Now that you’ve mastered all the prerequisites for breaking 100, 90 and 80 – working from the green backwards – you might be wondering: what is it that I have to do to break 70?
Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. PGA Professional Rob Labritz is a guy who breaks 70 often. The key, he says, is putting in an immense amount of time at your game, honing all those skills it took to break those other milestone scores.
“It might not be as simple as it sounds, but you have to eliminate every mistake you might typically make,” Labritz said. “A perfect round – in golf terms – would mean you hit every fairway, hit every green and take two putts. Eighteen pars. On most courses, that’s a 72. With that mindset, now you have to figure out where you can attack the course to break 70.”
It’s not as simple as walking to the first tee and sticking the peg in the ground. Just like anything else you desire to be great at, it requires some homework. For Labritz, that means studying the golf course and examining the scorecard.
“Here’s what you do to break 70,” Labritz said, “it starts with birdieing all of the par 5s. The par 5s are giving you an extra shot. If you’re an above average driver, birdieing all the par 5s is a must. See how long the par 5s are and ask yourself: can I reach the green in two? If the answer is ‘no’ then ask yourself: where do I have to positon myself to have the most comfortable wedge shot possible to get close in three?”
With the birdie mindset on the par 5s, Labritz said you have to shift to a par mindset for the par 3s. With ball in hand (on the tee), Labritz said, you should be able to do that.
Now, here comes the wildcard: The par 4s.
“The par 4s are funky,” Labritz said. “You birdie the par 5s, par the par 3s and then you pick your spots on the par 4s. Some you can attack. You have to approach it like this – if you have a wedge in your hand on a par 4, it’s a birdie club. You should get it close. When you break down the par 4s, see where you can attack with the driver. Then there are holes you won’t hit driver on. In those spots, put yourself in the most comfortable positon off the tee for your scoring shots. Pick a number you feel most comfortable with and make sure you’re setting yourself up with those clubs.”
If you’re breaking 70, Labritz explained, it’s because you’re managing your game around the course.
“It’s about breaking down the course to suit your game to where you feel comfortable,” he said. “You also have to know where not to hit shots. There are no-zones where you definitely don’t want to be in those areas because making par is a hard ask. Stay away from OB and the hazards. If you’re hitting in those spots you need to make a lot of birdies. And, it probably goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – you’re going to need to make a lot of putts.”
If you’re like most people, chances are you freak out a little bit when you’re on the cusp of breaking a “milestone score.” You know the feeling. You’re standing on the 18th tee, sniffing the round of your life. Suddenly, your palms get sweaty, you start thinking ahead, you leave “the moment” and 10 minutes later you’re bummed out because of a disaster finish when you were oh-so-close.
Labritz has a sure-fire plan to get you comfortable with shooting low scores.
“When you’re practicing, play a bunch of rounds from the forward tees, and for women, play from where the fairway starts,” he said. “Instead of playing from your normal 7,000 yards for men, get in the 5,800-yard range. And less than that for women. Two things will happen here. One, you won’t be hoping to shoot a low score – you’ll expect to shoot a low score. And two, you’re going to get a lot of work on your scoring clubs. You get a sense of playing pretty far under par and how to score. See how low you can shoot. Several rounds under par later following this advice, you’re going to build a confidence when it’s time to move back.”
That, Labritz said, is how he got comfortable shooting low scores – something he had to get comfortable with if he was to have any success on the mini-tours he was playing, where guys were shooting 7- or 8-under par every day.
“Doing that helped me a bunch,” he said. “People can freak out. We get diluted and think about the future too much. When you’re a better player, your score correlates with your preparation, of course, but also your mindset and attitude.”
Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008 and 2013, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz.