by Jacqui McSorley
In golf, it’s the little things that can add up when it comes to making those long hours of practice pay off in tournaments.
Checking equipment the previous evening and getting a good night’s rest can make a difference on the big day. Arrive at the tournament site early and well-fueled, and always complete a proper warm-up routine.
Tournament golf is not the game played last year, or last week, or in any one event; it is the game at the moment. It may be far from your best—but it’s all you have. When your “A” game has vanished, your preparation (or lack thereof) will show. It is one of the highest compliments paid to a great golfer when a reporter tells of how she won a tournament despite playing her “B” or “C” game. True champions find ways to win.
Translating Practice to Tournament Play
As a player moves into competitive golf, it’s important to continually raise practice standards. It is wise to set short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals for game improvement. Top golfers realize they have to maintain intense practice disciplines in order to keep improving in all areas of their game.
Golfers can only practice to be prepared.
That bears repeating.
Golfers can only practice to be prepared.
Proper preparation, good timing, and a little good fortune are the elements of victory. You can play a flawless round, shoot 67, and still be beaten. However, if you persevere and continue to shoot 5-under-par, your day will come. Practicing to beat another player is futile. All energies should be spent on self-improvement. You can’t control the competition, but you can put numbers up on the scoreboard that will get attention.
Preparing for the Tournament
Juniors need to practice in all weather conditions—the blazing heat, the sticky humidity, the wind, the rain, and the cold—not just in good weather conditions. If you live in climates that provide challenging conditions, embrace the opportunity to practice in them. Kids who tend to practice in such difficult climates will have an advantage over kids who never have had to face inclement weather. If you live in a place where you get only poor weather, you will sometimes need a safe, relaxing place to practice, where fighting the weather isn’t a constant battle. An indoor practice facility is helpful to work on your swing, and it allows you to focus on technique without all the other distractions. Mental and indoor practice can be done even when the sun isn’t shining in your hometown.
Blessed with great weather most of the year? You need to get out and find tougher, more severe weather for opportunities to practice in conditions you will surely face in your tournament career.
Practicing hard in the weeks prior to a tournament can help you regulate basic strokes, techniques, and conditions to the subconscious. Being more “in-the-zone” allows a player to maintain their natural level of play, despite normal distractions and nervousness. Being “in-the-zone” means being subconsciously competent at your highest level of play.
For key tournaments, break away from the normal practice routine. Instead, develop a specific practice plan leading up to the championship. Discuss with your coach what you need in order to play well. For example, if he knows players are required to play 36 holes the last day, or if he knows the State Championship typically has ridiculously long rounds, lasting five and a half hours or more, it is going to take strength, stamina, and good concentration to carry the bag in 90-degree heat and 90% humidity. Work on techniques to help improve your focus. The course might require that you hit a fade quite a bit, and you naturally draw the ball. Coach may suggest a daily routine alternative between proving a fade in one session, practicing in the heat of the day the next, followed by a conditioning session.
You may go a whole week with a practice goal of staying focused 100% of the time. Arrive early to warm up, and then go out to play. But as soon as your mind wanders, you’re done. Walk off the course. How many days does it take you to be able to warn up and play 36 holes completely confident that you are 100% there on each shot, 100% of the time? It takes discipline to walk away from sloppy practice!
There are pre-tournament rituals most players follow so they can do their best. Discuss these with your coach and find the routine that gets you mentally and physically prepared to play your very best. That doesn’t mean tournament preparation needs to be a regimented boot camp. A set of simple easy-to-follow routines may be all that’s necessary to get your “in-the-zone”. And once you have developed a useful set of pre-tournament rituals, get in the practice of following that routine until it becomes habit. It, too, can become something committed to your subconscious, just like those basic strokes, techniques, and conditions that allow you to bring your “A” game more frequently. Prepare to succeed and success will follow!
Written by Jacqui McSorley for Golfer Girl Magazine Summer/Fall 2007 1.2 pp 44-45