We are in the middle of the golf season, which means it’s tournament time. It’s one thing to play with your buddies on the weekend for a few dollars and it’s quite another to enter a tournament where there are real rules to be obeyed. There is no law that says you have to sign up for a tournament, but if you do, be prepared to get prepared. In other words, whether you are in the last flight of your club’s member-member or playing individually in a serious amateur event, it’s time to get ready.
Our club’s championship weekend is in August. Our best players will sign up for the two-day Championship Flight, which means no strokes and the way back tees. The rest of us will be put into net-score flights based on our handicaps and/or ages.
It’s a yearly ritual at our club. About two weeks before the club championship, more and more lessons are taken and the putting clock and range are beehives of activity. For those couple of weeks, you often have to wait your turn to get into one of our two practice bunkers. Since those bunkers face each other, staying alert is imperative.
While pre-tournament practice can help a bit, in all likelihood, you don’t have time to fix a flaw that has become ingrained over the last few months. As British golf writer and commentator Henry Longhurst (1909 to 1978) said, “’Practice makes perfect,’ they say. Of course, it doesn’t. For the vast majority of golfers it merely consolidates imperfection.”
Instead of focusing on swing changes right before the club championship, I am going to work on my mental approach. Below are a few quotes that I hope will help me deal with tournament pressure.
“You can’t always be playing well when it counts. You’ll never win a golf tournament until you learn to score well when you’re playing badly. -- Englishman Jim Barnes won the first PGA Championship in 1916 as well as the same tournament in 1919, the 1921 U.S. Open and The (British) Open in 1925.
“Golfing potential depends primarily on a player’s attitude, on how well he plays with the wedges and the putter and on how well he thinks.” -- Bob Rotella, from his book, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect
“The poetic temperament is the worst for golf. It dreams of brilliant drives, iron shots laid dead and long putts holed, while in real golf success waits for him who takes care of the foozles and leaves the fine shots to take care of themselves. – Sir Walter Simpson, The Art of Golf (1887)
“When something’s not right about your swing … I would try to take the club back slowly with everything moving together. One of the main things I see with amateurs is that they allow tension to build up and they ‘snatch’ it back. I used to tell my amateur friends that if they ‘snatched’ a fork the way they ‘snatched’ the club back, they’d starve to death.” – 7-time Major winner Sam Snead
“Tournament golf is a compromise of what your ego wants you to do, what experience tells you do and what your nerves let you do.” – Australian Bruce Crampton, has 45 professional wins, including 14 on the PGA Tour. .
“The greater the pressure, the less you should try to ‘finesse’ the shot. Take your time in analyzing the situation, then go with the highest-percentage club – the one you can swing most normally.” -- Jack Nicklaus, winner of 18 Majors.
And finally, three Tiger Tips:
DO establish a game plan before the round – not during it.
DO get the correct yardage to both the front of the green and to the flagstick.
DO accept that there is such a thing as a “good” bogey.