How to Break 80 in Golf: Beat the Odds Using My Favorite Tips

man learning how to break 80

Erik Schjolberg

By Coach Erik Schjolberg – Feb 23, 2024

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Key Takeaways – The Road to Breaking 80 in Golf

  • To break 80, you have to be a much more detail-oriented person; every shot starts to matter
  • The short game is where you will save all of your strokes; if you want to learn to save par, the short game is where it will happen
  • The mental game becomes increasingly important as you move into shooting in the 70s
  • Be prepared to spend a little time on the range as it takes work to become a lower handicap player

If you ask almost any average golfer what their golf goals are this year, a good majority will say they want to break 80. Breaking 80 is a big deal in golf, and it is usually the unofficial sign of being a great golfer.

Some players will go their entire life without knowing how to break 80, but if you have some consistent performance on the golf course and can make solid contact with the golf ball, you have a chance to break 80.

I’m going to show you some of my best tips for golfers to be able to limit the bad shots and start making great progress at learning how to break 80.


How To Break 80 in Golf

Breaking 80 in golf is a big accomplishment.

When you start breaking 90 in golf, a good portion of the holes you play will still result in a bogey. However, once you are a high 70’s shooter, you will have more pars than anything else on your scorecard. In addition, you may still hit a bad shot here and there, but it will require some type of recovery later on in the round.

golf themed tombstones

Let’s look at how to break 80 in golf; these tips and best practices have been what I have used to consistently break 80 and become a much better player. 

Learning To Shape The Tee Shot

People that love golf like to pretend that the drive is not nearly as important as the chipping and putting. Although I agree, to an extent, I can tell you that my best rounds are those in which I have plenty of confidence when standing on the tee box.

If my tee shots end up in the fairway, I’m on a path to making a birdie.

golf ball directions of fade, straight and draw

For golfers that are ready to start breaking 80, you need to go beyond just hitting a straight golf ball, and also learn how to shape a tee shot. You should know how to hit a fade or a draw with your driver to ensure that you have options regardless of the way the hole lines up.

Knowing Your Yardages

Whether you are playing your own golf course or away, you have to have some kind of distance measuring device.

I love to pace off yardages from time to time, and I was great at it for many years, but at this point, it’s just costing you performance. You must know your yardage to be accurate enough to break 80 in golf.

I like a rangefinder for the golfer that is looking to break 80. The rangefinder gives an exact distance to the pin and makes it incredibly easy to pick a club and be confident about it.

man on driving range practicing with buckets of balls

However, it is also essential with yardage to understand how far you hit each shot. If you hit your 7 iron 150 yards, that’s great to know for an average golf game. However, if you want to be a really strong player, you must know how far you CARRY each of your clubs.

The 150-yard total is essential, but if you are trying to clear a water hazard or a bunker, knowing that you can one shot the ball 145 yards is even more important.

Planning To Attack A Pin

When working to break 80 in golf, you must be thinking more about how to attack the pin than to just land the ball on the green. Of course, you will need a go-to shot for getting the ball in the middle of the green, but many golfers realize that to break 80, you need a few birdies.

When reading about how to break 80, golf professionals will tell you that making just one birdie on the front and the back can really change your entire round.

If you know how to attack a pin or can get the ball within 10 feet, your birdie chances are considerably higher.

yellow pin with golf balls all around it

When setting up to hit your approach shot to the green, take a close look at the way it slopes and the trouble surrounding the hole. Plan on shots that give you the greatest chance of success. I like to think about how the slope is going to impact the roll and final destination of my shots as well.

Maximizing Spin Around The Greens

To break 80, you need a lot of control on the short game shots. When you have the ability to stop the ball on the green, your chances of making a birdie or even saving a par are considerably increased.

When you shoot in the 80s and 90s, getting the ball on the green is “good enough.”

This all goes out the window when it’s time to break 80.

Now you must try and hit one shot on the green and the next one in the hole. This includes a bunker shot!

ball rolling toward the golf hole

Getting up and down takes a lot of time and practice, and you must learn how to control basic shots. I highly recommend learning how to hit down and through your chip shots, developing higher spin levels around the green, and using a premium golf ball with a higher spin rate. 

When you maximize spin around the greens, you can stop the ball even when it’s on a downhill slope. You can also give yourself a three foot putt directly up the hill to ensure the ball actually goes in the hole. The possibilities are endless when you know how to place a golf shot with a wedge.

Change Your Putting Mindset

So many average golfers, including most of your playing partners, will keep firing off lag putts just to get their ball close to the hole. Knowing your putt ends up just a few inches from falling in the hole is a great benefit, but it is not enough!

Golfers that break 80 make putts. 

Making putts lowers your score immediately, and sometimes all it takes is a mental mindset that you HAVE to make the putt as opposed to two putting.

golf ball is so close to going in the hole

Two putting helps you keep the score in the 80s; one putting gets the scores down in the 70s range.

Every time that I end up within 15 feet of the hole, I plan on making that putt. Regardless of what the putt is for, I need to ensure that it goes in the hole. If I miss, it’s a missed opportunity. Don’t miss the article I wrote full of tips for putting.

Learn To Manage and Plan

Golf course management is a vital part of playing golf. Not every golfer understands how to plan for their next shot or the way golf strategy plays into breaking 80.

Before a round of golf, you should do some planning to determine which holes are the ones that will help you make birdies and which are the ones a bogey is acceptable. A few errant shots are bound to happen, but having a good idea of how your own game is going to develop on the course is really helpful.

In addition to planning out your round, you need to have a plan of action in place for when you make a mistake on the course. Every once in a while, your golf swing will be completely off for a swing or two, and it will likely get you in some trouble.

golfer and caddy checking out the green

The key is to not turn this mistake into double bogeys and triple bogeys. Instead, you will want to have it cost you as few strokes as possible.

A perfect example of this is a drive that is hit into the heavy rough. When the ball ends up in the rough, and you take a 3 wood to try and get it out, you are setting yourself up for a bad hole. Instead, hit a solid 8 iron out of the rough, leave it short of the green, and get up and down to save par.

Think about the risk-reward scenario, learn how to read a green, and be smart.

Find The Correct Equipment

Any golfer looking to break 80 should invest a bit of money into their golf equipment.

I know it’s tough to shell out hundreds if not thousands of dollars to update clubheads, shafts, and grips in your golf clubs, but it is well worth the money when you see the impact it has on your game. So many golfers struggle to make the wrong equipment work, and it can be the difference between the 81 and 79.

numbered club heads in bag with golf balls in the background

I just recently realized there was a large loft gap in between my fairway wood and hybrid. A slight adjustment helped me have more confidence on the par 5’s and increased the number of birdie putts I was looking at.

Don’t feel the need to update your equipment every year; just be aware of your clubs that are aging and make sure the older technology is not hurting your scores. If you had to pick one club to upgrade, I’d probably start out with a good golf driver (or here for women).

Develop A Golf Practice Routine to Break 80

It’s easy to say you have a goal of breaking 80 but another to achieve it. I have always found that when it comes to shooting lower scores, putting together a golf practice plan to break 80 is the best method.

I recommend playing at least one round of golf a week, preferably two. Purchase a putting green or putting mat to practice at home. In addition, try to stop at the range for two 45 minute sessions at least twice per week.

It may be hard to learn to break 80 if you are only playing golf on Saturday morning with a quick warmup before your round. Invest a little more time and expect better results.


How to Break 80 Consistently In Golf

Now that we covered what it takes to break 80, you can start to determine what you might have to do to break 80 consistently. I can tell you that breaking 80 one time is great, but to do this on a consistent basis, you will have to put in a little bit of effort.

Here are some of my favorite tips for breaking 80 in golf consistently:
  • Hit balls at least three times a week; you will find that it creates more consistency in your swing and allows you to go lower on the course.
  • When practicing, hit approach shots; pretend you are hitting to a green or a pin and make your practice sessions more effective.
  • Make sure you have a clear head and can focus on your golf and not all the other distractions in your life.
  • Choose the correct tees; you should not have 250 yards into every par 4; that’s just not fair!
  • If you want to become a better golfer, start copying the better golfers you play with, see what they do, and why they are better than you.
  • Do anything you can to avoid the big scores; if you hit a poor shot, simply get it back in play and make a putt to save it.

FAQ – How to Break 80 Golf

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about how to break 80 golf. The fact that you are reading this guide shows you are headed in the right direction!

What percentage of golfers break 80?

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact percentage of golfers that break 80, the overwhelming majority (more than 95%) of golfers can NOT break 80. Even good players have at least one hole, or a series of holes, that they are well over par – and it creates issues with the total score being too high.

chart showing percent of golfers who can break 80

Odds of breaking 80 golf?

Your odds of breaking 80 in golf depends on how long you have been playing the game and how well you can keep the ball in play. Of course, a little luck plays into a round of golf, but all in all there is less than 5 percent of golfers that break 80.

What does it mean to break 80 in golf?

To break 80 in golf, you must shoot a 79 or lower. Lower scores less than 80 are also considered breaking 80.

Do I need to take lessons if I cant break 80?

If you are tired of being a mid-handicapper and ready to make a move toward the single digits, golf lessons can be beneficial.

instructor helping golfer with his form

Some players have an extremely difficult time learning to get their scores under 80, and it could be because of a swing flaw that a golf professional can see and fix.

Is it hard to break 80 in golf?

It is hard to break 80 in golf sometimes, as there is not much room for error. When you take a look at the score card you will see there is only room for 7 bogeys otherwise, you will not break 80.

Are you a good golfer if you break 80?

Most great golfers look at breaking 80 as a right of passage to becoming a great golfer. If you can break 80, it says a lot about your ability to score and get the ball closer to the hole. It takes hitting some great shots and managing your mindset to break 80.

How long does it take most golfers to break 80?

It takes most golfers three or more years to break 80. It really comes down to the amount of time that you can invest into perfecting your golf game. You must learn to strike the center of the clubface with quite a bit of consistency in order to shoot these lower scores.


Final Thoughts on How To Break 80 in Golf

At this point, you should feel more confident about what it is going to take to break 80. Chances are you have some areas of your game that you are already well prepared to go low and other areas that are going to require a bit of work.

Start on the weakest part of your mental game and expand from there to learn to play some great golf. I will warn you that once you start breaking 80, it will never feel great to shoot 82 again! At that point you’ll need to really focus in order to join the elite percentage of golfers that break 70.

About the Author

Erik Schjolberg

By Coach Erik Schjolberg – Last Updated Feb 23, 2024

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Coach Erik actively coaches several PGA Tour Professionals. He’s the head golf instructor and writer here at Swing Yard, was voted the “#1 Golf Coach in Scottsdale, Arizona”, and has been coaching for over 20+ years. Erik also owns and operates his own online golf school, EJS Golf Academy. His other credentials include: Active PGA Coaches Membership, Titleist TPI Level 1 and 2, Trackman Certified Level 1, Dr. Kwon’s Biomechanics Level I and II, Scott Cowx Certified Level I Advanced, BodiTrack and V1 Sports Pressure Mat Certified, Titleist Club Fitting and Ball Fitting Certified, PGA Hope, and Sportsbox AI. Check out Erik’s full bio and certifications for more info.


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