Last Updated on December 26, 2023 by Matt Greene
Getting hooked on golf is a terrible terrible thing! You want so desperately to improve every single round and when you do, you expect every shot and round to be the same but it never is!
In this guide, I want to help you if you're want to know how to break 100 in golf, consistently.
Too many guides out there don't really show you the actual way that a beginner or 100+ shooter plays, meanwhile some pro is telling you to do this and do that without seeing it in reality.
So what I did was try help Brian (B-Dog) to break 100 and I recorded as much of it as I could on film.
But you wanna know the craziest part?
We intended to do it after just ONE driving range session and FIVE minutes of chipping. I didn't want him to be hindered by swing thoughts or complicated ideas. I just wanted to focus on course management and thinking like a golfer. That's pretty much all you need to break 100 and if you already shoot 100-110, you can easily break 100 very quickly.
We also video recorded the majority of his shots and we'll use these further down the page to illustrate the concepts you need to break 100.
A bit of Brian's background is important at this point to put this task into perspective.
- Lowest score 121 - average score unknown because of picking his ball up on so many holes
- Pain in his left wrist, forearm and shoulder from swinging made him always want to leave the course after 3 holes
- He hadn't completed 18 holes in since 2012 due to the pain in his arm from swinging
- When he did play 9 holes, he would pick his ball up after eight shots 7 out of 9 holes
Sounds like an impossible task right? Well truth be told, we didn't break 100 first time out. Brian shot 105 and that's amazing - 16 shots off his best score! With some extra work on bunkers and putting and Brian can easily shoot in the 90's.
But what was even more amazing than finishing every single hole and actually posting a completed scorecard?
Brian actually enjoyed a full round of 18 holes for the first time in years. Why?
Because I showed him how to THINK like a golfer and use good habits and solid fundamentals. And you'll learn these things from this guide. That's the main point of this guide, to show you how to better think your way round the golf course.
The basics are the most important
Fixing the setup
I was so confused every time Brian told me about the pain in his left shoulder and arm when he swung a golf club. He never wanted to play golf because of some mystery 'pain'. I actually thought he just didn't like me.
So I forced him to go to the driving range one fateful Sunday.
For the life of me I couldn't see what he was doing wrong because his swing is quite good especially for a beginner who hasn't taken lessons. But then I saw it...
He was setting up to every shot like it was a chip shot, standing far too close to the ball and getting so cramped at impact, having to do something nasty with his left shoulder. In the left picture below noticed how cramped he was at setup. He fixed it very quickly and after a few adjustment hits, Brian was A for away.
How to work out distance to the ball
This little trick will tell you if you're the right distance from the ball. You can do it on the range, just before you hit your shot or whenever you're feeling a bit cramped and it's how we fixed Brian.
Place the top of the grip on your front leg about an inch or two above the kneecap and where the club head rests on the ground is where the ball must go.
This works for every single club from driver to wedge.
Here is a video to help understand this little drill to ensure you're standing the correct distance from the ball.
With Brian swinging with no pain, we hit about 20 more balls on the range and went home and meditated on the changes we'd made. Aummm....
Double check your basics
You want to understand the following and you can get it from a great coach if you have one near you.
- The ball position
- The posture and stance
- The grip
If you can get those nailed down, and understand impact position, you will be a very good golfer quickly. For some people like Brian, they skimmed over lessons so we have to forget about it and play with what we brung.
Basic Strategy to break 100 fast
I'm not going to bore you by telling you it's easy - just make 9 bogeys and 9 doubles. Yeah we all know that, but it's not realistic to expect you to score like a machine.
Brian certainly didn't but there are ways to work around your game and maximize your strengths and practice your weaknesses to make some pars and minimize the triple bogeys! These are outlined below.
Avoid water hazards and out of bounds
You'll find out by reading further that the strategy of hitting shorter but straighter tee shots will keep you from going into bunkers in the fairways as well as not being able to reach the deadly out of bounds and water hazards. We'll also be hitting more short irons and wedges which are easier to control so it makes it very difficult to blast or slice them into the wet stuff.
If you're playing off the correct tees, you can reach these in one shot. If you can either hit the green or be chipping from green side, you're going to be making pars and bogeys here maximum.
Long par 4's
These appear tough. But let's simplify them by saying we hope to be on the green or around the green in three shots.
A 420 yard hole is only three shots of 140 yards. Can you hit a 140 yard shot straightish? Yes you can! The reason you get into trouble is hitting a long club off the tee because you think it's a long hole and you need a boomer.
With this tactic of getting on or around the green in 3 shots, you don't need more than 150 yards off the tee and any club you have that goes further and straight is a bonus!
Short par 4's
These will be easiest to make bogey on by being around the green in two shots. You might sneak in a few pars! If you're not in a position to hit a 7 iron or an 8 iron onto the green with your 2nd shot, I still say you should split the distance in two and hit two wedges onto the green.
Tee shots and 2nd shots need to be in play without penalties on these holes. Those two shots are important because most danger on these holes are 250 to 300 yards from the tee. Once you get past those two shots and have 200 to 250 yards into the hole, you can hit the green in 4 shots and target bogeys and at worst double bogeys.
Hit one club off every par 4 and 5 tee
This club needs to go 150 yards or more and reliably straight. Brian likes his 3 hybrid. Pick whatever club you really feel great hitting off the tee with full confidence. It's totally your game.
Split your approaches into two or three shots
Avoid putting yourself in danger off the tee is the first step and the next step is to assess your approach and divide it into smaller shots. If you have 200 yards left to the green, two pitching wedges of 100 yards is much more reliable than a fairway wood and a 20 yard pitch from the rough or a bunker shot. Let's simplify this game. Look at the diagram above, it illustrates the strategy for all holes. Control and simplicity!
Video of Brian's round using all the concepts in this guide
Pre-game mental prep and admin
Play from the correct tees
Be realistic with your game and if you need to move up a tee box, that's alright. Most courses have color defined tee boxes. A quick guide to know if you're playing the correct tees:
- You can reach three out of four par 3 greens quite easily
- Most par 4's are under 400-420 yards
- You can reach the fairways from the tee on almost every par 4 and 5
When it seems like every par 4 is 420+ and you're in the rough before the fairways on solid shots, you should move up a tee box.
Only count your score right at the end
Tell your playing partners that you don't want to know your score after 9 holes and don't keep track of it.
Keeping track throughout the round will put more pressure on you. Imagine you find out you shoot 48 on the first nine. What's going through your head the second nine? All you're going to be thinking about is shooting that 51 to shoot a 99. Forget it all! Just play and count later!
Know the distances you hit your clubs
Your perfect 7 iron goes 170 yards, right? That's great but what distance does your 7 iron go MOST OF THE TIME? That's the distance you need to use as a gauge for all your clubs. The distance they go MOST OF THE TIME.
Pulling the right club is essential and in this plan, you're swinging easy and not looking for more distance at all. We want to improve accuracy and consistency through shorter shots into the greens. If you hit your pitching wedge 160 yards once, please don't use it as the norm, because you're going to be in a lot of front side bunkers! A golf rangefinder like the ones in this guide I wrote can help you.
Relax and remember no one cares if you're bad
It sucks when you're trying to break 100. You think everyone's impatient and waiting for you and your shots all the time.
The truth is, we don't care about your score. We enjoy hanging out with good-humored and fun guys who enjoy the game and make it a blast on the course. There's only one thing other golfers in your group don't like and that's when you "cannot believe you hit that shot" or "cannot believe you missed that 6 footer". It's best not to stand with hands on your hips or head looking flabbergasted on every second shot.
Hit your shot, and then walk to play the next one without too much theatrics. It's the incredulity expressed at a bad shot that slows down play and annoys lower handicappers. Have fun, keep moving without rushing your shots and everyone is gonna love you 100%.
Check your ego at the dressing room and leave it there
I won't be giving you tips on hitting long bombs here. Just practical advice that you can genuinely use if you stay disciplined out there on the course. Leave the driver at home. Remove problem clubs for you. Hell, you could break 100 with half your clubs if you wanted to. But resist the temptation to hit shots that are low percentage and high risk. Is it glamorous? No, but it's reliable and it can help you break out of that scoring barrier.
The shots you need to break 100
You need these shots to be able to avoid penalties like out of bounds and dropping the ball at the water hazards. The driver is alway the main culprit getting 100+ shooters into trouble and messing up the scorecard.
1. No drivers allowed - use any club that goes straight, 150 yards or more
Pick anything you like - whatever you can hit really consistently from the tee onto the fairway. Whether it's a hybrid, 6 iron or 7 iron, I know you have one club in your bag that you hit straight!
Like Brian did in our experiment, leave the driver at home. He says that it's the sole reason he would need to pick up his ball after exceeding his maximum on each hole because it gets him into too much trouble. He loves his 3 hybrid and he used that off the tee most often.
We really want to stay in play off the tee. We don't want to be hitting our second shot from the ladies' tee or reteeing after hitting it Out of Bounds. Our goal is to break 100, not audition for Bubba Watson impersonations.
2. Solid 6, 7, 8, 9, PW and SW
We don't need your clubs to go far. We just need them to go straight and to the distance you determine through practice. This plan doesn't focus on increased distance but rather it focuses on splitting the course up into smaller shots to get you to score 99 by swinging easy and hitting it straight. You never really have to smash the golf ball with this plan but you do need to know how far you hit it.
By solid, I mean learn your distances and shot shape. Learn how much your ball fades or draws and aim for that shape when you're on the course. If you fade, aim left. If you draw it, aim right. By knowing your distance, you'll select the right club for each shot and be more likely to hit the green than be short.
3. Bump and run chip shot
The basic bump and run shot is a chip shot where you get the ball onto the green as soon as possible and let the ball roll up to the hole. I like to use a pitching wedge, but have used as low as a 7 iron.
4. Short pitch shot that goes anywhere on the green
Sometimes we leave ourselves tough shots inside 50 yards. These are hellishly difficult and get more difficult when you put too much pressure on yourself to hit it close. Your sole focus should be to just get it on the green.
Pick a club like a sand wedge and focus on just hitting the green. It doesn't matter where it goes on the green, just get it on somewhere! Sometimes that even means hitting 30 foot right of the hole intentionally to avoid a bunker between you and the hole. More on this further in the guide.
5. Two-putt from everywhere
We'll find in the videos below this is a key concept. When you do hit a green, you want to two putt everything over 10 feet and try hole your short putts. Three-putts are what we want to eliminate and if you can just eliminate the three-putts while keeping the ball in play off the tee, you'll find your scores drop quickly!
How to practice these shots
You actually don't even need THAT MUCH practice. You just need to practice the basics really well. Two hours at the range and two hours on the chipping and putting green a week and you can break 100 within two weeks. The biggest improvement is going to be when you combine your comfort on these shots with the strategy outlined in the next section.
Driving range for your tee and approach shots
You want to mix up your hitting on the driving range. You need to groove your main shots like your tee shot and your favorite iron as well as your wedge by hitting twenty of them in a row focusing on swinging easy. But you also want to 'play a round' on the range as if you were on the course. So you envision every hole you're playing and use the appropriate club for the imaginary distance to the green.Our subject, Brian did this:
- 20 x PW; 20 x 6 iron; 20 x hybrid off the tee
- Played 9 holes on a golf course in his mind. Fairways are decided by you before the shot, between markers on the range for example. Greens are generally the 100, 125 or 150 markers on the range. Pretend you're on a course for more mindful practice.
Concentrate and take your time
Remember on each shot to take your full pre-shot routine and focus on swinging easy. There's no need to try murder every shot as hard as you can. Concentrate on making a very nice, easy, Ernie Els style swing. Don't just beat balls for 20 minutes and go home with blisters and a dented ego.
This range session should be anywhere from an hour to two hours. Really be conscious of how it feels when you hit a good shot.
Top tip: As silly as it sounds, when you hit a great shot on the range, pretend to put the 'fairy dust' of the shot into your hand and deposit it into a pocket in your golf bag so you'll have a supply of good shots in the bank to bring out when you need one on the course. Sounds stupid, but it works.
Short game practice on the practice greens or at home
For short putts, you can use a rug or get yourself a piece of artificial turf. You can putt the ball into table legs, big coffee mugs or small plates. You must only focus on keeping your head down forever and hitting the ball into your target from 7 or 5 or 3 feet away depending on available space.
I have a step-by-step guide to putting right here. Try to hit the practice greens for two hours per week. One hour putting and one our chipping.
Lag putt to 3 feet and be lethal at 5 footers
What I worked on with Brian while we were on the course was the lag putting. You probably have an issue controlling the distance of your long putts.
So what I did with Brian was make him look at the hole while he swung the putter back and forth to get the feeling of how hard to hit it. He showed immediate improvement and when he gets lethal inside 6 feet by following my advice in my putting guide, his scores, and if you follow the advice, yours too will drop.
The best bump and run chipping drill
Take your chipping club of choice: it could be anything you like. I used to use a 7 iron when I started playing but now I use my pitching wedge exclusively as my chipping club around the greens.
Pick a spot on the chipping green where you want your ball to land. Put a large coin or poker chip exactly on the spot you want the ball to land. Try land your practice chips on the coin/chip. This is the secret to chipping. Learn your trajectory and how the ball runs out and then adjust where you land the ball. Pick a spot on the green and land the ball on that spot. There's nothing else you need to focus on!
What Brian and I learned
- Blue tees were the wrong tees. They measured 6550 yards while the whites measure 6250. This was an oversight by me and recommend he plays off the white tees in future.
- Hitting a good tee shot is as important as chipping and putting. Choosing a reliable club that will get you in the fairway and not the water or OB will exponentially increase your chances of breaking 100. Hitting your 2nd or 3rd shot from the ladies' tee will hurt you.
- Chipping and putting is vital. Chipping is not as complicated as you think. All you need to do is be aggressive enough to get the ball ANYWHERE on the green and then two putt from there. No need to get cute or try chip it in every time. Sometimes the best chip is one hit away from the pin, avoiding the bunkers or water between you and the pin.
- Two putting from distances over 12 feet is essential. Meanwhile, draining your 3 to 6 footers is as important. Practice these by putting on the practice green from 20 feet or longer and try get the ball consistently within 2 or 3 feet of the hole. Practice 3 to 5 footers placed around the hole until you can drain them with ease. TOP SECRET: keep your head down forever! Brian and I didn't go through putting together but he improved over the round as I showed him.
- Avoid bunkers at all costs. Leave yourself full shots into the greens and not the 30 to 75 yard pitch shots that are so difficult. Here is my guide to bunker shots.
- Don't use your low wedge from the fluffy rough. The club goes right under it and results in 20 yard shots. Use a sand wedge with more bounce.
- Don't feel rushed by other people. Just play your game and if anyone behind you is on your butt, let them play through. Brian was a bit frazzled on the 11th hole because of some guys hitting balls within 40 yards of us. It affected his game later on. Keep up with the group in front of you.
- Swing easy. Don't try to smash any of your clubs. This strategy to break 100 doesn't call for maximum power. It calls for finesse and control of yourself. You just need to get the ball in play and break up your approach shots into shorter shots. Smashing the ball results in freshies, slices and bladed shots.
- Have fun! Don't count your score. Enjoy talking to your partners and have a great time. By being relaxed, you'll break 100 easily.
You're equipped with everything you need to break 100 now. You have the swing, you have the game, now it's time to just use your brain! Go out there and do it!