You might have asked: “How can I lower my 20 handicap?”
While a 20 handicap isn’t bad, chances are you want to keep improving and get closer to the 80s or even high 70s.
Continue reading to learn 15 strategies that will help you become a handicap of 10 or less. Soon enough, you’ll be shooting in the 70s and winning every time you tee it up with your golf buddies.
How to go from a 20 Handicap down to a 10 Handicap
First of all, congratulations on your determination to play at a single digit handicap. Many golfers stay at the low 90s score for their entire lives.
According to Golfweek, “The average male golfer has a handicap of 16.1, while the average female has a handicap of 28.9.” While some other golf websites have the average male handicap higher than 16.1 and others slightly lower. But since your handicap takes your 10 best scores, your score is closer to 90 than mid 80s if you’re “average.”
Your handicap in golf can be compared to your first workout. It’s easy to see gains in the beginning but eventually you will hit a plateau. During this period, people have to decide whether to stay or continue to improve their skills.
These are the top tips to help break through the plateau, and get to the 70s or lower 80s.
1. Check Your Shafts
Before getting into the technical tips to become a 10 handicap, let’s start with your equipment. You likely have the right equipment for your swing. I recommend you look at the shaft as well as the clubhead.
Many golfers spend their time worrying about buying new equipment. Single-digit and scratch golfers, however, are just as concerned about their shafts. A shaft that matches your swing is crucial for improving your game of golf. This is especially important if your swing is aggressive. Stock shafts are usually very lightweight and have a lot more flexibility than most.
Your distance will be affected if your club has too much flex or is too light, particularly if it’s a driver. This will reduce your overall distance off the tee and negatively impact your other game skills.
While you don’t need an expensive custom fitting (yet) at this level, I would suggest checking the driver shaft above all else. You need to make sure the driver shaft fits your swing speed, as this club sets you up for most par 4s and 5s. Plus, a lot of drivers are adjustable so it’s a pretty easy fix compared to hosels that need a club fitter to replace.
If you get the driver shaft right, make sure you’ve made the right decision on steel vs graphite iron shafts.
It ensures that your ball travels the longest distance possible by optimizing your spin rate. This will allow for shorter approach shots. You’ll be able to hit the hole closer statistically (and make more putts).
2. Focus on Three Clubs for Practice
To start shooting in the 80s you should stop practicing like “most golfers.” If you go to the driving range on any given day, chances are you’ll see a few things that most players have in common:
- Skipping short game
- Aiming at a goal is not an option
- Working on technical swing adjustments
- Only hitting woods, and no mid- or long irons
- Do not perform a routine or analyze each shot.
But since you’re the type of player who wants to improve and break through your plateau, you know that you need to do something different. I recommend that you practice with three clubs for approximately 70-80% of your practice time. These clubs include your driver, SW/LW, and putter.
Your driver is a top-3 club, because it sets you up for the most holes. It’s vital to create a consistent driver swing off the tee, find a shot shape you love, and find your “go to” shot.
Your LW or sand wedge is important because it’s there to save you when you do miss the green. You will hit half the greens for a 10-20 handicap. The average greens on the PGA Tour is around 65%.
This means that you will need a reliable club to get it up and over the greens. Your wedge will allow you to hit it closer from shorter distances, and give you a lot of chances at birdies.
Your putter is essential as 40-50% (or higher) of all shots occur in a round using the flat stick. For fast improvement, practice with these three clubs more often than your hybrids, irons, and woods.
3. Spend some time at the Beach
If you read our breaking 80 article, you know that it’s important to learn how to get out of the sand in one shot. But I think it’s just as important for getting to a 10 handicap too. You don’t need to have more than one stand shot to break 80. However, you will need at least one shot to achieve your goal.
If you see your ball dive into the bunker on your approach and your heart skips a beat, it’s time to overcome your fear of the sand. You won’t be able to play your best golf if you walk into a bunker filled with worry, fear, and doubt.
So, what’s the best tip? Let’s listen to Greg “the Shark” Norman.
Greg Norman said this about bunker practice, “Spend two hours in a bunker. Two hours is all it takes to raise yourself out of the fear-and-doubt group (about 90 percent of all golfers) to the point where you can play from sand with confidence.”
Sometimes all you need is to face your fears head-on. It is better to just bury your head in the sand than to neglect bunker practice. You can try out many things and find the best ones by spending time there.
You can experiment with different wedges, tempos, ball positions, and many other things. Don’t judge each shot but instead, learn from it.
Here are three things to focus on:
- You can use bounce to make friends.
- Practice swinging only on sand, and then focus on the sand leaving your bunker.
- Choose a spot to the left of the ball and place your focus there. This will help you hit the sand first. The sand is what carries the ball out the bunker so if you focus on that, it will make it easier to hit it close enough to the green and thin it.
Hopefully, after a long practice session you will feel confident that you can pull it off in one shot. Want more tips on sand shots and tricks? Find out more about greenside bunkers in our guide.
4. Start Speed Training to Increase Distance
To start shaving strokes from your game, you can hit it farther off the tee. While some critics will say “distance isn’t everything” the statistics usually tell a different story.
Think about it. Would you rather hit a 3-wood off a tee and get 175 yards to the green? You could also hit the driver for 140-150 yards or less to the green. Even if it’s in the rough, I’ll take the shorter distance all day long.
Because let’s face it, laying back with a 3-wood or hybrid to “find the fairway” isn’t a guarantee either. You can still miss the fairway and then you’re way back, in the rough, and have a difficult second shot. This could lead to a double or worse bogey.
By hitting your driver more in practice and increasing distance, you’ll make the game much easier. Speed training is the fastest way to increase your distance.
Speed training has become popular since mid-2020 thanks to Bryson DeChambeau’s rigorous training schedule. He also gained tons of muscle through his crazy diet and exercise routine. Luckily, you don’t need to drink eight protein shakes a day like him to hit it longer off the tee.
Instead, use speed training tools like SuperSpeed golf. This system has been a huge success for many golfers worldwide (including us here at Left Rough). In fact, they’re used by over 700 Tour pros so you know they work great.
If you don’t want to invest in another training aid, you can always just do “speed sessions.” After warming up, set your intention for one thing in practice: Distance. Focus on hitting every club as long as you can with each club in your bag. WithoutBe sure to be accurate
This will help you increase ball speed, even if you don’t always hit the ball straight. This is how you can increase your driving distance while getting used to swinging faster.
If you can use a speed system and speed sessions together, you’ll be hitting it longer even sooner. Remember, accuracy isn’t as important as you think – it’s about getting the ball in the hole in the fewest shots possible. Distance will help you achieve this!
5. Quit Worrying About the Trees
Whether you’re a scratch golfer or a 30 handicap, you will find yourself in some tricky situations on the course. If your drive ends up in trees, I urge that you quit playing hero golf.
You know what I’m talking about… you find your ball and have “a window” of opportunity if you hit the perfect shot. Imagine a Tiger-like punch shot, which hits the green before it goes through the trees and rolls up to the green.
It sounds good in theory and is fun to daydream about but it’s probably a 1/100 shot. One of the reasons so many golfers plateau is that they make too many double bogeys by trying to play “hero golf.” Sure, it’s a cool shot if you pull it off, but the odds are against you.
Instead, use your willpower to hit the best percentage shot and get your ball back in play. This will stop double bogeys and other bad shots that can kill your score and ruin your momentum.
Remember, a birdie is not the end. You can have 10 per round to reach your goal. Hit the safe recovery shot and get your ball back in play when you’re out of position so you don’t compound the mistake. I bet you will save par more often than you think and a bogey won’t derail your round.
6. Record Your Swing (and a short video)
The more you know your game the more you can play consistently.
If you go to the driving range frequently, chances are you don’t see a ton of players recording their swing. Instead, most golfers go off “feel” and how the ball reacts to each swing. This isn’t the most effective way to practice and why we encourage golfers to record their swing.
Recording your swing will give you more insight into your swing. Too many golfers try to craft “the perfect swing” when in reality, you need to swing your swing. You can do this by regularly taking videos of your swing.
You can spot potential tendencies and have something to fall back upon when you’re in a slump by having a library. To fix any problems, you can look back at your previous swing and compare it to your current one. While you don’t need to record every swing during every practice, doing it once a week or month can make a big difference in your game.
Additionally, don’t just record your full swing either. You should also record your short game, putting stroke, and even your whole swing.
Are you unsure how to properly record your swing? Our complete guide will show you how to properly record your swing. Here.
7. Practice your Pre-Shot Routine
We talk about the Left Rough. Pre-shot routine a lot.
Because it can have a huge impact on your mental game, and ability to hit shots well under pressure. It’s one of the few traits that is common among all elite players, both professional and amateurs (even if everyone has their own unique routine).
But if you’re still shooting in the 90s, chances are you aren’t practicing your routine. You can’t expect it to show up and work for you if you don’t put in the effort on the practice tee.
I challenge all of you to spend at least one day on the range for your pre-shot routine. This will help you dial in your routine to make it automatic on the green.
Think of these things:
- Your target.
- Total time over the ball.
- How many waggles do you take?
- The number of deep breaths you take.
- Your eyes should be focused on the ball.
- How many steps do you need to go from behind the golf ball to the green?
There is no “one right way” with your routine either. It’s about testing out different parts of the routine to see what will help you get in your comfort zone over the ball.
One thing I will add, is that speeding up your daily routine is often a great idea. A study of European Tour players revealed that those who pulled the trigger faster performed better.
This is even more true for everyday golfers. For 15 to 20 seconds, you can allow more negative thoughts, worries, and doubts to creep in. It slows down the pace of play.
Instead, practice your routine so that it’s less than 15 seconds from the moment you start walking to the golf ball. I bet you’ll find it has an impressive effect on your confidence and also speeds up pace of play.
8. Reset Expectations to Lower your Handicap
One of the biggest mistakes golfers make is believing they need to hit the ball farther and longer than they actually need. Here’s what I mean… when you watch golf on TV (specifically the PGA or LIV Golf), you likely see three things:
- Bombed drives over 350 yards
- Wedge shots and tight iron are a good idea.
- Putts are made from any distance, even long range.
In reality, you’re only seeing the highlights reel that makes for the best TV. You aren’t seeing the average drives, the missed fairways, the okay approach shots, and consistent 2-putts.
These stats might surprise you about the 2021 season of the PGA Tour.
- Average driving distance = 296 yards
- Driving accuracy = 60.69%
- Greens in regulation = 65.14%
- Putts per round = 29.01
- 8-Foot Putter = 52.94% make rate
Don’t get me wrong these aren’t “bad” by any means, it’s just not what you see on TV most of the time. Remember, they show the best shots so that you will stay tuned in to the coverage and so you’re more likely to watch the ads on TV.
My point is, you don’t need to hit every fairway, every green, and make every putt. If the best players in the world can’t, you shouldn’t have the expectation to do so either.
Instead, these statistics can be used to reset your expectations and help you improve your game. This will help you relax, not get as frustrated with “normal” shots, and likely free up your swing/putting.
9. Create a consistent putting routine
A tip from our Breaking 90 articles was learning how to read greens. I’d like to expand on that and say not only do you need a consistent green reading routine, but a putting routine too.
A putting program will help you gain confidence with the golf club, much like your full-shot routine. Many mid-handicap golfers have a full shot routine, but neglect putting. This is a big mistake that can lead to a lot more doubt, indecision, as well as three putts.
Just like a full shot routine, you want to have a routine that is efficient, doesn’t give you much time to worry, and gives you confidence! If you don’t have a putting routine yet, try out some of these things on the putting green.
- Cameron Smith’s no-practice strokes are a good example.
- You can try different breathing techniques by taking a deep breath right before you hit the ball.
- Make your putting strokes from behind the ball, looking at the hole (so you’re perpendicular to the cup). Next, try putting strokes near the ball to see which ones work well.
There is no one way to do this, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Once you find a routine that gives you confidence, practice on the putting green so it’s automatic on the golf course (just like your full routine).
10. Add golf workouts to your routine
If you’re on the quest to become a 10 or lower handicap, you need your body to hold up through the reps of practice and playing golf. Regular practice is the best way. Golf workouts
While you don’t need to work out twice per day or go as hard as Bryson in the gym, working out can help so many aspects. Regular weight training is a great way to:
- Add power
- Better form
- Increase endurance
- There is a lower chance of injury
- Keep you engaged in the game for longer
There are many mental and physical benefits to working out. Make it a habit to exercise so you can play the games you love longer, at higher levels, and in better form.
11. Practice putting from two distances
As I said earlier, putting can be just as important as your golf swing. However, putting on the practice course must be done with care and at two distances. 3-6 to 30 feet.
You might be wondering, “What about mid-range putts?”
I think it’s a waste of time and won’t help you in the quest to a low handicap. Think about it, If you’re putting from 12-20 feet, it’s because you hit a bad chip shot or hit a great approach shot.
If you’re leaving yourself those types of putts, you need to work on distance control with wedges, not putting. You can be proud of your approach shots at this range. But just remember the best guys in the world don’t make a lot from that range either.
I’ve even read in Golf Digest and Golf Magazine that said you should work on mid-length putts too. But if the average PGA Tour player doesn’t make many from mid-range, why should you expect too?
Instead, work on short putts so you’re clutch from close range. Even if you have a poor day with the ball, your putting can save your day.
It is also a good idea to practice putting from 30-40 feet to learn how to control distance. This will allow you to dial in distance control, so that your first putt is closer and you have a shorter putt.
12. Get over bad shots quickly
As you can see from the PGA Tour statistics, even the best golfers can make mistakes. If you really think about it, it’s funny that so many amateur golfers get mad when they hit bad shots (even in practice rounds).
As Tiger Woods said, “I’ve been in some seriously bad places playing golf and it’s just part of the game. You’re going to hit bad shots, you’re going to be in bad spots and each course, when you learn it, you learn where not to go.”
Whether you end up in a fairway bunker, behind the trees on a few holes, or something else, it’s part of the game. By resetting your expectations hopefully you don’t get as mad and let one bad shot ruin the entire hole.
Instead, accept a bad shot and move on. Learn how to bounce back in Golf.
13. Tee Box Strategy
You can also lower your handicap by using a great preshot strategy. Even if you don’t make solid contact, better golfers know that you need to avoid making mistakes off the tee.
You will score higher if you hit the tee better. This will allow you to have a better shot on the green. While I’m confident the tips above will help your game, make sure to read more about Here is the teebox strategy.
14. To find your distances, you can use a Launch Monitor
Your greens will be more regulation-friendly if you choose the right club. But if you don’t know your distances for each club, it’s nearly impossible to swing with confidence on the golf course.
Low handicap golfers are able to determine their distances.
Click here to check out our favorite launch monitors to make each practice session more effective.
15. Practice with Intention
You should also have a plan for how you want practice each time you go to the driving course. This will make sure you aren’t wasting time on the range and using every second to get a little closer to your golf goals.
Here’s how I like to schedule my sessions for an efficient hour on the driving range:
- Warm up for 10 mins to loosen my body.
- Technical practice for 10 mins with drills and training aids. I like to set a goal for this part of my session like ” Improve face angle at impact” or “Shallow the golf club.”
- Tee box shots take 25 minutes. I try to think of the course I’ll play next and hit the shots I’ll need off the tee.
- Wedges for 10 Minutes I will use short wedges and all kinds of shots to be able to hit more greens from close range. The main objective is to control distance, and test different flights of golf balls.
- Pre-shot routine. Once I’ve worked on my full swing, I’ll dial in my routine for 5-10 minutes.
FAQs to Improve Your Game of Golf
Do you have questions about single digit handicaps and how to get there? We can help you get lower scores faster if you have more questions.
Is a handicap of 20 considered high?
According to the USGA, 20 is slightly higher than the “average” golfer. But I think in general, it’s about average. It is expected that a 20 handicap golfer can break 100 rounds, and even shoot in the 80s during a great round.
What is a respectable handicap in golf?
As a junior golfer, I can remember playing with my uncle, dad, and grandpa. I was trying my best to lower my handicap, and I shot a 90 on one round. It was my best score and I was thrilled with the results.
I can still recall my grandpa saying, “When you shoot 90, you can play with anyone and not slow them down.” That means, even if I played alongside a scratch golfer I would only average one extra shot per hole (72 + 18 =90).
So I think if you’re shooting in the low 90s or high 80s, that’s considered “respectable” but it will differ from player to player. As a scratch golfer, I have no problem playing with someone who shoots these scores as it won’t interfere with my round and we can still bet too thanks to handicapping.
Is a 20 handicap good enough for a golfer
Each person’s handicap level is different. Age, experience and health are all factors.
Set a goal to be the best version of yourself.
I’m confident that these tips on course management, short game, and others will improve your average score fast. Remember that plateaus are part of the game after a short period.
To get new results on the course, it is important to mix up your routines on the driving range. Quit wasting time with long irons, or other shots that you don’t hit often and focus on the big three clubs.
Don’t neglect the practice green too as putting is just as important as ball striking!