Break 90 in Golf with 5 Surprisingly Simple Tips

By Todd Kolb
August 1, 2019

Want to Break 90 in Golf? Stop Obsessing Over Distance and Check Out These 5 Overlooked Tips for Shooting Your Best Score Ever.

If you still can’t break 90 in golf, it has nothing to do with an inability to hit a 300-yard drive.

It’s true. Most golfers who can’t shoot under 90 blame their distance, but there are actually several factors at play. Sure, distance could be one of them. But if you’re close to hitting that milestone, odds are pretty decent that you can get there by making some adjustments that have nothing to do with yardage. In fact, it doesn’t matter what level you are—whether you’re trying to break 90, 80, or even 70. There are specific skills beyond distance that need to be mastered before you can hope to reach your objective.

I’m going to share five changes you can make to start shooting under 90. Most of these are easy adjustments, and with a little practice, they’ll help you finally break that barrier.

I’ll also share a bonus tip for mastering the aspect of the game golfers of all levels dread the most.

But first, the five keys to help you break 90 in golf:

Tip #1: Improve Accuracy with Your Driver

While I hear a lot of amateur golfers complain that they’re not breaking 90 because they just don’t have the distance they need, my observations tell me something else is going on.

Most of the time, when I see a golfer struggling to improve their scores, the problem is not that they don’t have the distance to make it to the green in 2 or 3 shots. It’s that they don’t have the accuracy.

They’re hitting it sideways off the tee box. They’re in the trees, they’re in the water, they’re out of bounds.

If you want to break 90 in golf, you have to be in the fairway the vast majority of the time. So stop putting all your energy into getting better distances and start improving your accuracy.

Tip #2: Use a Hybrid

This is probably the simplest tip I’m going to give you. Are you ready?

Put a hybrid in your bag. Stop using long irons.

Your 3-iron, 4-iron, even you 5-iron—those are the hardest clubs to hit. A hybrid is much easier to hit off the ground and will give you far more success.

As for which hybrid you should get, that comes down to personal preference. There are a variety of options out there—17, 19, 22 degrees. Test a few out and see what works best for you. And if you have a hybrid you love, please pop into the comments to let us know what you’re swinging and why it works for you.

Tip #3: Choose the Right Club for Your Short Game

Everybody knows a solid short game is essential if you want to play a good round of golf. And within your short game, chipping is key.

If you’d like some advice for improving your chip shots, I have some great tips for that right here. But for now, I’m going to tell you the simplest thing you can do to give yourself better odds when you approach a chip shot.

Use a sand wedge. Every single time.

Now, you’ve probably been told to use different clubs for different chip shots. On paper, that’s great advice. If we’re assuming you’re a strong golfer with plenty of time to practice, then yes, sometimes it’s best to shoot an 8-iron and sometimes you want to pull out your pitching wedge. But if you’re a weekend warrior who’s just looking to break 90, you don’t have time to master three different clubs just for your chip shots.

So, use the sand wedge every time. Get comfortable with it. Master it. Get to a place where you are chipping accurately and consistently. Break 90.

Then you can start experimenting with other clubs.

Tip #4: Practice Your Lag Putting

You already know stellar putting can make all the difference to your scorecard. What you may not realize is that you can get a lot more mileage out of your putting practice by focusing on lag putting.

Lag putts are your longer putts. Think 15-50 feet. Why are these putts so important?

Think of where your ball lands on the green. I’m guessing that you’re not hitting a lot of shots from the fairway to within 4-5 feet of the hole. More likely, you’re landing somewhere around 35 feet away. If you can get good at 2-putting from that distance, you’re in great shape to break 90.

Tip #5: Improve Your Course Management

Course management is one of my favorite topics, and there are a million things I could say on the subject. For now, I’m going to keep it simple and tell you the one aspect of course management that can make the biggest difference in your mission to break 90.

When you hit the ball out of bounds or into the trees, get the ball back in play by learning how to hit a punch shot.

A punch shot is a low shot that gets the ball straight back onto the fairway or maybe a little ways down the fairway.

Many amateur golfers try to get out of the trees by hitting a normal shot. They want to get out of trouble and make up some distance. So they pull out an iron and make their regular golf swing. More often than not, they nail the trees again and wind up stuck in the same place.

The point being, course management is about being patient and clear-headed enough to set the right priorities. When you’re in trouble, the first order of business is to get out of trouble. Don’t worry about getting close to the green; worry about getting out of the trees. And learn how to hit a punch shot so you can get the job done.

Bonus Tip: How to Get Out of the Bunker

If you’re playing a round of golf with the hopes of finally breaking 90, it can be extremely discouraging to see your ball land in a bunker. Every golfer dreads a bunker. The good news is, mastering those bunker shots is easier than you think.

For more in-depth advice on getting out of the bunker, you can check out this article. But for now, here are three simple things you should do the next time you’re in a bunker.

  1. Open the clubface.
  2. Aim your feet and body slightly to the left of the target.
  3. Think of throwing sand, not hitting the ball.

That last tip may not make a lot of sense to you, but trust me: the bunker shot is one shot in golf where you actually don’t want to make contact with the ball. Instead, focus on an area of sand directly behind the ball and let the clubface throw that sand up onto the green. Lo and behold, the sand carries the ball with it, and you’ve managed to gracefully exit the bunker.

Your Checklist to Break 90 in Golf

Now that I’ve gone over all the reasons behind these five tips, here’s a quick recap for easy reference. In your mission to break 90:

  • Focus on improving accuracy with your driver.
  • Use a hybrid instead of your long irons.
  • Use a sand wedge (and only a sand wedge) for chipping.
  • Practice your lag putting.
  • Learn how to hit a punch shot and use that skill to get out of the trees.

Next time you’re in the bunker:

  • Open your clubface.
  • Aim slightly to the left.
  • Throw sand.

Make these simple changes, and you’ll be past 90 and chasing down 80 before you know it.

Are You Already Shooting 90?

If you have your own tips for breaking 90, we want to hear them! Join us in the comments section to tell us what worked for you. Or perhaps you want to learn how to finally break 100; we can help there as well!

And if you have any questions, comments, or differences of opinion, please chime in. Any excuse to talk golf.

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  1. One of the most important things is you need to be fitted for the hybrids. I use a 3, 4, and 5 hybrid that are used for iron replacement clubs. I know others who use a hybrid to replace a fairway wood, has a longer shaft. I agree that long irons are hard to hit. Good tips.

  2. Spot on response Jerry! We just did a video on tips for hitting a hybrid, and our first disclaimer is that if you aren’t properly fit for your hybrids, they aren’t going to perform the way you want. Many golfers just get fit for their driver (or no clubs), and stop there. Thanks for reading and commenting! What tip did you find most beneficial?

  3. Thanks .inmediatlý works for usually a 90-97 scorer and a few times in the high 80s .next day after study your video i played and score 88 with the real opportunity to be 85 .i change some difficult distance better good hitting points on the course and concede some difficult holes by try to do bogey or double but no more than that with the same technique .a huge improvement using more my hybrid 4 than my 3 G400 wood .90 % of the shots where i wanted and the miss shots always playable.thanks for the advice

  4. I’ll try it, I really suck at golf! I love the game but I’m at the “ want to break 120!” Sick and tired of being the worst golfer in our league

  5. Scott,

    Hang in there…keep watching our USGolfTV videos and you will improve!

  6. I think course management is one of the things that has helped me shoot lower scores. What I mean by that is not always hitting the driver off the tee. I’ve found that hitting my hydrid off the tee on shorter par fours and keeping it in the fairway works better than using driver and hitting in the woods or worst. I think club selection is something that has helped me score better, I find that most of the weekend golfers come up short of the green because they use to little club. Say you think 130 yard shoot should be an 8 iron (and if you hit it perfect it might be) but in most cases we don’t hit perfect shoots, so I’ll use a 7 iron instead.

  7. Good tip for breaking 90, in my opinion – don’t get tensed up if you have a bad hole or two. You can make it up if you stay focused on making shot by shot. Don’t put added pressure on yourself.

  8. Great point, the only shot you can do anything about is the next one! The sooner you get over a bad shot or hole, the better. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  9. Very good points Rod, most amateur golfers grab a club thinking about how far they CAN hit it, rather than how far they USUALLY hit it. And you will always play better golf when you hit it straight instead of crooked. We’ll take 20 fewer yards in the fairway over a long shot in the trees every time!
    Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  10. I struggle to break 100, and in most cases for people like me, I hit some really good shots followed by some really bad shots. The bad shots show up right when I’m starting to feel good about my game. When I am starting to feel good about my game, I start swinging harder. I’ve pinpointed that, for me, those hard swings are what’s keeping me back. I starting lifting my head, swinging my arms wildly around my body, hitting fat, hitting thin. . . it all falls apart. Once I slow it down, even taking a 3/4 swing, the ball is straighter. I’ll happily settle for a ball in the fairway 30 yards shorter instead of a crushed ball that I can’t find OB. Slow it down!

  11. Really good advice, thanks. I would like to know why you suggest a sand wedge for chipping. I find a gap or pitching wedge is easier to use – more consistent contact. Hybrids might make the biggest difference in ball-striking for a lot of golfers – I know they did for me.
    Thanks again.

  12. Love your lessons Todd! With chipping , depending on how much green I have to work with, I like to choose between a 7 iron all the way down to a sand wedge. ( putting type stroke with weight more on lead foot) Needs a little practice but seems to work from me. Rather than use different type strokes with a sand wedge ,it lets you make the same stroke

  13. Most of the tips I can agree. On tip #2 I think you should mention the fairway woods. On long par 4’s and 5’s my second shot needs to me a fairy wood. On tip #4 I tried using only one club. I bought the hybrid chipper that you promote and it works much better except chipping over a bunker. You may want to update this instruction. Keep up the good work love the videos.

  14. I cut strokes off my game by going to a 12 degree driver from my 10 degree. I almost never miss a fairway and if the wind is at my back,I am gaining distance. Lowered my handicap by 6 for 18. The game is much more fun in the fairway.

  15. The club I hit the best is a 5 hybrid . I have to use a 3 wood a lot on the course I play most – long par 4’s and even a par 6 , but only hit it well about half the time and I don’t hit a hybrid 3 as far as the hybrid 5 – go figure .

  16. Exclent advice.New to golfing

  17. I agree with what you’ve said in the video. However, the important part is for the golfer to practice lag putts before the round to get a feel for the speed of the greens on that particular day. Similarly, practice bunker shots to get a feel for how the sand is reacting, particularly if the sand is wet.

  18. Great video! I am a 22 handicap that beaks 90 1 time out of 5 rounds. I have gradually implemented most of these tips but need to cut down 3 putts and be more consistent with the 25 to 60 yard chip. Currently using gap wedge for those as my 60 degree sand wedge is difficult to control unless I have a lot of grass in the fairway. Tough to hit wedge off of dead, pressed down spotty grass fairways!

    John B

  19. Great video! All these tips but one have allowed me to consistently be under 90. My comment is not to challenge your tip but hear your opinion about my alternative to one of these. The loft on the sand wedge is high, giving it a backspin. Being just an under 90 golfer, II find that the high loft of the sand wedge, unless I have to fly over an obstacle, is not my friend, especially on elevated greens, where it comes short. so II bump and run up up the entrance of the green, with an 8 or 9 iron. iThis assures me a of a good lag putt. In fact I use chipping or punching with an 8 or 9 from about 20 yards, or even more chipping/punching, since I play with elevated green and I need the roll,. In other worlds, I’ll be happy if I par it, but the bump and run assures me to have 2 putts when I’m on the green. If I were going for under 80, perhaps using only the sand wedge is indeed the way.

    What is your thought about this?

  20. Could not disagree more about your chipping tip of using a single club. Too many variables on most courses that make using a single club much more difficult than it should be. Instead of one club, I use one swing. By that, I take the club back and through the exact same amount and vary the club I use with the distance I need to have the ball travel. I pace off the distance and the I know, based on this repeatable swing, which club to select. If I am uphill to the hole, depending on the speed and severity of the incline, I use one more club than if it was flat. Conversely, for a downhill chip, I use one less club. But in all cases I make the same swing. For me that is generally a putting type stroke, straight back and straight through to my target. The entire swing is no more than 4-5’ in total length (back and through).

  21. Ken,

    Appreciate your perspective on this topic. What would you suggest if the player has little to no time to practice?

  22. David,

    Solid post. In an ideal situation we would use multiple clubs around the green. However, most golfers have little to no time to practice and will never get comfortable with 1 club let alone 3. In my years of coaching we have found it easier for the average (90 shooter) to deloft the club vs add loft to the club. These would be the two main reasons for our suggestion. Hope that helps…appreciate you asking!

  23. Although I shoot in the 90’smost of the time, I found I was more consistent if I didn’t obsess about the score. I used to get upset if I double bogeyed which led to a triple on the next. I changed my mind set and now look to play bogey golf. My reasoning is simple bogey golf on most courses is exactly 90. If I double bogey I’m one only over and a par puts me at even. I only need a couple of pars on the par 3’s and I break 90. Secondly I don’t need to reach the green in regulation to play bogey golf so a bad shot is not a game breaker. On in 3 and 2 putts is bogey.

  24. I use a 17 deg. loft Hybrid – on the fairway, out of the rough and off the green as a lag putt, it works well.
    Using a Sandy Andy in bunkers and found it works very well regardless of sand type.
    As an 80 year old, vertical line swing works well and eases the back tremendously
    Thanks for your daily instruction.

  25. For chipping, I always use my 9 iron or my 8 iron, depending on the lie on the hole. I have a set of Cleveland hybrids that I am shooting pretty good with. I always have a set of Cobra S-2 Max that I have been using for about 10 years. They are still doing my game good. I shoot in the mid to high 80’s.

  26. After 50 years of struggling to hit irons – any irons! – I have given up and now have 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9 HYBRIDS. I have always been WAY more comfortable hitting hybrids, fairway woods and drivers, so why not play to my strength. I Just got the 7 and 9 so haven’t yet proven how much they will help, but they cannot hurt! I’m not sure I can “advertise” here, but I found a company, Thomas Golf, that makes hybrids all the way to PW, very reasonably priced. We shall see.

  27. This advice is as accurate as we’d all like our approach shots to be. I don’t carry a 3 iron in my bag. I use my sand wedge around the green because it’s soft sole means I’m not chunking. But if I’m short of the green on the fairway I’ll bump and run with 8 iron. Course management is really key. Laying up then hitting on with shots I can hit is always more successful than Hail Mary shots. Important point though, especially around and on the green, is to commit to the shot. 1/4 swing, 1/2 swing, whatever, lack of commitment (speed and follow thru) generally always puts an extra strike on the scorecard. Thanks, Todd! Fairways & Greens!

  28. Mike,

    Thanks for the solid post and adding to the conversation. You list good concepts. Not sure if you have seen my latest book

  29. Ray,

    We are making progress, good for you! If you like our video content, you would really enjoy my latest book as it lays out the entire system

  30. I find another thing that helps is the mental approach to scoring and playing the course. If you are trying to get to 90, then you have 18 shots over par to reach your goal. So if you are playing a par 5 go into it thinking I’m playing a par 6. What do I need to make 6 on this hole? This way you will keep your head up when you bogey as it is a “par” for what you are trying to score and if you do actually par the hole, you know have an extra shot to use on another hole and still make your goal. Your tips are right on and tip #1 is the most important. You have to play from the course to try and score, but if you don’t then use the tip about getting back on to the course to be safe.

  31. I’ve used the same pitching wedge for all chipping for years. The only difference will be if I have to pitch it more to carry over rough or hazard.

  32. The PW is a great club for many shots. It sounds like you are on the right track…keep up the great work.

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