You want to take your best game out to the golf course when you play. We all do. But when you’re playing in a tournament, there are several things you can and probably should do to improve your chances of success. If you’ve ever played tournament golf, you know it’s unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced. If it’s a stroke play event, every putt must be holed, and that just adds to the pressure. There are no gimmies, and players tend to do things in a tournament that they would never otherwise do when playing a casual round with their buddies. That’s why golf is the greatest sport in the world! It’s the perfect combination of mental and physical.
Tournament preparation is one of the topics we’ve discussed off-and-on in Golf Performance Enhancement. PGA Professional Gary Balliet is always quick to offer up a story or two about how he’s prepared for tournaments over the years, including the 1984 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek Country Club in Alabama. The other day, the topic of practice rounds came up, and we started talking about what it means to “map” a golf course before you have to play it in a tournament when every stroke counts.
Course mapping has been defined as, “giving a golfer as much information to allow each hole to be played successfully.” Gary says he likes to play a practice round at a course 2-3 days before a tournament so he can get a feel for how conditions are going to be. Get your hands on a yardage book if you can, especially a local yardage book. The more knowledgeable you are about the golf course you’re playing, the greater your chances of going low or even saving a few strokes. Here are a few course mapping tips:
* What type of grass are the fairways and greens?
* How firm are the fairways and greens?
* How is the grain? Which way does it run?
* Where do you want your tee shot to land on each hole?
* Choose a high-percentage landing area and a more aggressive one.
* Come up with a plan (or club to hit) for each hole, and stick to it.
* Does the hole require a cut or a draw?
* If there’s a certain yardage you like, try to hit to it.
* What is the weather like? Is there a prevailing wind in the area?
* How to the course conditions change from morning to afternoon?
* Does the wind tend to blow more in the afternoon or the morning?
* Is there fog in the morning? What time does it typically burn off?
* Look for undulations and slopes in the fairways and on the greens? Which way does the course drain?
* Which way do the greens tend to break?
* Play each hole mentally, from green to tee. There may be trouble you can’t see from the tee.