Are you tournament ready?

    It’s that time. Time for you to take that dreadful step of entering yourself in your Club Championships. Your buddies (and I use that term loosely) have badgered you for years to sign up and play. You really want to, but…how can I handle the pressure of playing in a tournament when I get sweaty palms just in our Sunday Nassau? Some people will even give up playing because of this nervousness. I myself have golfed with people who are terrified of playing with someone who “takes the game seriously”, or, heaven forbid, “keep score”.

    So the question becomes how do I control these emotions so that I can play to the best of my ability? Get used to the feeling of having a club in your hands. It doesn't sound like much but if I can hit balls, putt, or even swing in a mirror for just a few minutes, I loosen up my mind and body. Most of you are not going to be able to do this on a regular basis, but try to do it at least on the days when you are scheduled to play golf. Jack Nicklaus once said, “The difference between being nervous and scared is being prepared.” Speeding to the course and then rushing to the first tee does nothing at all to put you in the proper frame of mind to play the game to your expectations. Slow down and be as prepared as possible to play the game. Develop a pre-game routine that will help you loosen up body and mind.

    The Big Day

    Here is a routine I learned from a friend of mine who played professionally. My routine warming up for a tournament goes like this: Show up a good hour beforehand. First thing I do is go directly to the putting green and hit a lot of long putts to try and establish a feel of the greens. During this first session, I try not to hit any short putts because I don't want to see anything miss quite yet! After about fifteen minutes, it's on to the driving range where I work through the bag starting with the lob wedge and hitting a few with every other club. What I would highly recommend doing when you're warming up is to try and get yourself nervous. I know this sounds odd, but try and visualize a few shots from the course and think to yourself “this shot counts”. This not only will give you a better idea how you're hitting it that day, but when you get to that particular shot on the course, it will feel a little easier since you've already hit it. Almost all golfers, when they get under some pressure, tend to speed up their swing and get too quick, so while you're warming up, really focus on that tempo and balance. When you finally work up to that driver, make sure you hit a few shots envisioning you're on that first tee. It will make a big difference when you finally stand up there. After I'm done, warming up, it's to the chipping area for a few bunker and chip shots, then back to the putting green where I try and see as many 4 footers go in as I can.

    Now that you are physically prepared to tee it up, remember a few of these things.

  • You will make bad shots…everybody does. Davis Love said once, “A tournament is rarely won by the player who makes the most great shots. It is won by the player who makes the least bad ones.”
  • Never allow yourself to hit two bad shots in a row. When you do hit one bad one, simplify things by grabbing a club that you are super confident with to hit your next shot.
  • Always mark your ball and clean it before you putt. Even a sand speck can affect the way a 3 footer travels
  • Do not have unreal expectations of yourself. This is your first kick at the cat. Get through it and have as much fun as possible.
  • There are few things as exhilarating as winning a golf tournament. However, I don’t know anyone who did it on their first try. This will be the first of many tournaments you play. Make sure that you enjoy yourself.