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The Skill of Breaking Par

In our previous article, NCAA Handicap, we provided data on the tournament handicaps of the #1 players at DI, DII, NAIA and Junior College. In this article, we are going to talk about the importance of the skill of breaking par including providing data on the number of rounds under par by junior golfers and ways you can build the skill of breaking par.

In the last article we reported that the best player in the country Justin Suh of USC has a handicap of between +6-+7 in tournament golf over the fall. Likewise, last year I reported that there were over 900 rounds played under par by boys in AJGAs and over 700 rounds played under par by girls. In my own experience, playing with many elite junior players including Won Jun Lee, Karl Villips and Aiden Ye, it is common for them to shoot significantly under par at their home golf courses and often shoot between -3 to -7 on their home golf course during practice. What does this mean for a junior golfer and their family reading this article? Breaking par is a skill and like any other skill should be practiced. I would strongly recommend that tournament golfers play frequently from shorter tee boxes (as close as 5400 yards) with goals of shooting lower and lower. For example, a good junior tournament golfer might have the following goals:

  • Shoot 70 or better a lot from 6800 yards
  • Shoot 68 or better from 6400 yards
  • Shoot 65 or better from 6000 yards

These numbers should be tweaked slightly depending on the junior, their skill level and tournament experience.

Investing in breaking par is an important skill for junior golfers since men’s college coaches certainly seek players who have experience breaking par in tournaments. Also, it is likely that tournament golf will be 1-4 shots harder than playing your home golf course. If earning a college scholarship requires a scoring average of 75 or better, this means that the player might need to average as little as 71 on their home golf course!

Remember that, like any skill, shooting under par is going to take time. When working on the skill, players might want to start by segmenting rounds into smaller groups, maybe groups of 3 holes. Then try and have as many 3-hole scores under par per round as possible. As the player’s skill increases, they might make the segments bigger, for example 9 holes, until the player can accomplish their goal over 18 holes.

Please also remember that whenever possible, players should be playing at least 18 holes per day. Elite golf is about continuous steady play. Shooting outstanding scores over 54 holes requires not only great technical skill but also endurance, hydration, nutrition, focus, stress management and the ability to make birdies. In the summer, when juniors don’t have any academic responsibilities, it would not be impossible to play 36 holes or more of golf per day. As players improve skills, they should not be afraid to play other golfers of a similar level in competition. It would be ideal if the competition had a consequence; the loser may have to clean the winners clubs or if appropriate for a snack after the round.

I hope this article has been helpful to junior golfers and their families. In the coming months, along with the Northern California Golf Association, we hope to produce more statistically based information to help junior golfers and their families make informed decisions. Should you have any questions about the process or ideas for topics to be covered, please do not hesitate to let us know!

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