Just Make a "5"
Doug Hammer

Scottsdale, AZ (Sports Network) -- This article is specifically intended for all of you golfers out there striving to break 90 on a consistent basis. I am sorry that I have to eliminate all you lower handicappers, but you already have what so many of the world's golfers want - a low score every time they venture forth. In reality I am speaking to the majority of the golfers in the world, as nearly 90% of them fail to break 90 on a regular basis. Hopefully, after reading this, we will see that percentage drop a bit...if not in one fell immediate swoop, then certainly little by little and stroke by stroke.

Breaking 90 can seem like a stretch at times and, at other times, you can count at least 5 shots that you "left out there" en route to your 91 or higher. But then, a couple of times per year, the golf gods will smile down upon you and reward you with an 88, only to toy with you the next time out on the links by serving up a disastrous and unwelcome 99. Breaking 90 consistently can be as simple as changing your expectations on the golf course. We assign par to a hole to give you a goal and guideline for playing that particular hole. Sometimes this number can cause more harm than good. If you think about it mathematically, eighteen 5's total 90. So why not try to make eighteen 5's instead of ten 4's, four 3's, and four 5's like the scorecard says you need to? Sounds simple right? It is..more than you realize.

Let's explore how easy it can be to make a 5 on every hole. Take an average Par 4 with a length of 380 yards. Most of us would take out the driver and fire away trying to get as close to the green as possible. Instead, say you hit your 6 iron 165 yards. Why not take two 6-irons, which, if struck well, will get you around 50 yards from the green. On that 50 yard shot, instead of aiming at that back right pin that is tucked behind a bunker, just hit to the center of the green and take your chances with the putter in your hands. Believe me, a lot less can go wrong with the putter than by trying to tuck that 50-yard shot into a tight pin.

Rory Sabbatini
Even the best golfers struggle, as evident of Rory Sabbatini, who finished at +12 in last year's US Open.

You can take that approach on any par 4. Just figure out what yardage you think you can hit the green from on a regular basis for your third shot. Subtract that distance from the total yardage of the hole. Now divide the remaining distance by 2 and hit whatever club fits your game. You can be more or less aggressive depending on how you are striking the ball that day or by whether that yardage fits your favorite clubs or not.

You can even take the same approach on all par 5's. Typically, par 5's are a bit wider off the tee, so maybe this is the chance to try the driver or 3 wood to advance the ball. If you choose to hit a wood, aim for a friendly target and make a friendly swing. Don't kill It!! From wherever your wood ends up, play the rest of the hole as you would a Par 4. If you don't feel like hitting a wood, hit three 5 irons or three 6 irons to get you into that range for your 4th shot.

Par 3's are now your chance to be aggressive and, maybe, put a 3 or 4 on the card. But just know that it is okay to make 5 as long as you are sticking to the plan on the par 4's and par 5's. Let's take a 175 yard par 3. Maybe that is a good 5 iron for you. Go ahead and take a shot at the green, but aim for the center, not the pin (despite what Kenny Mayne says in the Top Flite commercial). If you hit the green, great and nice shot! If you do not hit the green, you have 2 more chances to get on the green and 2 putts to give to make a 5. That doesn't seem too hard now does it? Whereas, if you fired for that front pin that is just over the water and you came up short and now have to hit a pitch from the drop area and are trying to save par...good luck. Take plenty of club and get that shot from the drop area on the green and try to 2 putt.

Essentially, all I am saying is be smart and play the course, don't let the course play you. I have students that average around an 87 or 88 and only put 2 or 3 pars on the scorecard. But they NEVER put any 6's or 7's on the card. That, in my opinion, is the key to breaking 90 on a regular basis. All you would need to work on at the range would be that crucial wedge shot into the green and your putting. Those are easy and hardly take much effort; it is just a matter of ignoring the driver and practicing smarter.

PGA professional, Doug Hammer, is the Director of Instruction for Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ. Doug has been with Troon Golf since 1998, teaching full time since 2001. Doug has studied under some of the game's greatest teachers in Tim Mahoney, Hank Haney, and Mike and Sandy LaBauve. Since 2001, Doug has taught in 10 U.S. states and a short stint in Japan. With this experience, he brings a very patient and consistent approach to the lesson tee, and feels that he can help all levels of players reach their goals.

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