For many golfers, breaking 90 is an accomplishment that is many years in the making. Rare is the player who can just pick up this game and break 90 within a few weeks or months.
Assuming you are playing a regulation length course, breaking 90 takes a nice combination of skill and strategy.
With that said, it is not an impossible task. There are plenty of players who do reach this goal after a bit of practice, and you can count yourself among that group if you are willing to work for it.
In addition to building your physical skills, you also need to understand how to manage your way around the course. Strategy is a huge part of golf, yet it is overlooked by many players.
Do a good job of thinking about each shot you play, and the game will suddenly seem a little less intimidating!
Below, we have laid out an overall course management strategy for those trying to break 90. We can’t guarantee that this strategy is what will get you over the hump once and for all, but it is a nice place to start.
Default to Conservative Play
As a general rule of thumb, we are going to recommend that you default to conservative decisions on the course while trying to break 90.
Is it fun to go for crazy shots that you don’t have much chance to pull off? Sure, that can be fun – for a while. However, if you add up your score at the end of the day and find you finished with a 91 or 92, you may regret taking those chances.
By sticking with a conservative approach in most situations, you’ll stay out of trouble and keep yourself on track for that elusive 89.
Here’s the thing – you don’t have to play perfect golf, or anything like it, in order to break 90.
If you are playing a par 72 course, you can be 17 strokes over par and still reach your goal. That’s a lot of wiggle room, as long as you are not wasting three or four of those over-par strokes on a single hole.
Perhaps the biggest key to breaking 90 is simply staying away from those big numbers and being conservative will help you do just that.
Find a Fairway Club
This doesn’t mean that you should be looking for a club that you can use while in the fairway. Rather, it means you should be trying to find a club in your bag that you can count on to hit the fairway time after time.
Sure, you’ll want to use your driver for some tee shots, but hitting driver off every tee is just asking for trouble. When the fairway is narrow or there are big hazards lurking, you should have a safer option that helps you place the ball in the short grass.
Most likely, you’ll want to use either your three wood or your hybrid club to hit these types of tee shots.
In order to lean on a shorter club as a fairway finder, you have to be okay with setting up longer approaches. In many cases, you should be okay with that trade.
For example, picture yourself standing on the tee of a 400-yard par four. There is a pond on one side of the fairway and a deep bunker on the other, so accuracy is essential. By opting for your fairway-finding tee shot club, you will have a great chance to avoid the trouble.
Will you have more than 200 yards left for your approach? Maybe – but that still isn’t a big problem. Knock that second shot up near the green, chip on, and give yourself a putt at par.
Even if the putt misses, you should walk away with a bogey and nothing worse.
Take it Easy on the Greens
The theme of our advice in this article should be clear by this point – play it safe. While putting, that means you are going to use conservative speed in order to avoid long comeback efforts after your first putt has missed.
It will be quite tempting to charge the ball hard at the hole when trying to make a birdie. Unfortunately, if that first putt slides by, you’ll then have a tricky putt to save your par.
For a player who has his or her sights set on breaking 90, the better plan is to roll the ball gently up toward the hole. It may drop in, but if not, you can tap it in and move on to the next hole without any drama.
You can take this same line of thinking and apply it to the chip and pitch shots that you play from around the green. Don’t get so obsessed with the line of your shot that you forget to manage the speed properly. Think first and foremost about getting the speed right, as that is the variable which is going to help you get down in two.
Even if you miss your line by a bit, getting the speed right will allow you to setup a relatively short putt for your save.
In the end, the idea behind breaking 90 really is simple – play it safe, avoid penalty shots, and keep your round on track.
Obviously, you can break free from this plan late in a round as necessary, such as if you need to make a birdie or two to sneak into the 80s.
Watching golf on TV makes it look exciting to go for difficult shots and play aggressive, but that type of golf isn’t rewarded very often in the amateur world. Unless you are sure you can pull something off, the safer play is almost always the right choice.
As you gain experience playing smarter, you should find that this type of golf is actually quite rewarding – you’ll begin to take pride in making the right choices and avoiding trouble.
Enjoy the process and savor the feeling when that last putt drops in for your first sub-90 round!