What It Takes To Get To A Single Digit Handicap

What It Takes To Get To A Single Digit Handicap

According to the USGA, the average handicap of a golfer of those who have established handicaps is 15, which equates to roughly a bogey golfer.   Only one percent of golfers who have an official handicap index are single digit (below 10) or lower.  I have been on a multi-year long quest to find out what it takes to get into the rarified air of the 1% club.


The Magic Dozen Tips, Hints, and Drills

I have identified twelve important areas that any single-digit handicap golfer knows, and possesses.  It stands to reason that these are the areas that anyone wanting  to get their game to that level must possess, or at least know.

Over the next few months, I’ll be digging into each of these in-depth.  They will eventually be packaged into an e-book that will be available on Amazon.  That e-book will have more in-depth information, drills, diagrams, all in one place.  So be on the lookout!


My Starting Point

As those who know me and know my game can attest, for most of my adult golfing career ,I have been right in the sweet spot of that USGA average.  My handicap usually gets to around 11-12 by the end of the season.  Then in spring, when I start playing again, it takes a while to shake off the rust, and it jumps up to around 14-15, and slowly improves throughout the summer.  And the cycle repeats.

But, like many of you, I have enough rounds that prove to me I have enough game to get into single digits.  Breaking 80 isn’t a rarefied occurrence–I have usually done that a half dozen or so times per summer.  Although I didn’t “break” 80, I shot 80 last July at Kingsbarns in Scotland, a not insignificant achievement.  

In order to drop from a 12 handicap to a 9 handicap, a player needs to shave about 4-5 strokes, on average, from a typical round (I know you would think “shouldn’t it be 3?” but the handicap index doesn’t work quite on one-for-one basis).

Rather than be intimidated by wondering how I would be able to improve by 5 strokes a round, I broke it down.

Find Two Strokes Every Nine Holes

Once I decided to break it down, I made it a goal to just find a shot here and there.  A couple of lag putts that get closer.  A couple of chips shots that get closer.  A couple of drives in the fairway rather than in the rough (or behind a tree, or in a fairway bunker, or OB, or…you get the idea).

And that leads us to Guiding Principle #1:

Guiding Principle #1: Eat The Elephant One Stroke At A Time

Find a way to improve one stroke–just one–every nine holes.  It could be one of the following:

  • Stop and think an extra five seconds on the tee box before deciding which club to use
  • Take an extra club on any par-3 with water in front
  • Have, as your number one priority, getting your tee shot in the fairway, even if it means being further away from the hole
  • Taking an extra look from a putt from both sides of the hole to feel (more) confident about the line and speed

There are many more examples, and what works for you, only you know.  But the next time you prepare to play, spend five minutes and develop a game plan for how you want to strategize your round.  Find one stroke per nine holes.  That turns the 90, average bogey golf score into an 88.  

And that turns that 15 handicap that the 90-shooter started with into something around 13.  

And I KNOW!  A lot depends on the course rating and course slope.  Shooting an 88 at your local municipal course isn’t the same as shooting an 88 at Augusta National.  But this isn’t an article explaining course and slope ratings.  

The bottom line:  Find one stroke, somehow, every nine holes.  Lower your average score two strokes per round by altering your strategy, thinking a little more on tee shots, swinging easier with an extra club, staying out of trouble a little more.  Just one shot every nine holes.  

You can do that.


Stay Tuned For The Next Guiding Principle: Putting

Thanks for reading, and enjoy Shooting Your Age!

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