How to Break 90 Consistently With No Swing Changes - Ultimate Guide

How to Break 90 in Golf Consistently – The ULTIMATE Guide

Have you ever shot 43 on the front nine and thought, wow I only need 46 on the back side for an 89! 

And what happens next is tragic. You shoot 50 for a 93. 

The beer doesn't taste the same. You think about leaving your wife, giving up golf, and becoming the next Jack Reacher.

"Took an 8 on the last for a 93, where's the nearest Greyhound station?"

But what if I could show you how to break 90 in golf consistently? 

What if there was a way to hack the game of golf and put up scores in the 80's whenever you play?

Because there is, and I'm going to show you actionable steps to take to actually do it. No theory, all action.

I put together my experience over 20 years on the course as someone who once lusted after an 89 but also as someone who's played countless rounds with guys who want to break 90. The result is this comprehensive guide to breaking 90 in golf consistently.

From hacker to hopeful in a few short weeks

Anyone can break 90 and in this guide, I'll show you:

  • The exact shots you need to be able to play from tee to green
  • The way to think and plan your way around the course for success
  • How to practice the concepts at the range
  • Shortcuts and 'hacks' to break 90 faster than you thought possible

There's absolutely no need to make any swing changes. If you can shoot in the 90's, you can also break 90 without changing your swing. What I'm going to show you below are basic fundamentals and tricks that you may or may not have come across before. Good luck!

Before we start you need to do this
Draw a stripe on a coin and your golf balls

For years I turned my nose up at this idea. Until I tried it for the first 2016!  I'm draining way more putts and feel better off the tee that my club face is aiming in the right direction. This alone will shave 2 or 3 shots off your game if you aren't doing it already.

Aim your shots with a stripe drawn on the ball

Use a striped coin to double your efforts on the greens

Line up your tee shots too

It takes a little while to get used to aligning the line accurately but pays off quickly.

Draw a straight long stripe on your golf ball to help you aim the ball toward the target off the tee and on the green!  [check out my step by step guide to marking and putting your golf ball]

How does it work?

When you tee the ball up, align the stripe down the fairway. On your putts, align the stripe to the line of your putt. Then line up your putter's alignment line with the stripe on the ball. Works like a charm! Now all you need to worry about on putts is the distance control. 

Is it legal?

Yes. The pros use this same technique and it conforms with the rules of golf 100%. Henrik Stenson & Ian Poulter use it mainly for tee shots. Give it a try. Important: don't take too long aligning the ball to the hole on greens. Don't slow down pace of play.

What you need

SoftSpike stencil for drawing lines

SoftSpikes make a stencil you can clip on the ball so you can draw your lines dead straight with a colored Sharpie of your choice. Learn more on Amazon.

Otherwise, just do it free hand. It looks messier but it works.

A video of Henrik Stenson explaining how he does it can be found here.

The Meat & Potatoes Strategy to Break 90

This is the exact strategy you need to shoot 89 or lower

This can be implemented by anyone and it will yield results:

  • 5 shots you need to have in your bag plus a preshot routine
  • Implementing the strategy and plotting your way around the course
  • A very simple way to practice your game at the range 
  • Some preparation and mental tactics to be in the right frame of mind

The FIVE shots you NEED

1. A club that goes STRAIGHT, 160 yards OR MORE off the tee

We'll use this club off the tee on every single hole except par 3's where we might need another club.

160 yards is the minimum but essentially what you want is the LONGEST club you can hit STRAIGHT

So select any club in your bag that you feel most comfortable with to hit 160 or more yards. The longer, the better of course. This could be your fairway wood, hybrid, driver or 5 iron. Whatever club it is, it must be consistent and straight. You should use this off the tee most often.

Your goal is just to hit fairways off the tee. Because we're looking for bogeys, there's no need to hit the ball as far as possible. We just need fairways with a decent enough distance to clear the rough before the fairway. With this tactic, we'll make bogeys but along the way, a few pars too!

When I was first broke 90, my go-to club off the tee was a 5 wood. It had a reliable shot-shape and I could hit it nicely 95% of the time. 

2. A solid pitching game inside 70 yards

While we're trying to avoid these 30-70 yard pitch shots on the course as much as we can, they'll inevitably happen. So it's best to learn to play them because they'll save you three or more shots per round.

You select the club you prefer to use. It can be a Lob Wedge, Gap Wedge, Sand Wedge or Pitching Wedge. Whatever you perform best with. I like to use a Sand Wedge or a Lob Wedge.

This will take some practice but there's a great way to learn how to judge these shots and build confidence. The system is based around the arms of a clock. 

Below is Dave Pelz, the short game guru on how to actually do it. It works - I've been using this system for the last 10 years and this one technique took me into the single digit handicaps. In the video he talks about using this for all your wedges, but don't worry too much about using multiple clubs for now. Learn to control the distance with one wedge first. We want to simplify this as much as possible.

>>> Click to see my guide for the shot inside 70 yards here <<<

3. Your two favorite clubs from inside 150 yards

Find two clubs you know you can hit on the green from 150 yards or less. Just two. And the choice is up to you - whatever you like the most!

Your two best clubs should come from these six options

Mine are my pitching wedge from 120 to 130 yards and a gap wedge from 105-115 yards.

I may hit it longer or shorter than you, but that doesn't mean a thing. If you can hit almost every green with an 8 iron from 120 yards and pitching wedge from 100 yards, that's perfect. 

You're going to use these two clubs for your final approach shots to greens. For instance, you might have 240 yards to the green after your drive on a very long par 4. You know you can't reach so what we're going to do is break the distance into two shots.

You need to be thinking 'how can I place my ball so that I hit my FAVORITE iron into the green for my 3rd shot?'

For example what I did in the video you'll see below was take a 240 yard shot and think 'I love hitting my pitching wedge from 120. 240 yards is two shots of 120 yards! Perfect! Two nice pitching wedges irons and I'm on the green. This works MUCH better than a 3 wood into the rough and a difficult 50 yard pitch shot from the deep grass!

Warning: Be prepared: people will think you're weird, but guess what - you're going to break 90 this way baby! Without question. Split your long approaches into shorter approaches and watch your partners crumble in front of your eyes when you break 90 easily!

4. A consistent two-putt and a solid short putt

Three-putts are score killers. Everyone can two-putt. It's just a matter of some practice. Hit the practice green after work once or twice a week for 30 minutes to an hour and you'll see your scores dropping.  

[check out my guide on better putting here]

Our aim is a PFP - Putt For Par. We just need to get onto the greens with a putt for par regardless of the distance from the hole. So if you can make one or two for par, that's a bonus. But be happy with a two putt bogey every time as well! 

Life changing moment ahead

Golden nugget: Inside 10 feet, keep your head down forever. By this, I mean you strike your putt and don't even look up at the hole - keep your eyes like lasers on the point where your ball was resting.

Don't even see the ball going in, just listen for the rattle of the ball in the hole. This will help you make those pesky putts you always push right or leave short. It takes a conscious effort and a lot of discipline but works like a charm! 

Here's a drill I highly recommend for lag putting that I used when I was trying to break 90.

5. One club to chip with around the greens

Pick one of these for chipping around the green

Select a club you like to bump-and-run chip with. By that I mean a club you can consistently get onto the green and get it rolling to the hole. The flop or lob shot is too difficult and inconsistent for guys trying to break 90 and you'll skull and fluff too many.

I've always loved the pitching wedge to chip with and I've used it as long as I can remember. Select yours and practice with this one club whenever you can on a chipping green or even at home. Check out the practice routine in the practice section below.

Life changing moment 2

Golden nugget: Remember the goal of chipping is not always to chip it CLOSE. The goal is to get the ball on the green. That means no dropping the toiletry bag and leaving it short of the green with another chip on the way. Be aggressive enough to GET THE BALL ON THE GREEN SOMEWHERE!

6. EXTRA: An Excellent Pre-Shot Routine

Something that is overlooked is the pre-shot routine. Think of when you take a shower. Maybe you start with a rinse, then in this order you wash your hair, ears, face, arm pits, do a little twirl with your arms in the air, then its onto the front, sack back and crack then the bottom of your feet. 

Now if you don't do it like that one particular day, you might feel a little weird - like you've forgotten something and it'll be on your mind all day. That's the same thing with a pre-shot routine. It helps you to be at ease and forget anything else besides this next shot.

But not all pre-shot routines are created equal.

Swashbuckling flamboyant 'just-because' swings of the club are pointless. When you perform your pre-shot routine, have a super clear vision in your mind of the shot you're about to hit. Always have a plan in your mind. Always envision the shot and the shot thereafter. 

I only realized I had this problem in 2015 after playing golf for 17 years. I just swung practice swings without any purpose like Jack Sparrow with his sword. Can you believe that? Don't be like me. Be better!

Implementing these shots to break 90

You'll notice in the explanations below that all you need to break 90 are the 5 shots I've suggested above whether it's long par 4's or short par 5's.

Par 3's

These holes are all reachable in one shot if you're playing off the correct tees.

You should look to be on or near the green on par 3's. Be happy with bogeys here and be sure to get on the green in one or maximum two shots. On long par 3's look for a safe bail out area where if you miss, you'll have an easy chip onto the green and then purposefully hit it there.

Don't be a hero and go for the green if you can't reach. A bogey is not a bad score!

Par 4's

Shorter par 4's are your target to try hit the green in two shots. If a par 4 is only 300-350 yards, you can hit it on or around the green in two shots. If you practice hitting the club we selected above for tee shots, you'll be in positions to hit the short par 4's in two.

On longer par 4's try to be on the green in three shots. For example on a 450 yard par 4:

  • Hit the club that we selected above that goes longest and straightest off the tee (160+ yards)
  • You'll have 280 yards into the green. How can we get to your favorite club (8 iron from 130) into the green? We need to hit one shot 150 yards and that will leave 130 yards. So you hit 6 iron 150 yards.
  • Now you have 130 yards into the green and you can hit your favorite shot into the green for your third. 
  • After you hit the green or just miss it, now you need to get in the hole in two more shots. Easy!
Par 5's

A couple of the par 5's will be reachable for you in three shots. Try to hit one or two of them in three shots. It's not always possible but when you see a par 5 that's 480 yards, that's only 160 yards per shot and you can definitely reach that!

There's no need to boom drivers either if you're not accurate.

How to Break 90 - Shot by shot video of an 87

I took everything you've read above and put it into practice to show you how to break 90 with some tips and fundamentals along the way. It's about 20 minutes long. You'll find some tips and instruction in the video and I believe if you follow similar steps and work on the keys to breaking 90, you can do it within a few rounds.

Each shot was recorded once and no retakes were allowed. I shot it in Malaysia at the Kukup Golf Resort.

My tee shots on all par 4 and par 5 holes: SIX IRON (175 yards)
My favorite approach shots: PITCHING WEDGE (120-130 yards) & GAP WEDGE (105-115 yards) 
My chipping club: PITCHING WEDGE
My pitching club: SAND WEDGE

How to practice these 5 essential shots

Go to the driving range for the tee, approach and 30-70 yard pitch shots

Remember your selections from the previous section? Take only those clubs to the driving range. Try find a grass driving range because the artificial turf gives you good shots even if you hit the ball fat.

Here's an example (remember these choices are up to you):

  1. Tee shots: 3-hybrid
  2. Approaches: 7 iron and 9 iron
  3. 30-70 yard pitches: Sand wedge

Armed with only these 4 clubs, go to the driving range and run through a full 18 holes on your home course. Tee off with a vision of the hole in your mind and use the driving ranges flags or signs or fairway to identify where you need to hit the ball to 'hit the fairway'. This is way more fun than just beating balls like a robot.

Remember: Take your time on each shot throughout your imaginary round. Do your full shot routine. Take a 2 minute break between hits. Don't ever rush your driving range time. Consciously program the feelings you are getting from the shots and actually feel your confidence building up inside you. 

Corniest (but most effective) driving range tip you'll ever hear: When you hit a good shot on the driving range with one of your 4 clubs, pretend to take that shot inside your hand and then deposit it into a pocket in your golf bag like fairy dust so you can take it out the bag on the golf course when you need it. I know I sound like an idiot now, but try it! It actually works!

Get to a chipping and putting short game practice area

Go to your local range, golf course or golfing mecca and practice your chipping and putting. If you don't have any of these things, practice in your yard and if your yard is too small, practice in your house and if your house is too small, take a break for two weeks, then give up golf completely:

  1. Chipping: We're going to practice bump and runs where the ball lands on the greens and runs out to the hole. Low skidders, flop shots and all the fancy things you see on Tour will get you to either make an 8 or actually kill another human being with a skulled chip. I highly recommend placing a coin on the practice chipping green then try to land the ball on your coin with your chipping club. I've always used a pitching wedge for green side chips and the secret to getting it close is to pick a spot to land it and then land it on the spot. It takes practice like anything but it's just that simple.
  2. Long putting: practice with 4 or 5 balls putting the ball to within 3 feet: the closer the better.
  3. Short putts: Put 5 or 6 balls around one hole 5 feet away from the hole. Practice keeping your head down until you hear the rattle of the ball in the hole. You must make all the putts in a row before you can move to another hole. Become lethal at 5 foot putts and you'll break 90 in your sleep.

Ultra Important Key Concepts

If you've made it this far, well done. Because the next few concepts below will make the biggest difference to your score. You WILL break 90 by following these guidelines. 

So important and impactful in fact, you may be shocked just how many shots under 90 you end up shooting. Check out these important concepts highlighted in red below:

Select the correct tees

Have more fun by moving up a set of tees

You probably could've broken 90 already if you played off the correct tees!

How do you know which ones to pick? There are a couple of ways to select your tee box:

Option 1

Average drive distance multiplied by 28. So if your average drive is 230 yards, a challenging length of a course should be 230 yards x 28 = 6440 yards maximum.
You can go 5% higher or lower. So a range of between 6000 to 6700 yards. You won't be able to match the yardage to a set of tees exactly, but close enough!

Option 2

If there are too many par fours over 400 yards on the course you play, move up a tee. 

What if everyone else is playing off longer tees?

Fuhgeddaboudit! Hey man, stay strong, it's your game and you're there to have the most fun. No one minds if you play off shorter tees during social rounds! If you're in a good mood because you're enjoying your game and that makes it more fun for the other guys, they really don't care. But if you're playing poorly and getting in a bad mood off the longer tees, then it'll make it more unpleasant for them

Learn how far you REALLY hit the ball

Are you sure you want the pitching wedge?

Those 300 yard drives the guys boast about? The pitching wedge that goes 160 yards? Those are unicorns and they might hit 1 out of 20 that distance. Scale back the ego and learn how far you REALLY hit your clubs MOST OF THE TIME. With your rangefinder or GPS watch telling you the distance, you can select the correct club and hit more greens. 

This is such an underestimated factor in playing better golf. I can't stress enough how important it is to hit enough club on your approaches to lower your score and break 90 and even 80. Many guys use that one perfect shot they hit to gauge their club distances and never revisit their calculations. 

If your perfect 7 iron goes 175 yards but you hit it 165 yards MOST OF THE TIME, then use 165 yards as your 7 iron distance. By using the 175 yards, you handicap yourself by very often being 10 yards short of the target which means more chips, more bunker shots and higher scores. You'll need to do this for every club in your bag but once you get past the dent in your ego, the better scores make up for the pain, believe me.

Get a golf rangefinder and learn to use it

My Bushnell V3 Tour I use on every shot

I was always the guy who scoffed at a rangefinder. I was pacing the distances and guessing but then I played with my friend Dietmar who uses a rangefinder. I double checked my distances and I was always off and sometimes by 10 yards. That explains why I was always one club short of the green and chipping all the time. 

So I got one. And I don't know how I lived without it. Check out the Bushnell Tour rangefinder. I highly recommend them. My V3 Tour is amazing.

How to use it:

From the tee: measure distances to bunkers and hazards and select a club you can swing fully without worrying about reaching them.

From the fairway: measure to the pin and measure carry over water by shooting the bank. Shoot to find the distance to the front edge or carry over bunkers by shooting the lip with the rangefinder.

Calculate your distance: You can also shoot the rangefinder from where your ball is, back to the place you hit from to get an accurate gauge of the distance. This is incredibly valuable information. Scorecards and distance markers can be off depending on the day and your rangefinder will give you 100% accurate distances. 

Armed with this info, you can adapt and learn your game as you go. Without this knowledge, you're doomed to keep repeating the same errors in selecting clubs and hitting less greens.

Another option is to get a golf GPS watch that has a feature to count your distance as you walk. Something like the Bushnell NEO-Ion is a good choice.

>>> click here for my guide on budget rangefinders <<<

Think like a golfer: one step ahead

The difference between an enlightened golfer and a frustrated golfer is this one concept. You need to be thinking about the shot AFTER the shot you're hitting. This means you should be thinking where the shot you're hitting is likely to end up, and what you'll do after that. Below are two quiz questions to illustrate this:

Example 1: You have 230 yards left without any hazards between you and the green. What do you do?

Play better golf while learning arithmetic!

Before we can answer, you must know your favorite club to hit into a green. It's important to understand which is your favorite iron for approach shots and from what distance. I have two: pitching wedge from 130 or a smooth 53° Wedge from 100-110 yards. 


Now that you know your favorite club, hit a shot that will make your next shot the distance to the green where you can hit that favorite club.

So instead of booming a fairway wood 180 or 190 yards and leaving yourself a VERY difficult 40 or 50 yard pitch, rather put yourself into a position to hit the best club in your bag onto the green with confidence! The results will astound you. 

In the picture above, I would hit my pitching wedge 130 yards and then hit my 53° wedge onto the green. I am so confident with it, I can almost guarantee I'll hit it to 10 feet or less.

For you it might be a 6 iron followed by an 8 iron. Or a 5 iron followed by a sand wedge. It's totally up to you, but find the club you love to hit into greens and if you find yourself in a position where the green is out of reach, split the remaining distance into two shots, leaving your favorite shot into the green!

Example 2: You have an approach to the green with a bunker short right and a pin behind the bunker. Where do you aim it? A, B or C?

Answer: Aim for 'A'

If you aim at B and hit it short or with a fade, you'll end up in the bunker and that's a nasty bunker shot. Aiming at C means you can hit the ball other side of the bunker and need to chip over the bunker to get onto the green. There's also a chance of hitting it in the bunker. Too much danger!

Aiming at 'A' means you can leave it short or even hit a draw and be in a position to chip the ball with a lot of green to work with and the ground is flat to the left without a big drop off like the right side. If you hit a little fade, the ball will land between your target and the pin but a straight shot will also be on the green just a bit further away. There is no danger hitting it at 'A' and is the high percentage play. You'll probably hit the green and two putt or chip and two putt for a bogey. That's all you need to break 90!

Golden nugget: Play for your shot shape but always aim to a position where even a straight shot won't be in danger and never hit a ball toward a hazard. So in the picture above: if you hit a fade, you aim at 'A' and if it fades, it's in a good spot. If it goes dead straight, it's still in a good position.

Commit to every shot

Commitment on every shot is essential

How many times have you addressed a golf ball and thought 'this isn't enough club' or 'this just feels like too much club'?

These little thoughts destroy your game because you hesitate when swinging and don't take a confident swipe at the ball. 

It's essential, vital, paramount to have a vision in your head of what your shot will look like and what the result will be. If you're not sure where the ball is gonna go, redo your pre-shot routine and GET THE VISION! Then say to yourself 'this is the right club and it'll land on the right side of the green where I can putt for a birdie'

Golden nugget: When you have any thought in your mind other than the shot you're playing while addressing the golf ball, step away and reset. This takes discipline and is difficult to do at first but the benefits are amazing. Start implementing this strategy today!

Common thoughts that make me step away:

  • My glove feels like it's slipping
  • My right foot feels higher than my left
  • I wish this guy would stop talking
  • My girlfriend really over-reacts to small things
  • There's no way I can carry the water with this
  • This sweat droplet is going to run into my eye in the next 0.05 seconds!

Simply back off, go through the pre-shot routine again and focus on the shot. Get a different club if you're not sure. Wipe your sweaty hand on your towel. Whatever it takes. It only happens a few times a round, but avoiding these bad situations where you hit a poor shot through lack of concentration will help you break 90 quicker than you thought possible.

If you ever play golf with me, you'll see me take another pre-shot routine and talk to myself out loud because my first one was a pointless swinging of the club like a fool. I take another two swings imagining a nice high fade with the driver and I say out loud, 'that's the one I want, let's hit that shot, easy' and 90% of the time, it comes out how I want. 

100% of shots I'm not committed to end in disaster. Without exception.

It doesn't matter if you're a scratch golfer or a newbie, committing 100% to every single shot is the key to great golf. 

Friggin' warm up!

Warming up properly and making a good swing from the first tee is vital to get a good start and break 90. Being 8 over par after 4 holes sucks and is difficult to come back from.

Short game warm up
Make all these putts before you move on

Take 5 balls onto the practice putting green and hit putts to holes from 20 feet away. Keep hitting the putts to different holes until you can consistently stop the ball within 2 feet of the hole.

Then take the same three balls and place them in a circle three feet from a hole. Make all the putts without missing any.


Take 5 balls and hit chips to a couple of holes. Try to land the ball on a particular spot and get a feel for the greens. Don't worry about being highly accurate - we just want to get our eyes and hands working in unison hitting the ball onto a spot on the green.

Long game warm up

You probably sit at a desk all day and have turned into Quasimodo like I did. Don't tee off with cold Quasimodo muscles - warm up any way you know how because you know it's going to take you 4 holes to warm up properly. No good! I used to do it and it meant I was playing catch-up for 14 holes to shoot a good score.

If you have a driving range at your course, hit 20 balls. Hit four shots with each of the following in this order:

  1.  Your favorite wedge x 4
  2.  Your favorite iron x 4
  3.  Your favorite hybrid x 4
  4.  Your favorite fairway wood x 4
  5.  Your first tee shot club. You should stop hitting when you hit a perfect shot with this club even if you have balls left. Take that positive feeling to the tee.

After you're done, take 10 to 15 minutes to perform the following stretches and movements. This is exactly what I do before golf. If you have no driving range available, just do the stretches.

Excellent tricks to break 90 immediately

DO NOT count up your score

This is one of the most important ideas on this list and essential to breaking 90. The only way to break 100, 90 or 80 is to never count up your score until the end of the round. You can keep score but don't add it up halfway, in your head or otherwise. Just wait til the clubhouse and add it up there. 

Neither I, nor any of my golfing buddies have broken through a score barrier while counting up the strokes throughout the round. 

Pick a par 70 golf course

I broke 90 and 80 on the same golf course - a par 70. Breaking 90 is a mental barrier and when you've done it once, it happens more and more regularly. Choosing a course with a par of 70 means you can shoot 19 over for an 89. That's two extra strokes you can take compared to a par 72 where you need 17 over to break 90.

This isn't a requirement, but a simple idea that could help you get over the hurdle.

Play with better players

It would be a miracle if you could break 90 playing with these guys!

We all have our best golfing buddies and some of us are lucky to have good players as buddies. But often we get stuck playing every round with guys who aren't interested in progressing.

If your golfing partners are not as good as you, I highly suggest finding a group to play with sometimes where you're the worst player in the group. It doesn't have to be a huge difference in skill level but at least guys who shoot mid-80's every round (10 to 15 handicappers).

You might think better players don't want to play with higher handicappers, but that's not true. We're all a brotherhood on the golf course and with a good attitude and fun chit-chat, we'll play with anyone.

Playing with better players will let you take a bit more time on your shots, because the other guys do. You'll care more about each shot, because they care about their shots. You'll notice how they approach each hole and how they score in the 80's which will rub off on you and you'll be shooting mid 80's in no time.

Join a matchplay league

If you have a matchplay competition league in your area or in your club, join up. You'll be forced to play against other people to progress in the league but the other golfers will be in your handicap range so they'll be moderately better or equal to you. The extra focus and determination when competing against other guys will improve your scores.

Find a relaxing habit

Do you get tense on the golf course? Do you grip the putter with white knuckles or wring the club's neck? Tension kills tempo and accuracy - both of which you need to get below 90.

A quick tip to relieve the tension is to have a relaxing habit. That can be putting a tee between your teeth to relieve jaw tension or it could be chewing gum to get the neck muscles and jaw loosened up. Find yourself something that will relieve tension on the golf course for those days when you're feeling extra edgy.

Get in the zone

Before you even get to the course, you're probably thinking, 89 is just 17 bogeys and 1 par on a par 72 track. That's the advice everyone gets. While it's true and you should understand that, it's not really a strong mental game plan. We'll show you later how to use that idea to create an on-course strategy.

The best tip to get in the zone is to attach no value to the end result. It's difficult but the easiest way to break 90 is to have fun. Enjoy chatting with your buddies. Have fun being away from the women. Just immerse yourself in the golf experience and realize how lucky you are to be able to enjoy this hobby.

Golf Zen moment

"The detachment from desire to score will get you the score you desire" - Golf Sidekick Buddha 2017

Take your medicine when you find trouble

Isn't it strange how we get to the ball deep in trouble and think we can hit it on the green through a small gap in the trees? I mean trees are 80% air, right?

But 95% of the time, we screw it up and have a blow out hole. If you want to break 90, you need to eliminate blow out holes (doubles or worse). If you find yourself in the trees, just get the ball out to a place you can play the next shot easily. 

Try get on the green and make a putt or 2 putt for a bogey or maximum double bogey. Triples and quadruples are killers! Always look for the easiest most obvious route and silence that inner Seve Ballesteros!

Zen moment

"A golfer becomes what he hates. If a golfer trying to break 90 says 'damn another bogey, man', he himself will become a bogeyman" - Golf Sidekick Buddha, 2017


Can I break 90 without a driver?

Yes. You only need a club that you can trust to go straight and hit the fairway. The only requirement is that the club can carry 160 or so yards to get you onto the fairways. In fact, it's easier to shoot 90 with a hybrid, 5 iron, 7 iron, wedge and putter than with 14 clubs. Leave the driver at home if it doesn't put you in a good position 90% of the time.

How many golfers can break 90?

According to the USGA, 59% of golfers play off a handicap of 15 or below. That is usually someone who can break 90 consistently. But that's handicapped golfers. If we include every golfer that plays more than 5 times in their life, I would estimate only about 40% of golfers could break 90 in their lives. Unless of course, they follow my guide. Then I think 80% of you can!

Do I need lessons to break 90?

If you can shoot between 90 and 100 you don't need a lesson. Lessons can be great value to teach you how to do things properly, but if you can hit a golf ball in the air every shot, all you need to do is practice, use the techniques and tips I've given you here and check out some more guides I put together like the putting, chipping, pitching, using the driving range and fitness guides. 

I would actually say getting fitter and more flexible will improve your golf equally as much as practicing the shots.

Please leave a comment with any other tips you've found to improve your game and if you disagree with anything I've mentioned here let me know. Good luck and enjoy shooting in the 80's.

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sean coxe says

I left a comment in the wrong area, but I’ll repeat it here. This is the website I’ve been looking for the past 12 years. Fred Shoemaker, in his book “Extraordinary Golf,” urges us to “find your own game.” This is nothing like the game I’ve been playing the past 25+ years, and it doesn’t look like the game my buddies in my mens’ club (attempt to) play. And I get a lot of guff from them when I’m hitting six iron from 240 or laying up from 180. But I walk and carry eight clubs on a routine round, and I regularly shoot in the low-to-mid eighties. And it’s my game now. Thank you.

    Matt says

    Glad I could help you Sean. I hope you have a break through round and get into the 70s! I love the idea of 8 clubs. I used to play 9 holes with 4 clubs often as a 13 year old- it also trains you to think and be creative on the course.

Shane Jones says

I have a question, Matt.

If I can break 90 with a 170 yard club off the tee (same as you 6-iron), breaking long approach shots down to two easier shots, and two-putting. Would I just need say a longer straight club off the tee.(say like a 200-210 club for me a 4-iron). So I’d have more chances to hit GIR with 7-iron or less on par 4s less than 370 yards. And play a similar strategy to breaking 90 to shooting low 80s or breaking 80 consistently.

I hit my driver well at times and others I don’t. My back-up club when driver doesn’t work is my 19° hybrid (220 yards).

I can still reach most par-4s with 7-iron or less on my home course. And I lay-up when I can’t.

Is 220 yards enough to consistently break 80?

I’ve broken 80 a few times, in fact a few in the last year.

    Matt says

    Shane, you’ve got it 100% right!! And you’ll see in my next 3 or 4 videos I release – which will all be on breaking 80 – that what you’ve outlined will definitely get you under 80.
    19° Hybrid or 4 iron off the going 200-220 is perfect to break 80! As long as you’re playing off the right tees.
    It sounds like your game is quite good if you can hit a 4 iron 205 and straight so if you make sure your chipping and putting is top-notch, you’ll break 80 every single time. One of the guys in my breaking 80 series hits his driver MAXIMUM 230 yards and he plays off a 7 handicap, breaking 80 normally 8 out of 10 rounds.
    I will email you directly on the email you provided when the articles/videos are published.

Roberto says

hi, great site, I regularly break 90 but am now looking to break 80. Can you let me know when you release the break 80 video please.
Many thanks

    Matt says

    YES SIR! I will email you directly

Neil Ally says

In a minefield of golf instruction video’s and tips online, I was really pleased to find this one! it makes sense which is a great start. I hover around the low 90’s so now I will put this instruction into practice. it has made me identify a few flaws I have (like trying to make a 240 yard shot into a green when I hit it only 210!!) I will keep you posted with progress! Hopefully winning more beers along the way! Many thanks for the time you have put into this to help out your fellow Golf enthusiasts!!

paul says

What a great resource for the struggling golfer. thank you

David says

Very logical and comprehensive tips for a common golfer. It offers a realistic target but more so, hope for those thinking lessons or technique is the issue.

    Matt says

    Thanks David! I hope so. I hate to see guys screw up their swings through too much Golf Digest and lessons with the wrong pro when all they need is a bit of thinking…

Frank R says

Hi Matt, I have just recently found your website and it has been a revelation. You know the old saying about repeating the same behaviour and expecting a different result! Well I have certainly been guilty of that! Having read your advice and watched the videos I have started to implement your method on the course and what a transformation. In three weeks I went from 19.1 to 18.1 HC and I’m playing the best golf I have played in years, and I think its mainly due to the fact that by using your method and hitting the simple shot instead of the 250yrd 3 wood from the rough over the water :), I have regained my confidence. Many thanks ‘born again’ frank

Mikkel says

I’ve been playing most rounds in mid to high 90’s, but finally came across this page, and decided to bring the key elements into play.

Yesterday I was playing a Fourball, and stuck to the principles outlined above, and the scorecard was scattered with bogeys and pars (and four doubles). For the first time in my relatively short golfing career, I broke 90, and I’m really looking forward to getting even more consistent with my two approach irons (7-iron @140 yds and 9-iron @120). On top of that I just got fitted for a new driver, which is both longer and straighter off the tee.

I really enjoy your no-nonsense videos, breaking the elephant into smaller bites before trying to eat it.

henry sim says

Hi Matt, love your advice and videos. I am playing in my 90s. Played 87 and 89 once only. Can’t seem to break 90 again as I always blow 2 holes average. Hopefully with your advice I will break 90 soon. Tq

John rogers says

Delightful and so simply helpful!

Frank R says

Hi Matt I continue to enjoy your videos very much and was particularly impressed with the 666 approach which I have begun to apply with some success. Shot 85 at my home course yesterday and had my handicap cut again. Now down to 17 and I hope to get to 16 before the season comes to a close. What pleased me most about yesterday was not the holes where I made Par or even the two birdies, it was the shots i hit after the bad shots. For example after a misdirected drive on the 8th I was in the rough off the adjacent fairway with a wall of trees between me and the green. Because the guys playing this fairway were arriving at their tee i rushed the shot and shanked it up into the trees where it dropped like a stone with the trees still between me and the green. But that phase you had about the next shot could be the best shot of your life came to mind and i played a perfect recovery through a gap, albeit away from the green but in doing so I gave myself a straight forward 30 yard pitch which i hit to about 10 feet and holed the putt for a 5. It wasn’t the great shots that made the round, it was the bad shots where I managed to limit the damage and still scored on the hole. I never once thought about the score, just focused on executing the best shot i could. I kept it simple hitting shots i knew i could pull off. Thanks for the help and keep the videos coming.

Greg Morrison says

Terrific article. It makes so much sense Next time out I am using your method Looking forward to lowering my score after years

Corey says

These & tips in the videos work. I applied the hitting out of the thick rough like a bunker shot yesterday and got up & down 4 times in the 9 that I played. Thanks for that!

Jagg says

Been playing for 4 years and have played the same as what my new golfing buddy plays in 6 months (only because I haven’t been committed enough)
Taken some lessons and am playing an 18 hole course for the first time ever and in cold weather at that! Something I thought I’d never do (The cold weather that is)
Been thinking about it this morning and I actually felt quite nervous! I’ve read through this guide 3 times since the morning and I can honestly say I feel better for it!
Some fantastic tips Matt, hopefully I can put some of this in practice! Par 69 so for me personally anything under 110 will be amazing and I’m sure this guide will help me bring it down further the more I play.
Cheers Matt!

John says

Hi, I’m failing to break 90. That’s partly because I’m rubbish at putting and my chips aren’t brilliant. As a result I’m not confident in getting down in three from 100 yards. I can hit a 3-wood confidently off the tee 220 yards, which at my local course is leaving me c.170 yards from many par 4 holes, which is just beyond what I can confidently regularly hit with a six iron (my five iron gets a bit sliced). Would you recommend I break that 170 yards into a c.70 yards lay up and a 100 yard gap wedge? Also, how does your theory work when there are lots of dog-legs on the course making your approach theory tricky?

Irish Hacker says

Excellent Article.

Laurent says

Hi Matt, greetings from Switzerland. Just back from the course where I tried the tip of the line on the ball for putting. I didn’t actually draw one, just used the already existing one on the ball (i.e where the model of the ball is written). It is unbelievable how stupidly effective this advice is, and even more now that we can leave the pin in the hole. Thanks a lot, will be coming back to your page often to try the other things as well.

Markus says

I am a 12 handicapper with a bad balance. Kudos for this awesome website and entertaining video tutorials. Wished that I had come accross this earlier. Best golf website there is!

Matt says

This is the only golf website I use from now on, and I reluctantly tell my golf buddies about it. Great job. I have a 24 handicap, and working furiously to bring it down. My chipping and putting is decent. I started hitting irons off some tees. I need to hit my consistent clubs off all the tees. Love your idea of playing a round with one ball in your bag. If you lose it, go home.

MattyD says

This is the only golf website I use from now on, and I reluctantly tell my golf buddies about it. Great job. I have a 24 handicap, and working furiously to bring it down. My chipping and putting is decent. I started hitting irons off some tees. I need to hit my consistent clubs off all the tees. Love your idea of playing a round with one ball in your bag. If you lose it, go home.

Ryan Moore says

Matt, thanks so much for the website and the youtube videos!!! You and your approach have been so inspirational. Your swing smooth and finish the swing comments along with good strategies and playing advice!!! Can’t thank u enough. I sure wish we could play 18 someday. Waddaplaya!!! You have helped my game tremendously!!! Thank u so much!!!

Ron Bollinger says

I really like the information on how to select the right club. Knowing that if the driver isn’t working it is best to go with a club that is more reliable to hit a specific distance was very helpful.

Gerry poole says

Best advice I’ve ever read. Passing it on to my wife who loves the game.
Anxious to start the routine. Cheers

Javier says

Hey Matt, been a huge fan of your work for a couple of years now. Your system has helped me break 100, now I’m on the lower 90’s. But enough bragging about! I’m struggling to break 90 (lowest score so far is 91) and one of the reasons is my aim. I’m having a lot of trouble finding out how to set my stance correctly in order to reach my objective, the ball is flying straight but in the wrong direction. Haven’t seen any videos or tips on how to correct this, so I would really appreciate it if you point me in the right direction 🙂

Javier, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

    Matt says

    Aim the clubface to something on your target line. That thing you aim at must be no more than 1 foot in front of your ball..Turn every shot into a 1 foot shot

Johann says

Concerning: Long game warm up
what if nr.4 is the same as nr.5 ?

Paul Buggy says

Matt, I am returning to golf after 20 years, kids raised etc. This web page makes so much sense. I honestly don’t think I have ever helped as much as the advice here. I played my first 9 in years yesterday (before I read your piece). I was using driver etc and I was in the rough so often. No tone par 4 lost balls and just 2 one overs. (When I playing in the past I was an18 handicapper) Very frustrating and almost thought about giving up the idea of playing golf -so frustating it was. I have al Ways hit a 6 iron arounD 155 reliably. I am very tempted to return to the course with 5 clubs! 6 iron, 8 iron wedge, jigger and putter. Thanks so much for your input and I will be back for more. Paul Ireland

Tristan Strickler says

Any tips on how to keep your head down on the ball through the swing?

    John says

    Tristan..I don’t like the term “keep your head down”..I like “stay with your swing until it is completed”..on full shots you head comes up when your back shoulder pushes it forward ( well after impact)…with chipping and putting don’t lift your head until your club stops moving through impact…these are easy habits to get used to…

Robert says

Good article. I learned golf approx. 35 years ago and received many of these tips from an 8-1/2 x 11 soft cover book written by a PGA teaching pro. I think I paid $50 for the course. Lots of visuals, and use of mirrors, practice aids etc. Basically I score between 90 and 95 and only play a few times per year. Took on a college baseball player 2 summers ago (I was 61 at the time) and we had a wonderful time playing from the white tee markers. We took turns outdriving each other. Beat him by 1 stroke. My turn to buy. Stay flexible!

Bob C. says

Dear Playa,

I came across your You Tube videos when I was trying to get away from learning technique and wanted to learn strategy and course management in my game. I am a 16 handicapper so I can hit driver but mostly not wisely. Your breaking 90 consistently helped me break 90 every time. I scored an 84 from 70.6/123 tees using your guidance for breaking 90 but I did use my driver on some long par 4s and 5s. I can’t thank you enough for putting this together and helping me focus on the mental part of the game too. Golf is fun again!!

Bob C
Tampa Fl.

David Wilson says

I concur with every suggestion you make. The saying drive for show, putt for dough leaves out one important ingredient. You need to have a wedge game that will let you 2 putt consistently. You will never become a good wedge player without frequent practice.

Bob says

When I started to play golf ,26 years ago, my wife bought me a set of Hogan irons, the 1983 edition. I loved and still have the blades! To your point, I struggled and then only took the 5 iron, 9 iron and putter to the course , a 6300 yard par 72. It took me 2 months playing 3 times a week and hitting balls on the turf fields nears us for practice, then I shot an 88! I have never looked back! No one needs 14 clubs unless you’re being paid by a manufacturer. Lean to hit 2 clubs and putt and you can break 90 every day.

paul says

i play in a senior leauge where we play the the red tees can i still use 4 0r 5 clubs

John Sawyer says

Nice thorough article..I might add something that helps me..”know your ideal backswing for each shot and then complete the shot with the appropriate follow-through”

John Sawyer says

Nice thorough article..I might add something that helps me..”know your ideal backswing for each shot and then complete the shot with the appropriate follow-through”..keeps you from overswinging..(death to accuracy and hitting the sweet spot..thanks

Nasrullah khan says

Useful stuff loaded with simple practical tips

Bill Watkins says

Last season (2020) I broke 80 (78) for the first time ever. I still ended the season with a 95 scoring average and a handicap that went fro 12 to 23. Your step by step approach has been music to my ears and I can’t wait for 2021 to try them out.

Carl “Dan” LaFong says

I am totally digging your site and YT channel. If perchance you ever find yourself in Arkansas, then please look me up and be our guest! Thank you, Matt!

Chris Flynn says

Hi Matt,
Love your articles.
Can you perhaps do an article focused on warming up.
The first stretching video wouldn’t work for me on this page.
Perhaps some different warm up concepts. 1. Some warm ups if you have access to a range but nothing else. 2. Some warm ups if you have access to a putting green but nothing else. 3. Some warm ups if you have access to a range, putting green, and chipping green. 4. Some warm ups if you have access to a driving net only but nothing else. 5. Some warm ups if you have access to no range, green or chipping facilities.

Hope this all makes sense. Keep up the good work. Thanks

Blair Peters says

This is great even for someone who does break 90 consistently like myself. I am a 13 handicapper and most of this information can be applied to break 80 I think. I am going to try it! Thanks

kendon says

Broke 90 first try after using this article….

Gary Hattan says

Thanks. Great article! I like your practical advice. I think I can break 90 consistently now.

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