You might have asked, “How can I lower my 20 handicap?”
While a 20 handicap isn’t bad, chances are you want to keep improving and get closer to the 80s or even high 70s.
Keep reading to learn 15 strategies to help you become a 10 or less handicap. Soon enough, you’ll be shooting in the 70s and winning every time you tee it up with your golf buddies.
How to Go From a 20 Handicap to 10
First off, congratulations on having the motivation to get to a single digit handicap. So many golfers plateau around the low 90s scores and stay there forever.
We’ve got a full article on the average golf handicap we encourage you to read, but generally speaking the average male handicap is about 14.1. While some other golf websites have the average male handicap higher than 16.1 and others slightly lower. But since your handicap takes your 10 best scores, your score is closer to 90 than mid 80s if you’re “average.”
Lowering your handicap in golf is kind of like the first time you start working out. It’s easy to see gains in the beginning but eventually you will hit a plateau. During this period, people either choose to stay here or continue to put in the work and get better.
To help you break through the plateau and start to find the 70s or lower 80s, here are some of the best tips.
1. Check Your Shafts
Before getting into the technical tips to become a 10 handicap, let’s start with your equipment. At this point, you likely have golf clubs that are right for your swing. But I suggest you look at the shaft as much as you do in the clubhead.
While a lot of everyday golfers focus on buying new equipment, single digit and scratch golfers worry as much (if not more) about the shafts too. The better you get at golf, the more important it is to find a shaft that matches your swing. This is even more important if you swing the club aggressively as most stock shafts are very light and have a lot of flex.
When a club is too light or has too much flex, specifically with a driver, it will kill your distance. Which will negatively impact the rest of your game by limiting total distance off the tee.
While you don’t need an expensive custom fitting (yet) at this level, I would suggest checking the driver shaft above all else. Since this club sets you up on the majority of par 4s and par 5s, you need to make sure that it fits your swing speed. Plus, a lot of drivers are adjustable so it’s a pretty easy fix compared to hosels that need a club fitter to replace.
If you get the driver shaft right, make sure you’ve made the right decision on steel vs graphite iron shafts.
By optimizing your spin rates, it guarantees that your ball travels the farthest distance possible. Which will lead to shorter approach shots, which statistically you should hit closer to the hole (and hopefully make more putts).
2. Focus on Three Clubs in Practice
To start shooting in the 80s you should stop practicing like “most golfers.” If you go to the driving range on any given day, chances are you’ll see a few things that most players have in common:
- Skipping short game
- Not hitting at a target
- Working on technical swing changes
- Only hitting woods and mid or long irons
- Not going through a routine or analysis after each shot
But since you’re the type of player who wants to improve and break through your plateau, you know that you need to do something different. This is why I suggest practicing with three clubs for roughly 70-80% of all practice time. Those clubs are your driver, SW/LW and putter.
Your driver is a top-3 club because it sets you up on most holes. It’s vital to create a consistent driver swing off the tee, find a shot shape you love, and find your “go to” shot.
Your LW or sand wedge is important because it’s there to save you when you do miss the green. The PGA Tour average greens in regulation is about 65% and as a 10-20 handicap, you will probably only hit 50% or fewer greens.
Which means you need a go-to club around the greens to get it up and down to save strokes! Plus, your wedge will help you hit it close from shorter distances and have plenty of good looks at birdies.
Finally, your putter is vitally important since 40-50% (or more) of all shots happen in a round with the flat stick. Practice with these three clubs more than your irons, hybrids, and woods for fast improvement tee to green.
3. Spend Time at the Beach
If you read our breaking 80 article, you know that it’s important to learn how to get out of the sand in one shot. But I think it’s just as important for getting to a 10 handicap too. While you might need more than one type of stand shot to break 80, you need at least one go-to shot for your goal.
If you see your ball dive into the bunker on your approach and your heart skips a beat, it’s time to overcome your fear of the sand. Walking into a bunker with fear, worry, and doubt will never let you play your best golf.
So, what’s the best tip? Let’s listen to Greg “the Shark” Norman.
Greg Norman said this about bunker practice, “Spend two hours in a bunker. Two hours is all it takes to raise yourself out of the fear-and-doubt group (about 90 percent of all golfers) to the point where you can play from sand with confidence.”
Sometimes, you just need to spend some time addressing your fears head on. Burying your head in the sand (literally) is a much better solution than neglecting bunker practice. By spending time there, you can test out all kinds of things and see what works best.
Try out different wedges, tempo, ball positions, and more. Don’t judge each shot but instead, learn from it.
Here are three things you should focus on:
- Open the clubface so you can use bounce as your friend.
- Take practice swings hitting only sand and focus on the sand leaving the bunker.
- Pick a spot behind the ball and focus on that, not the ball so you hit sand first. Remember, the sand carries the ball out of the bunker so by focusing on that, it makes it easier to not hit it too close and thin it over the green.
Hopefully, after your long practice session you will feel confident you can get it out in one shot. Want more tips for sand shots? Read our full guide to greenside bunkers here.
4. Start Speed Training for More Distance
One of the easiest ways to start shaving strokes off your game is to hit it longer off the tee. While some critics will say “distance isn’t everything” the statistics usually tell a different story.
Think about it, would you rather hit a 3-wood off the tee and have 175 yards into the green? Or, hit the driver and have 140-150 yards (or less) into the green? Even if it’s in the rough, I’ll take the shorter distance all day long.
Because let’s face it, laying back with a 3-wood or hybrid to “find the fairway” isn’t a guarantee either. You can still miss the fairway and then you’re way back, in the rough, and have a difficult second shot. Which could lead to a double bogey or worse.
By hitting your driver more in practice and increasing distance, you’ll make the game much easier. The fastest way to start increasing your distance is with speed training.
Speed training has become popular since mid-2020 thanks to Bryson DeChambeau’s rigorous training schedule. He also packed on tons of muscle with his ridiculous diet and exercise routine too. Luckily, you don’t need to drink eight protein shakes a day like him to hit it longer off the tee.
Instead, use speed training aids like SuperSpeed golf. This training system has worked wonders for many golfers around the world (including us over here at the Left Rough). In fact, they’re used by over 700 Tour pros so you know they work great.
If you don’t want to invest in another training aid, you can always just do “speed sessions.” After warming up, set your intention for one thing in practice: distance. With every club in the bag, focus on hitting it as long as possible without worrying about accuracy.
This will help you increase ball speed, even if you don’t always hit the ball straight. The goal is to increase driving distance and get your body used to swinging faster.
If you can use a speed system and speed sessions together, you’ll be hitting it longer even sooner. Remember, accuracy isn’t as important as you think – it’s about getting the ball in the hole in the fewest shots possible. Distance will help you do just that!
5. Quit Wasting Shots from the Trees
Whether you’re a scratch golfer or a 30 handicap, you will find yourself in some tricky situations on the course. When your drive ends up in the trees, I urge you to quit playing hero golf.
You know what I’m talking about… you find your ball and have “a window” of opportunity if you hit the perfect shot. You imagine a Tiger-like punch shot that goes through the trees, hits before the green, rolls up, and leaves a tap in birdie.
It sounds good in theory and is fun to daydream about but it’s probably a 1/100 shot. One of the reasons so many golfers plateau is that they make too many double bogeys by trying to play “hero golf.” Sure, it’s a cool shot if you pull it off, but the odds are against you.
Instead, have the willpower to hit the highest percentage shot and get your golf ball back in play. This will eliminate double bogeys (or worse) that kill your score and crush your momentum.
Remember, a bogey is not the end of the world and you can have 10 per round (without any birdies) to reach your goal. Hit the safe recovery shot and get your ball back in play when you’re out of position so you don’t compound the mistake. I bet you will save par more often than you think and a bogey won’t derail your round.
6. Record Your Swing (and short game)
The more you know your game, the better you can play consistently.
If you go to the driving range frequently, chances are you don’t see a ton of players recording their swing. Instead, most golfers go off “feel” and how the ball reacts to each swing. This isn’t the most effective way to practice and why we encourage golfers to record their swing.
When you record your swing, you can learn more about your unique swing. Too many golfers try to craft “the perfect swing” when in reality, you need to swing your swing. Regularly capturing videos of your swing will help you do that.
By having a library of videos, you can spot tendencies and also have something to fall back on during a slump. You can go back to when you were swinging well and see how it compares with your current swing to make any fixes. While you don’t need to record every swing during every practice, doing it once a week or month can make a big difference in your game.
Additionally, don’t just record your full swing either. Make sure to record your short game and putting stroke too.
Not sure how to record your swing properly? Check out our full guide here.
7. Practice Your Pre-Shot Routine
At the Left Rough, we talk about the pre-shot routine a lot.
Because it can have a massive impact on your mental game and ability to hit shots well, especially under pressure. It’s one of the few traits that is common among all elite players, both professional and amateurs (even if everyone has their own unique routine).
But if you’re still shooting in the 90s, chances are you aren’t practicing your routine. You can’t expect it to show up and work for you if you don’t put in the effort on the practice tee.
I challenge you to have days or at least portions of days on the range dedicated to your pre-shot routine. This will help you dial in the cadence of your routine so it becomes automatic on the golf course.
Think about things like:
- Your target.
- Total time over the ball.
- How many waggles you take.
- The number of breaths you take.
- Where you focus your eyes standing over the ball.
- How many steps from behind the ball to the golf ball it takes.
There is no “one right way” with your routine either. It’s about testing out different parts of the routine to see what will help you get in your comfort zone over the ball.
One thing I will add is that speeding up your routine is usually a great idea. A study was done with European Tour players and found that those who pulled the trigger quicker, actually performed better.
I think this is even more important with the everyday golfer. Standing over the golf ball for 15 or 20 seconds only allows more negative thoughts, worry, and doubt to creep in. Plus, it slows down the pace of play.
Instead, practice your routine so that it’s less than 15 seconds from the moment you start walking to the golf ball. I bet you’ll find it has an impressive effect on your confidence and also speeds up pace of play.
8. Reset Expectations to Lower Your Handicap
One of the biggest mistakes most golfers make is thinking they need to hit it longer and closer to the pin than they need. Here’s what I mean… when you watch golf on TV (specifically the PGA or LIV Golf), you likely see three things:
- Bombed drives over 350 yards
- Tight iron and wedge shots to tap in range
- Putts going in from everywhere on the green, even long range
In reality, you are only seeing the highlight reel that makes for the best TV. You aren’t seeing the average drives, the missed fairways, the okay approach shots, and consistent 2-putts.
Here are some stats from the 2021 season on the PGA Tour that might surprise you:
- Average driving distance = 296 yards
- Driving accuracy = 60.69%
- Greens in regulation = 65.14%
- Putts per round = 29.01
- 8-Foot Putts = 52.94% make rate
Don’t get me wrong these aren’t “bad” by any means, it’s just not what you see on TV most of the time. Remember, they show the best shots so that you will stay tuned in to the coverage and so you’re more likely to watch the ads on TV.
My point is, you don’t need to hit every fairway, every green, and make every putt. If the best players in the world can’t, you shouldn’t have the expectation to do so either.
Instead, use these statistics to reset your expectations and free up your game. This will help you relax, not get as frustrated with “normal” shots, and likely free up your swing/putting.
9. Develop a Consistent Putting Routine
A tip from our breaking 90 article was learning how to read greens. I’d like to expand on that and say not only do you need a consistent green reading routine, but a putting routine too.
Similar to your full-shot routine, a putting routine will give you confidence over the golf ball. So many mid-handicap amateurs have a full shot routine but neglect one with putting. This is a huge mistake and can lead to a lot of doubt, indecision, and likely three putts.
Just like a full shot routine, you want to have a routine that is efficient, doesn’t give you much time to worry, and gives you confidence! If you don’t have a putting routine yet, try out some of these things on the putting green.
- Try out no practice strokes like Cameron Smith.
- Try out different breathing techniques by taking a breath during your practice stroke and right before you address the ball.
- Make your putting strokes from behind the ball, looking at the hole (so you’re perpendicular to the cup). Then, make putting strokes next to the ball and see which ones work best.
There is no one way to do this, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Once you find a routine that gives you confidence, practice on the putting green so it’s automatic on the golf course (just like your full routine).
10. Start Adding Golf Workouts to Your Routine
If you’re on the quest to become a 10 or lower handicap, you need your body to hold up through the reps of practice and playing golf. The best way to do that is with regular golf workouts.
While you don’t need to work out twice per day or go as hard as Bryson in the gym, working out can help so many aspects. Regular weight training can:
- Add power
- Better form
- Increase endurance
- Decrease chance of injury
- Keep you in the game longer
Not only does working out have tons of physical benefits to your health, there are tons of mental ones too. Making working out a habit so you can play the game you love longer, at higher levels and with better form.
11. Practice Putting from Two Distances
As I mentioned earlier, putting is arguably just as important (if not more) than your golf swing. But putting on the practice green needs to be intentional and from two specific distances; 3-6 feet and about 30 feet.
You might be thinking, what about mid-range putts?
I think it’s a waste of time and won’t help you in the quest to a low handicap. Think about it, If you’re putting from 12-20 feet, it’s because you hit a bad chip shot or hit a great approach shot.
If you’re leaving yourself those types of putts, you need to work on distance control with wedges, not putting. If you hit great approach shots to this range, congrats! But just remember the best guys in the world don’t make a lot from that range either.
I’ve even read in Golf Digest and Golf Magazine that said you should work on mid-length putts too. But if the average PGA Tour player doesn’t make many from mid-range, why should you expect too?
Instead, work on short putts so you’re clutch from close range. Even if you have a bad ball striking day, your putting can save the day.
Additionally, working on putts from 30-40 feet is best to understand how to control distance. This will help you dial in distance control so your first putt is closer and have a short putt left.
12. Get Over Bad Shots Quickly
As you saw from the PGA Tour statistics from above, bad shots happen even to the best golfers in the world. If you really think about it, it’s funny that so many amateur golfers get mad when they hit bad shots (even in practice rounds).
As Tiger Woods said, “I’ve been in some seriously bad places playing golf and it’s just part of the game. You’re going to hit bad shots, you’re going to be in bad spots and each course, when you learn it, you learn where not to go.”
Whether you end up in a fairway bunker, behind the trees on a few holes, or something else, it’s part of the game. By resetting your expectations hopefully you don’t get as mad and let one bad shot ruin the entire hole.
Instead, make it your objective to accept a bad shot when it happens and get over it quickly. Read our full article on how to bounce back in golf.
13. Tee Box Strategy
Another way to lower your handicap is to avoid penalty strokes by having a great pre-shot strategy. Even if you don’t make solid contact, better golfers know that you need to avoid making mistakes off the tee.
Better tee shots will lead to better scores as you will have an easier next shot into the green. While I’m confident the tips above will help your game, make sure to read more about tee box strategy here.
14. Use a Launch Monitor to Figure Out Your Distances
Club selection is key to increasing your greens in regulation. But if you don’t know your distances for each club, it’s nearly impossible to swing with confidence on the golf course.
Low handicap golfers know their distances so they
Click here to check out our favorite launch monitors to make each practice session more effective.
15. Practice With Intention
Finally, each time you go to the driving range have a clear plan for how you want to practice. This will make sure you aren’t wasting time on the range and using every second to get a little closer to your golf goals.
Here’s how I like to schedule my sessions for an efficient hour on the driving range:
- Warm up for 10 minutes to get my body loose.
- Technical practice for 10 minutes with training aids or drills. I like to set a goal for this part of my session like ” Improve face angle at impact” or “Shallow the golf club.”
- Tee box shots 25 minutes. I try to think of the course I’ll play next and hit the shots I’ll need off the tee.
- Wedges for 10 minutes. Here I will hit all types of shots and short wedges so I can hit more greens from close range. The main focus is to control distance and test out different flights of the golf ball.
- Pre-shot routine. Once I’ve worked on my full swing, I’ll dial in my routine for 5-10 minutes.
FAQs to Improve Your Golf Game
Do you have more questions about getting into single digit handicaps? If so, we have answers to your questions so you can start shooting lower scores fast!
Is a 20 handicap considered high?
According to the USGA, 20 is slightly higher than the “average” golfer. But I think in general, it’s about average. As a 20 handicap golfer, it means you should be able to break 100 most rounds and even shoot in the 80s on a great round of golf.
What is a respectable golf handicap?
I remember as a junior golfer playing with my grandpa, uncle, and dad. At the time, I was doing everything I could to lower my handicap and one round I shot a 90. It was my best score at the time and I was thrilled with my results.
I remember my grandpa saying, “When you shoot 90, you can play with anyone and not slow them down.” Meaning, even if I played with a scratch golfer, I would only average one more shot per hole than them (72 + 18 = 90).
So I think if you’re shooting in the low 90s or high 80s, that’s considered “respectable” but it will differ from player to player. As a scratch golfer, I have no problem playing with someone who shoots these scores as it won’t interfere with my round and we can still bet too thanks to handicapping.
Is a 20 handicap good for a golfer?
The handicap level of each player varies from person to person. Age, experience, health, practice, and more all play a factor.
Make it a goal to only compare yourself to the former version of yourself!
I’m confident that these tips on course management, short game, and others will improve your average score fast. Remember, hitting a plateau in your golf game is part of the process after a short period of making progress.
The key is making sure you mix up your routines at the driving range to start getting new results on the golf course. Quit wasting time with long irons, or other shots that you don’t hit often and focus on the big three clubs.
Don’t neglect the practice green too as putting is just as important as ball striking!