newsletter: The Saturday Golfer
How to break 100, 90, 80, 70, and... 60??

Last updated Nov 09, 2023

How to break 100, 90, 80, 70, and... 60??

What would it take for YOU to break 100? 90? 80? 70? Here are some of my best tips for breaking each barrier with ease.

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This week, we're going to analyze what it takes to break through EVERY scoring barrier in golf.

How to Break 100

Breaking 100 is the "intro to golf" barrier. Every golfer starts somewhere, and it usually includes several rounds over 100.

Here are 3 tips to breaking 100 your next round.

#1 - Work on your grip

The only connection you have with the club is your grip. When you're just starting out in golf, it is essential that you spend a large portion of your time at home, on the range, and even the course perfecting your grip.

While I could talk for hours about gripping the golf club, there are 2 key elements you're going to want to focus on.

  1. What type of grip are you using?
  2. How strong or weak is your grip?

On tour, 99% of the players will have one of the following grips.

The most common grip you will see is called the "overlap" which is characterized by your pinky finger of your right hand resting on top of your index finger of your left hand.

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In general, this is the grip I recommend for most golfers because I believe it is the easiest grip to master and is one of the most effective grips.

Here are some notable tour players that use this grip:

  • Phil Mickelson
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Ben Hogan

Another great choice, the interlock grip is characterized by your dominant pinky "interlocking" with your non-dominant index finger.

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I personally use and prefer this grip. While I generally think the overlap grip is easier to learn, this one is another great choice.

Here are some notable tour players that use this grip:

  • Tiger Woods
  • Jack Nicklaus
  • Brooks Koepka
  • Rory Mcilroy

How "strong" or "weak" is your grip?

While I have a LOT more to say on this, the "strength" of your grip will determine how open or closed your club face is throughout the swing. There is no "correct" position to be in here and I can name 10 tour pros using each orientation.

That said, for most golfers, I recommend learning a neutral grip, which will be compatible with the "standard" golf swing you see most people teaching.

Here's a useful image to help you determine where you're at. I recommend using a Sharpie to draw a dot on your glove which is 100% legal in golf and can help you get setup correctly on the course!

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#2 - Use an alignment stick

When you're starting out, your body will NOT know what it feels like to line up to the target.

When you're at the range, throw an alignment stick down parallel left of your target. Then for every shot you hit, line your feet up and start getting comfortable with what it feels like to line up square.

What is "parallel left"? Here's an image that will help you get the alignment stick lined up correctly.

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Recommended product: you don't need anything fancy here. Just pick up these GoSports alignment sticks and throw them in your bag!

#3 - Practice the basic pitch shot

"But Zach, I can't even hit a full shot yet"


Practicing the basic pitch shot is the BEST way to improve your full shots at this stage because it is a shortened version of your full swing.

If you need some guidance on how to do this, here's a snippet of the pitching lesson from my Break 90 in 90 Days course that will help you out.

How to Break 90

When you're trying to break 90 for the first time, the game changes from "what on earth am I doing" to a more refined version: "I feel like I've got a good idea of what I'm doing, yet the golf ball still seems to go sideways half the time."

If I'm being completely honest, this is probably the most frustrating phase of a golfer's improvement journey.

It's frustrating because you're good enough to hit the ball around the course, yet not good enough to make birdies and take it low.

Here are 2 tips to get you under 90:

#1 - Dumb shots that kill your round

Let's take a brief, painful moment and be honest with ourselves.

In your last round of golf, count up the number of "dumb shots" you played. Here's a short list of "dumb shots" that someone shooting in the 90s has no good reason to use on the course:

  • Flop shots
  • Carrying a water hazard from more than 200 yards
  • Going for a par 5 in 2 from more than 200 yards when the green is surrounded by bunkers, water, OB, or other hazards
  • Aiming directly at a pin that is tucked in the small, back-left corner of the green when the middle of the green is HUGE
  • Chipping with a 60 degree wedge when you have 20 yards of green to work with (hint: use an 8-iron, 9-iron, or PW instead and keep it low)
  • Punch shot through 2 trees that are 10 feet apart

Now hear me out... I get it. It's HARD to have discipline out there when you just made a double-bogey and you need to make up for it if you're going to break 90 that day.

I've been there. I've played these "dumb shots" myself hundreds of times.

I don't trust myself to have discipline in the moment, so I take the option away. Try this your next round:

Write down a list of your "off limits" shots Before every shot, take out your list. Be disciplined and don't play any of your "off limits" shots no matter how tempting it may be.

The crazy thing about this "boring" strategy is you'll probably knock 5 shots off your next round. Try it. Let me know how it went.

As a test... How would you play THIS shot?? (here's how I played it)

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#2 - Learn how to hit a bunker shot

Seriously. I've seen hundreds of golfers play in my lifetime and one of the top reasons they shoot high scores is having NO IDEA how to hit a bunker shot. If they end up in the bunker, it's an automatic 2, 3, 4, 5, 6?? shots to their scorecard.

Bunker shots aren't the easiest, but there is a SIMPLE setup that will increase your odds ten-fold. Here are a few rules to take to your next round:

  1. Get it on the green - find an area of the green that is big and aim there. Our goal is not up and down, it is damage control.
  2. Setup keys - wide stance, weight 70% forward, club-face open, and focus on keeping your weight in the SAME SPOT the entire swing and hitting an inch behind the ball. Visual below:
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How to Break 80

At this point in your game, it's time for some strategy and fixing weaknesses. Your barrier is largely mental paired with a few areas of your game that hold you back.

Here are 2 tips for crushing that 80 barrier!

#1 - Ditch the driver? (sometimes)

A very common problem golfers of this level face is inconsistency with the driver. Heck, I break 80 nearly every time I play and I still struggle with my driver all the time. For that reason, I don't always hit it.

If you've seen a couple of my recent rounds on YouTube, you might have noticed that I hit a LOT of 3-irons and 3-woods off the tee. Part of the reason is because I'm playing public courses and many of them are pretty short. But a BIG reason is because I don't feel comfortable hitting driver.

There are some holes where I'll intentionally leave myself a 190-yard approach shot (vs. 140) just so I don't have to hit driver.

Now I'm NOT telling you to put the big stick away for good.

Instead, be strategic on what holes you:

  1. Feel comfortable hitting driver on (e.g. wide fairways with no trouble)
  2. Require a driver (some holes don't!)

For example, here's Firestone CC North Course hole #10. I would NEVER hit driver on this because it gives me ZERO advantage and brings all sorts of trouble in play. Instead, I usually hit a 3-iron short of that bunker, which leaves me about 140 yards in--a shot I know I can get close.

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#2 - Do you know WHERE you lose shots?

To break 80, you've got to treat this less like a game, and more like a sport.

While shooting a 77 or 78 is not considered "elite" by any measure, it requires some serious focus not only on the course, but also off the course.

There are several ways to improve your game off the course. For example, you could read Every Shot Must have a Purpose or Golf is Not a Game of Perfect.


You could start tracking your statistics and get serious about where you lose your strokes.

You don't need to make this complicated. You don't need a special app. Just spend 5 minutes after each round, go through your scorecard, and add up the following:

  • How many total putts did you take?
  • What was your GIR percentage?
  • What was your fairway percentage?
  • What was your scrambling (up and down) percentage?

After 4 or 5 rounds of golf tracking these stats, you will have a VERY CLEAR idea where you lose strokes.

Once you identify the area(s) you struggle with, map out some time to make it LESS BAD.

Notice I didn't say, "make it perfect".

Here's an example. Let's say you tally up your stats and notice that on average, you hit 4/18 greens in regulation, yet hit 10/14 fairways.

This means you're pretty solid off the tee but have made a MESS of those approach shots. Your goal here is not to hit 12/18 greens. It is to increase your current average by 2-3 greens per round. By increasing that average to 7/18 greens, you'll drop at least 5 strokes off your round.

Here are a few ideas on how you might do that:

  • For a few rounds, aim at the FAT part of the green on every approach shot no matter where the pin is
  • Consider upgrading your irons and getting fitted (be honest with yourself here)
  • Work on a steady center - generally, when a golfer struggles with approach shots, it's because they "sway" back and forth, creating an inconsistent low-point of the swing and bad strikes.

Obviously, these won't all apply to YOU, but you get the point!

How to Break 70... And 60??

Okay, let's be honest. Very few golfers are at this point and even fewer golfers here read this newsletter.

But just for fun... What does it take?

Having broken 70 many times, here's generally what a round looks like:

  • Nothing worse than bogey
  • Birdie at least 2/4 par 5s
  • Knock one or two approach shots within 10 feet and make the putt
  • No 3-putts (maximum of 1)
  • Get up and down roughly 50% of the time

And to break 60...?? I've never done it, but here are the requirements:

  • Don't miss.
  • EVER.

Wrapping up

Find the section that is applicable to you and take one of the tips I gave and apply it to your game this week!

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