Todd Sones: 4 ways to shoot in the 80s

By Todd Sones Photos by Fredrik Broden
June 03, 2014

Don't lie, because we know you've been thinking about it. We've been thinking about it, too. It's time. Time to jump that last hurdle, to round those bases and achieve the goal you've had your eye on for maybe a little too long. This summer, you're going to break your personal scoring barrier, whether it's 100, 90 or 80. To help you do it, we worked with Chicago-based instructor Todd Sones, one of Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers in America.

Here's his advice for shaving off those last few strokes and taking the next big step in your game.


⇒ Keep your center. High-handicappers hit it fat and thin because they sway during the swing. Practice hitting balls with your feet together. That'll force you to stay centered. If you control your center, you control the bottom of the swing—and that's solid contact.

⇒ Get a high launch. I'd bet you're coming into the ball steeply with your driver, which probably means you set up over your front foot. You want to play the ball off your front shoulder, but tilt your spine back. You'll hit up on the ball for a powerful launch.

⇒ Master the chip. Don't worry about the fancy greenside shots yet. Focus on the simple running chip. Start with the ball back and the clubshaft leaning slightly forward. From there, just rock your shoulders back and forth. To hit it higher, use the same motion with a more-lofted club.

⇒ Eyes over the ball. To make a straight-back, straight-through putting stroke, set your eyes over the ball and your hands under your shoulders.

If your putter's not custom-fit, it's likely too long. Take that setup, and see how it feels. You might need a new putter.


⇒ Drive your legs. Golfers at your level usually try to hit the ball hard from the top, which leads to an out-to-in slice path. Start down by bumping your hips toward the target. You'll keep your head back and your arms will swing from in to out.

⇒ Let the club swing. You've been told so often not to decelerate in putting that you probably over-compensate. Well, you might be able to jam the ball in on short putts, but on longer ones, take a bigger backstroke and let gravity help accelerate the putt-erhead through.

⇒ Pivot on pitches. Players shooting in the 90s often end up 20 or 30 yards from the green after their approaches. To hit these pitch shots well, keep your stance narrow and your lower body quiet. Just pivot your upper body back and through.

⇒ Smash your irons. As irons get longer, a lot of golfers start addressing them like a driver: ball up, head back. But because you're hitting off the turf, you have to get over the ball and hit down on it. Set up so your shoulders feel level and your weight is about 50-50.


⇒ Have a go-to shot. As a better player, you need a shot you can rely on under pressure. Develop a knockdown. Choke down an inch or two, stand a little closer to the ball, and play it back. For the swing, remember this: To hit it low, finish low.

⇒ Pimp your driver. Checking the specs of your driver—and possibly updating them—can make a huge difference. Get on a launch monitor periodically. Make sure you're maximizing energy transfer and neutralizing your mis-hits (which are probably of one variety by now) as well as you can.

⇒ Go to the low side. Make sure to read your putts looking into the slope, as if you were reading a book that's tipped toward you. This is the best way to see the contours, so you can assess the severity of the break.

⇒ Learn to let go. All the thinking you've done about your game has put you at the brink of breaking 80. Now you've got to do one more thing: Stop thinking so much! Pick your club, clear your mind and visualize your shot going at the target. You're ready.

Todd Sones is based at White Deer Run Golf Club in Vernon Hills, Ill.