Whether you are gearing up for your club championship or even just a friendly competition, here are some important things to keep in mind as you get ready for competition.
- Play a practice round at the tournament course if possible, especially if it’s a new course for you. You’ll get a feel for any trouble on the course, can check out hazard locations and determine clubs for yardages on the par 3s. Be sure to take notes on a spare scorecard – and make sure the notes are in your golf bag on tournament day.
- Practice with your driver and putter. It’s great to have confidence going into a competition, and the best way to maintain your confidence is to practice and feel comfortable with your driver and short game. You’re likely to use the driver 12-14 times in a round, so feeling good about your tee shot is important. Likewise, if you two-putt every green, you use your putter for 36 (plus or minus) shots of your score. Confidence in your putter is a must.
- Plan your arrival time for the day of competition. Plan to be on the first tee 10 minutes prior to your tee time. Now work your schedule back from that tee time – allow 30-45 minutes for warm-up, 10-15 minutes to check in, and your travel time to the course (take traffic into consideration). Finally, allow time to eat prior to leaving for the course.
- Use your warm-up time well. The warm-up time at the practice facility is just that – to help your body and mind warm up. This is not the time to try something new with your swing, grip, stance, etc. Many players will warm up with four or five clubs and only hit five to 10 balls with each club. Divide your practice balls into four or five piles and use one club per pile. Begin with a wedge or your shortest iron to loosen up, then hit some mid or long irons, some hybrids or fairway woods, and then finish with the driver. Some golfers like to end the warm-up session hitting the clubs they might use on the first hole in succession (i.e. driver, 7 iron, wedge, etc.) Be sure to end on a good shot — this will help you take great confidence to the first tee.
- Leave time for a short-game warm-up. On the practice putting green, begin by trying to make five to ten three-foot putts. This will help build your confidence with the short putts once you’re on the course. You should also hit a few lag putts (20 to 30 feet) to get a feel for the speed on the greens, but remember some practice greens do not putt like the actual greens on the course. You can also hit some pitch shots and/or bunker shots, if a pitching green is available. Some courses do not allow golfers to pitch/chip to a practice putting green.
- Calm your nerves with the help of a pre-shot routine. It’s natural to be nervous on the first tee or even during the first few holes of a tournament. Relax by taking deep breaths and concentrating on your pre-shot routine. Keeping things the same with your swing and pre-shot routine will help you be calm and settle into your round. Don’t let a pre-shot routine slow your round down – be ready when it’s your turn and play “ready golf” if possible.
- Eat well and stay hydrated. Be sure to start your round properly fueled – eat a good meal (don’t skip breakfast or lunch). Maintain your blood sugar by eating simple carbs, small snacks like nuts, fruit or other healthful snacks. Avoid complex carbs and sugar snacks. A general rule is to drink 16 oz. of water per hour and to begin by drinking water before playing. Avoid alcohol, soda, sports drinks and fruit juices. Click here for more info on how to stay hydrated!
- Remember that it’s just a game. Regardless of how you play or what score you shoot, remember it’s just a game. Like everyone else, you want to get the ball in the hole in the fewest number of strokes. Some days this is easy, other days golf becomes hard work. While we all want to play our best, it is a game and days, weeks and months later, no one will remember your score.
Practice some of these items next time you prepare for a competition. Play golf to have fun and you will continue to love this great game – regardless of the outcome.