I was recently thinking back to my history as a golfer, more specifically when I first broke 100, 90, and 80 (I haven’t broke 70 yet…YET). Anyways, I thought it would be fun to go through each one and try and figure out what I did to get past each hump. Just a little background to begin with. I first picked up a golf club when I was 13, when my brother came home with a cheap starter set. Now, over 13 years later, I am a single digit handicap, but still have my days where a round of over 90 comes into play.
I first started playing very sparingly, without any formal teaching. I actually never hit a ball on a golf course for the first few years. The house I grew up in had a lot of open land and grass, so I had no problem hitting full iron shots back and forth across the yard and street. I remember getting to where I could hit the ball pretty consisent (not completely chunking it or hitting it thin every time), but I still really had no idea what I was doing, especially with a driver, short wedge chips, and putting.
Finally, my freshman year of high school I joined the golf team. Now I could finally play consistently on a golf course. I remember my first high school tournament. First hole was a par three. I made birdie. I was one under for the first time in my life! I ended up shooting 113. Yuck. As the year went on my course management improved and I was hitting the ball pretty far for having terrible fundamentals and no real coaching. I believe that combination, along with hitting the ball pretty clean all the time, is what helped me finally break 100 several times as the season went on.
With my freshman year of golf behind me, I had a pretty good idea of what it would take to keep getting better. I didn’t expect to get good enough to win every tournament I played in, but I did think I could get to where a top 10 was possible. When golf season finally arrived my sophomore year, I was able to pick up right where I left off the year before (I didn’t play much in between with other sports occupying my time). Even though my putting was still holding me back, I was able to learn how to play wedge shots much better and felt like my “go to shot” was a full wedge at just about 100 yards. I probably hit more greens from 100 yards that year than I do now. I also was able to hit my fairway woods off the deck pretty well. This is what helped me break 90 the most I think. Being able to get on or close to most all greens in two shots really helped me get better. I rarely wasted shots (I basically eliminated the dreaded top, shank, and chunk). That year I was able to break 90 multiple times. I think going from 90′s to 80′s was the most fulfilling step in my golfing career. An 84 feels a million times better than a 90, that is for sure.
After a few more years of high school golf, I still couldn’t get below 80. I came very close on several occasions, but I just didn’t play enough (or practice enough) and didn’t have the short game to really get it done. After high school I actually went a year or more without playing golf at all. When I finally did start playing again, I was able to focus on some things that I didn’t think about before. I knew I hit the ball far enough that I didn’t HAVE to hit driver each time. I quickly learned that hitting the fairway was priority #1. Priority #2 was to eliminate three-putts. Before I knew it, I was shooting a lot of 78′s at my home course and occasionally at unfamiliar courses. It sure was a great feeling. I still don’t shoot in the 70′s every round, but at least 1 out of 5. I have learned that it takes a few things for me to do it consistently: practice (more specifically short game practice), course management, and play as much golf as possible.
I’ve never shot in the 60′s. I’ve came close (71) but haven’t been able to do it. I know what it’ll take though. I have been doing better at eliminating the big numbers (doubles or higher), but I still don’t make a lot of birdies. I need to continue to be cautiously aggressive on my approach shots and give myself better chances to make birdies. That combined with more putting practice, and I should be in the 60′s in no time (hahaha!).
Best of luck with your search for hitting your golf milestones.