Back in 1960, it was determined that the average golf score was 100.
Some 60 years later, do you know what the average golf score is now?
You may be surprised...
Despite significant improvements in golf club and ball technology, statistical increases in average driving distances, and generally much better course conditions, the average golf score is...
That may seem counter-intuitive, but the fact is that the scorecards of average golfers haven’t changed much through the years.
So, as a 100+ player, you’re probably then asking yourself:
“If these averages haven’t changed much in more than a half-century, how can I move from shooting triple-digit scores to shooting double-digit scores?”
Well, the short answer is that there isn’t one single answer (although we’ll be making a recommendation on where to start).
As a higher handicap player, there are probably several areas of your game that need some improvement to start breaking 100 in golf on a regular basis.
The key is to identify the key areas that you need to work on.
That’s what we’ll look at in this article.
You’re in Good Company
But first, let’s start off with some interesting statistics:
According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF), about 55% of all golfers break 100 regularly.
Here’s how they break down:
- Scoring under 80: 5%
- Scoring between 80-89: 21%
- Scoring between 90-99: 29%
Of the remaining 45% that regularly shoot 100+, they break down like this:
- Scoring between 100-110: 24%
- Scoring between 110-119: 10%
- Scoring 120 or higher: 11%
So, if you’re in the group that regularly shoots 100+, it may be at least a little comforting to learn that you’re in good company.
With an estimated 25 million golfers in the U.S., that means that over 11 million of them are in the same boat as you.
And, assuming that these percentages are fairly consistent for golfers around the globe, of the approximately 60 million golfers worldwide, you’re in a group that boasts some 27 million members.
But if you’re like most of your fellow golfers in this 100+ group, you’d like to become a member of the other group, as one of the golfers who are able to regularly shoot sub-100 scores.
Moving from One Group to Another
The most logical starting point in your quest of breaking 100 in golf is to determine which parts of your game are costing you the most strokes.
A little analysis, of both your own skillset and of your game in general, will go a long way to answering this question.
If you do a little basic accounting during your round, you’ll get a lot of the information you’ll need.
Many players record their statistics while they’re playing so that they can do some post-round analysis. You should start doing the same.
On your scorecard, record key statistics as you go.
On each hole, mark down:
- Whether or not you hit the fairway
- If you hit the green in regulation
- If you got up and down from a greenside shot (and, if not, how many feet you left yourself from the hole)
- How many overall putts you had
- And if you had a 3-putt.
Do this for several rounds and you’ll begin to see some patterns emerge.
You’ll see where you have strengths and, more importantly, where you have weaknesses.
And by understanding where your weaknesses are, and how they’re affecting your scores, you’ll be able to practice smarter to improve in those areas.
It Can Be Done
Your self-analysis will reveal the extent of the issue, but one conclusion that you should arrive at is that breaking 100 in golf is most definitely within reach.
Once you realize just how many strokes you’re essentially giving away during a round, it’ll become apparent that minor improvements in some key areas will do the trick.
To make the task seem more attainable, think of what breaking 100 would actually require.
It doesn’t mean that you need to play near-flawless golf.
Quite the contrary.
Would you be surprised to learn that you’d break 100 simply by shooting a round with nine bogeys and nine double-bogeys?
That should make the goal seem far more reachable, right?
Or how about looking at it like this:
Try mentally setting your par for the course at 5 ½ strokes per hole.
If you’re able to accomplish that, you’d break 100.
And that includes an allowance for having double-bogeys on all the Par 3’s and bogeys on all the Par 4’s!
Does breaking 100 sound at least a little more achievable when viewed like that? It should.
Making the goal seem easier to reach will help with your mental approach to breaking through the 100 barrier.
The Short Game Is Where It’s At
Here are some more statistics that should tip you off as to where you should start your assault on 100:
- 60%-65% of all the shots you take during your round will take place within 100 yards of the hole.
- About 80% of the shots that golfers lose to par occur inside 100 yards.
- A player who shoots 100+ averages almost four 3-putts per round.
- A player who shoots 100+ averages almost 40 putts per round.
- A player who shoots 100+ makes, on average, less than 50% of their putts from five feet.
- A player who shoots 100+ spends only about 15% of their practice time working on their short game (by contrast, low-handicappers spend about 30% of their practice time on the short game).
Yes, as you can clearly see, we’re recommending that you begin your process of becoming a consistent 90’s shooter by working on your short game.
The number of short game shots you hit during your round is more than double the number of any other type of shot that you hit.
So, given the predominance of short game shots in every round you play, it should be easy to see that the road to breaking 100 consistently is paved by getting better at these types of shots.
If we were to dig into those statistics a little deeper, there’s one conclusion that could be drawn, one that should encourage you.
The difference between a 100+ shooter and a 90’s shooter isn’t that large.
One or two less 3-putts per round, chipping closer to the hole a few more times, a few more short putts made... this is all it’d take to reach your goal.
These are absolutely reachable targets.
What Makes Up the Short Game?
The term “short game” is a catch-all designation for all shots that occur within 100 yards of the hole.
Consequently, it includes pitch shots, chip shots, bunker shots, and putting.
To significantly reduce your overall handicap, you should spend time practicing these types of shots.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t simultaneously try to improve your long game (driving, fairway woods, iron play), but rather to suggest that improvement in your short game will be easier and that results can be achieved faster.
When determining how much of your practice time to devote to the long game vs. the short game, you should factor in that you’ll see a better “return on investment” by putting a little more emphasis on the short game.
Mark Broadie, author of the groundbreaking book titled...
...confirmed this philosophy when he said, “the fact is if you’ve got two hours to practice, you probably won’t start hitting the ball longer or straighter in that time period. But you could probably get better at your putting or chipping in two hours of practice.”
The short game should be viewed as the low-hanging fruit in your approach to save strokes and break 100.
Focus here for the quickest and easiest way to get down into double-digit scoring.
3 Key Tips to Breaking 100 in Golf
While shifting more of your focus to the overall short game will undoubtedly have a big impact on your scorecard, there are a few key areas where improvement can help right away.
These are the areas that plague 100+ shooters the most:
- Too many 3-putts
- Too many missed short putts
- Failing to chip the ball close enough to the hole
Of course, there are others, but addressing just these three alone could be the difference between shooting over or under 100.
1. 3-Putt Avoidance
High handicappers 3-putt about 20% of the time.
That averages out to almost 4 times per round, which obviously equates to giving away 4 strokes.
Extensive studies have concluded that the cause of most 3-putts by amateurs can be traced to poor distance control.
If the player has a long-distance putt and is unable to lag it to within approximately 3 to 5 feet of the hole, the chances are high that a 3-putt will follow.
The importance of lagging to about 3 feet can’t be overstated.
From 3 feet, even high handicap amateurs will make the putt more than 8 out of 10 times.
If you can only manage to get your lag putt to within 5 feet, that still gives you at least a reasonable chance of converting.
High-handicappers make about 50% from that range.
But beyond 5 feet, the percentages start to decline rapidly.
So, if you want to save strokes by avoiding 3-putts, head on over to the practice putting green as often as you can and practice your lag putting.
This will pay dividends on the course and save you strokes.
Step 1: Set up 30 feet from the hole (about 10 paces).
Step 2: Putt 5 balls in succession. Then proceed to where each ball ended up and attempt to putt it into the hole.
Step 3: Repeat this process 3 more times, so that you’ll end up making 15 consecutive 2-putts. If you 3-putt any of them, start over from the beginning.
Do this drill for a while and you’ll begin to get the feeling for how much force to exert on your stroke to roll the ball various distances (and it’ll require that you also grind on making the short putt).
2. Making Short Putts
As stated in the previous section, lag putting to 3 feet is essential, but even your great work in that regard will go for naught if you aren’t able to then sink the remaining short putt.
As with lag putting, becoming a good short putter can be achieved through practice, something that high handicap amateurs seldom do.
Other than when taking a handful of practice putts in the few minutes before you tee off, it’s rare to find amateurs spending time on the practice green.
And with short putting, you have an advantage in being able to practice these putts right in the comfort of your home.
Spending just 10 minutes a day, or at least a few times per week, practicing 3- and 5-footers on your carpet will make a huge difference in your confidence and in your ability to sink more of them on the course.
Step 1: Place a yardstick with one end at or near the edge of the cup. Place your ball at the opposite end of the yardstick.
Step 2: Stroke putts while attempting to keep the ball rolling on the yardstick the entire time. The key to this drill is to return the putter face back to square at impact, as well as to improve your swing path.
If your putter face is slightly open when you make contact, the ball will roll off the ruler to the right. If your putter face is closed to the line at impact, the ball will roll off to the left.
Step 3: Keep practicing this drill, focusing on returning the face square to the line. When you can consistently roll the putt the entire way down the yardstick and into the hole, you’ll know that your club face is square and your swing path is correct.
3. Chipping to Within Three to Five Feet
This is another area in which amateurs, with just a little practice and commitment, can lower their scores dramatically.
The theme is the same as above.
Knowing that amateurs sink about 84% of 3-footers and 50% of 5-footers, but then rarely 1-putt outside of that length, demonstrates the importance of being able to chip to within this key range.
The goal is to get up-and-down on greenside chips. That means getting in the hole with just one putt.
A 40-foot chip to within 10 feet of the hole, although a respectable effort, is an almost guaranteed 2-putt (and a possible 3-putt) when you consider the probabilities of amateurs sinking that 10-footer.
Statistics have shown that they’ll miss 8 out of 10 of them.
But improving your chipping to the extent that you can get to within 3 to 5 feet of the hole, at least a few times per round, will give you a decent chance to save what would otherwise be lost strokes.
Step 1: Place a small towel on the green on the target line between you and the hole.
Step 2: Practice hitting chips so that the ball lands on the towel, and then watch how far the ball rolls out toward the hole. Fly it too far (beyond the towel) and it’ll roll past the hole. Fly it too short (in front of the towel) and it’ll end up shy of the hole.
With practice, you’ll be able to determine, for any given chip, how far onto the green the towel should be, so that the ball then rolls close to the hole.
Your focus should be on the towel, not on the hole.
For someone who has shot 100+ for a long time, the prospect of consistently scoring in the 90’s may seem unattainable.
Hopefully, we’ve demonstrated that this isn’t the case.
Rather than concluding that the amount of improvement that’d be needed is too difficult and too extensive, start by focusing on your short game.
This is where rapid improvements, and declining scores, can really be achieved.
Remember, anyone can become skilled at chipping and putting. This is one area of the game that doesn’t require size or strength.
Man or woman, young or old, you can become much better at these shots.
This is also the great equalizer in competition. Others may outdrive you, but you’ll settle the score when you get around the green.
Good luck on your path to the 90’s.