How to Break 80 in Golf: A Roadmap for Success

Last updated Nov 06, 2023

How to Break 80 in Golf: A Roadmap for Success

This post will walk you through the mindset of breaking 80, and in it, I will share my personal experience trying to break 80 and finally breaking through.

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Written By: Zach Gollwitzer

Posted in: Golf Mental Game

Tags: Breaking 80

Chances are, if you're reading this post right now, you have been on the verge of breaking 80 for quite some time now.

Does 37 on the front nine and 43 on the back nine strike a nerve?

Maybe that 43 was a result of a double or triple bogey on the last hole (yes I've been there - it's devastating).

Whatever your situation, you are probably familiar with the mental barrier to breaking 80.

In this post, I'm NOT going to give you "7 steps to breaking 80," or "4 Skills You Need to Break 80," or even "The Definitive Guide to Breaking 80."

I'm TIRED of reading these ill attempts at teaching golfers how to break 80. The truth is, breaking 80 is not something that you can "teach" per se. Rather, breaking 80 is a mindset that every golfer arrives at in a different manner.

Although you must hone and develop several skills in order to break 80, I don't believe that there is a "blueprint" for doing so. In light of this, my goal in this post is to allow you to peek inside of the mind of someone who once couldn't dream of breaking 80, and now does so on a consistent basis.

Breaking 80 is like any motor skill. Once you've mastered it, you NEVER forget it. I'm going to give you a way to master the skill of breaking 80, but not in the conventional way. Instead of telling you what to do, I'm going to tell you what not to do, and share some personal experiences, which will hopefully accelerate your path to success.

The Truth about Breaking 80

The truth is, 11 pars and 7 bogeys is WAY easier said than done. Honestly, I don't think I've shot a round with 11 pars and 7 bogeys more than 3 times in my entire life. Breaking 80 isn't that simple.

It also isn't as simple as breaking the golf game down into categories.

In most "Breaking 80" Guides, you will hear that you need to do the following:

  • Improve your game from 100 yards and in
  • Improve your driving accuracy
  • Improve your course management
  • Increase the amount of positive self talk
  • Don't dwell on mistakes
  • Make more 3-footers
  • Practice more efficiently
  • Get better equipment
  • etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. (ad infinitum)

Yes, these are all necessary components to breaking 80, but if I'm going to teach you how to do all those things, I might as well write a book and call it "How to Play Golf."

That's not what this post is about. I'm not going to teach you how to improve your short game, or how to improve your course management. I'm going to tell you how to break 80.

Overview of This Post

I apologize for such a lengthy introduction, but this topic is aggravating to many if not approached from the right perspective.

In this post, I will be talking you through the mindset of breaking 80. In the following sections, you will:

  • Find out why the people you normally play with are holding you back
  • Find out an exercise that will accelerate the process of breaking 80
  • Hear my personal, real experience breaking 80
  • Find out the biggest mistakes that I made on my quest to break 80

Are Your Weekend Playing Partners the Problem?

Have you ever heard the saying: "You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with?"

If you've ever listened to Jim Rohn speak, you know that he is a pretty bright guy. The truth is, the people that you regularly play with can make or break your chances at breaking 80.

Just think about it for a minute.

What if you spent a month playing golf with three professional golfers every day? Do you think you'd have a problem breaking 80?

It might sound a bit too simple to be true, but the easiest way to break 80 is to play with golfers who would be utterly embarassed to shoot 80.

What you'll notice when you spend time with these golfers is that they think differently, act differently, and speak an entirely different language than you. If you don't believe me, I challenge you to a little experiment:

  1. Go on YouTube, and watch some interviews with PGA/LPGA tour pros. Really listen to the things that they are saying.
  2. Now go play golf with three golfers who consistently shoot in the 80s or 90s. Listen to the things these golfers say.

What you'll notice is that there is a language barrier between these two groups of golfers. The pros don't talk about bad golf in most cases. The 80s and 90s shooters do.

If you really want to start breaking 80 consistently, immerse yourself with golfers that are significantly better than you, and who are embarassed when they shoot in the 80s. You may be nervous to join a group like this, but if you can suck it up and face some embarassment for a few rounds, you'll be surprised how easy it becomes to start shooting in the 70s.

Let's Start Small

Something that I never thought about when I was trying to break 80 was the idea of starting small.

As a male golfer, I always thought that the back tees were my only option.

I never swallowed my pride and played the front tees for a while.

If you're struggling to break 80, I suggest that you go play the front tees until you break 80 there. It's actually a bit harder than one would imagine, but I can assure you that breaking 80 from the front tees is much easier than the back tees, and it will give you the confidence you need to do it from the back tees!

I'm sorry to the golfers who already play the front tees, because you don't have these option :(

My Personal Experience Breaking 80 for the first time

As I was doing a bit of research for this post, I realized that not many people give accounts of their own experiences breaking 80.

Everyone is eager to offer the actual things that they did, and the strategies they employed to break 80, but nobody wants to get into what happened during their breakthrough round.

Hopefully by reading my personal experience you are able to see what it takes to break 80!

Anyways, I remember the first time I broke 80 very clearly. It was quite a memorable experience for me since I had fought the entire previous season trying to get it done!

It all happened in the spring semester of my freshman year of high-school. The previous year, I had played a LOT of golf, and hadn't once broken the mark. I had several rounds where I would shoot one good nine and ruin the round with a 44 or 45 on the other nine.

Despite this, I did finally have my breakthrough round one beautiful spring morning.

I had just finished my final exams for the year, and decided to go out to a local golf course with a friend and get a quick 18 in. The round started out pretty normal actually. I think I parred the first three holes, which was a solid start for me.

Although I wasn't hitting the ball any better/worse than usual, I do remember my putting was above average for most of the round (or at least the front nine). I just kept making 5 footers, and saving pars. I believe I birdied both of the par 5s on the front nine, and saved my pars on all but one of the rest of the holes.

By the end of the front nine, I had shot 1 under par. This was the first time I had ever shot even par or better on 9 holes, so I was fairly shocked with my performance. Unlike previous experiences where I made the turn at 3 or 4 over par, I felt like I had a decent cushion to work with this time.

Nevertheless, I was still extremely nervous! The tenth hole of this golf course was a short par four with no real trouble, so I got by with a bogey thanks to my wonderful brain telling me: "Zach, you're 1 under par, if you don't break 80 this time, you're a disgrace to golf."

I think the most nervewracking part was the 11th tee box. I had just come off the bogey, and noticed that there was O.B. down the right side of the hole. I guess you could call this the climax of the round. I was holding on for dear life (not recommended in golf), and certainly didn't want to start the back nine with a bogey and then a double bogey from hitting it O.B. So instead of talking myself out of it, I said to myself: "This is it. You hit this in the fairway or you probably won't be breaking 80 today."

For some reason, this kind of life or death thinking helped me to stripe that drive right down the fairway.

The rest of the round seemed rather easy. I felt like I had conquered my fears through that one tee shot, and the rest of the round I just coasted. Sure, I made a few bogeys and ended up shooting 5 over par, but no disaster like in previous rounds.

Let me tell you, that day might have been the happiest day of my entire golf career! But an even cooler thing.. I broke 80 the very next time I played golf.

It was almost like that feeling you get when you graduate high school or college. You just know that you never ever have to go back! Although it took me a few more months before breaking 80 in competition, my fear and lack of belief in myself had subsided.


I know that hearing this story isn't going to automatically allow you to break 80, but I hope that it gave you an idea of what breaking 80 is like.

The one thing that I will say is that you are going to have "defining moments" like I did on that 11th tee. Your ability to conquer them is the key to your success.

What I did Wrong

In this last part of the post, I want to list off some things that I would have done differently when trying to break 80 for the first time. I know everyone is different, but I hope that you can learn from my failures so that you don't have to experience them yourself.

Here it goes:

  1. You don't ever need to hit a flop shot to break 80. Hit the shot you know you can pull off, even if it won't get you close to the pin.
  2. Keeping your tee shots in play helps. A TON. You might want to pick a "go-to" tee shot and exclusively hit that shot.
  3. Stop switching clubs. PLEASE.
  4. Practice a little more, play a little less.
  5. Quit practicing 15 foot putts. Practice 40 footers and 3 footers. Worry about the 15 footers later, because you don't need to make any of them to break 80.
  6. Why are you so embarassed to play the front tees?
  7. If you're in the trees, NEVER try to thread the needle. 1 shot won't kill you, but 3 shots will.
  8. Never rush shots because you are angry. Golf is a slow sport. Take advantage of that!
  9. Play with better players.
  10. Learn relaxation breathing techniques for those "defining moments."


Although this post is a bit of an unconventional approach to teaching a golfer how to break 80, I hope that you have found it informative!

For those of you who are still on the quest to break 80, just remember that it is completely attainable for just about any golfer! I really mean that. There were times that I never thought I would shoot in the 70s. I almost quit golf because of it.

But I didn't, and since those times, I have gone on to break 70, and even do it in competition! Looking back, I often wonder why I thought breaking 80 was such a big deal.

I hope that you will reach that point one day as well :)

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