double bogeys or better to shoot 99 or less.
If you get a triple bogey or 3-putt from short range, don’t worry, stick with the plan. With these strategies, you’ll oftentimes get a par or birdie to offset a bigger number from difficult holes.
Also, keep your emotions in check during the round to eliminate blow up holes and continue to manage your game. To help manage expectations, don’t add your score up after 9 or 17 holes.
Nothing good has ever come from this, and typically hurts your performance on the 18th.
If you think you’re close to the magical 99 or less on the 18th, keep doing what got you there. Pick a club and shot you love that will keep your tee shot in play.
Find a club for your approach shot that will get you close to the green and avoid trouble. Once you’re up there, keep your head steady until you hear the putt drop.
Celebrate the first time you break 100 then learn how to break 90 without changing your swing!