This article was inspired by Jimmy at Tiger Golf Traveler. He wrote an article about breaking 80 for the first time and his story resonated with me. So I thought I would take it one step further and outline, in my opinion, the key to breaking 80 consistently.
As most golfers understand, wedges are the key to low golf scores. Of course, hitting a solid driver and consistent iron play are very important, however, great wedge play will help ensure you break 90, 80, or even 70 consistently. But first, my story.
The first time I broke 80 was in 1989 at the Glacier Greens Golf Course in Comox, British Columbia. My first score in the 70s was a 79 with a bogey on the 18th hole. I remember it as if it was yesterday…well sort of.
I do remember the highlights of the last 3 holes and that the round was fun because of the many up and down saves I made to keep my score even. One of the better moments came late in the round when my score was sitting at 8 over (an 80 if I par out) after 15 holes. With a birdie on the 16th hole, things were looking up. The 17th hole was a 150 yard par 3. I am not sure which club I used, but I remember being short right of the green. Pulling out my pitching wedge, I took aim and made the chip. Now I sitting 6 over and a chance to break 80 for the first time!
After a wayward tee shot and a poor recovery, I was sitting about 60 yards from the green in 2. After much deliberation, I grabbed my gap wedge and prepared to make a shot to salvage a great round. With crisp contact and one hope, I rolled the ball within in 10 feet of the pin. Feeling tremendous pressure, I was having trouble focusing on my putt. The worst part was hesitation I was feeling about lining up this relatively short putt. The last thing I wanted to do was to 3 putt for an 80!
I made a mediocre putt, but a good enough lag putt to ensure a bogey for a 79! Elated, I walked off the 18th green with my best round ever! Of course I was not focused on anything but the score, however over the years I think back and remember the most important lesson of the round. Having a great short game is key to low golf scores.
After my first time breaking 80, it was 2 years before I was breaking 80 consistently. 2 years after that, I was breaking 80 more often than not. And 2 years after that, I was breaking 80 about 90% of the time. Since 1995, I have roller coaster-ed in the 70s. Through this entire period, I have steadily improved my short game with success.
Specifically, I focused on the use of my wedges. This is not a new topic, but a reoccurring theme at The Grateful Golfer. I carry 4 wedges in my bag because these clubs provide the versatility I need to consistently break 80 and sometimes even 70. Others who I asked, have a different view of the number of wedges to carry.
Carrying 3 wedges is a great start. Likely, these respondents carry a pitching, gap and sand wedge. A good selection, but rather standard for most players. I believe that the lob wedge is an important addition to most players bag. To make that decision, something has to go. In my case, it was a 5 wood.
Honing our short game takes time and effort. As you can see from above, it was 6 years before my efforts paid off, but for almost 20 years, it was worth every minute I spent practicing with my wedges.
Thanks again go Jimmy for inspiring this article. It was a great walk down memory lane. I will ask the same question Jimmy asked: “do you remember breaking 80 for the first time?”
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!