JOHN DUNNIGAN ON GOLF: Tried and true golf formula for breaking 90

Last week, we talked about the formula for breaking 100. So lets talk about how to break 90 this week. If you break 90, you’re better than most golfers who play the game. I like the sound of that! The fact is that if more golfers would play the game in a strategically sound manner, the national average score would lower immediately. But they don’t…

Recall our discussion from last week: put yourself in position to always hit the green in 1+Regulation, and pitch and putt respectably, you’re in the hunt! I’m not going to rehash that discussion here, but I hope you get the point. Keep your drives in play and strike your first approach shots solidly to a good position from which to pitch, and you’re on your way. Here’s the additional info needed to break 90.

Red, Green and Yellow

Here’s a par three hole from last week’s PGA Tour stop. Water all the way to the green and bunkers right, left and long. Easy hole! My first point is you MUST know your carry distances with your approach clubs. Many of my own students recall that their 7 iron goes 160, understandably, because they had 160 to the hole many times, and their 7 iron ended up hole high. What they don’t fully realize is that the ball actually flew about 150 and then bounced and rolled out to 160. You REALLY need to know how far you carry the ball so you can avoid trouble in front of or behind the green.

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This green has many different hole locations that will vary from day to day. Some of these hole locations are green light locations—hit your shot right at the flag. Some are yellow. Some are red. It’s important to recognize which and plan accordingly. The red light hole locations are “sucker pins.” The golf course designer is daring you—a double-dog-dare, that is, to go for that pin. If you miss to the wrong side of either red hole, you will be faced with a “short sided” bunker shot—you have very little room to land the ball, making it very difficult to get the ball close to the hole. Yellow hole locations give you more room for error, but you still have to carry the ball the right distance. Green hole locations mean “attack!”

My preferred par 3 strategy is to ALWAYS hit to the center of the green, 2 putt, and get out of there. Even among the best players in the world, if you make pars on the par 3’s, you are beating the field. Indeed, pros play the par 5’s well under par, the par 4’s under par, and the par 3’s a little over par on average, so hit the center of the green regardless of the hole location like Jason Day—the tour leader in par 3 scoring average, and you are ahead of the game. When faced with a red hole, try to hit the ball toward the yellow location-between the center of the green and the red hole. When faced with a yellow, try to hit the ball between the green and yellow flags. And when faced with a green, go get it!

There’s more. When playing your approach to the green from farther away, where you can’t reach the green. Let’s say we don’t have water fronting the green. Lay up to the side of the green to give yourself the best chance to pitch the ball close. So, when faced with the left red hole for instance, lay up to the right of the green center. This strategy turns the left hole location into more of a yellow or even green, depending upon your angle. On the same hole location, laying up to the left side of the green, toward the hole, will give you a very difficult pitch over a bunker, which increases your chances of making an error.

So there you go. We just went from breaking 100 to breaking 90 in 2 weeks! Get to work!

Hit ‘em great!

John Dunigan is a PGA Master Professional and Director of Instruction at White Manor Country Club in Malvern where he runs the John Dunigan Golf Academy. An expert in Junior Golf, John received the prestigious PGA Philadelphia Section Junior Golf Leader Award for 2012, and was named Philadelphia Section Teacher of the Year in 2008.He lives in Kennett Square.