Whether you’re playing in your club championship, state amateur, open qualifier, or a PGA Tour event, it is extremely important to be prepared for that impending event and what the course or nature can throw at you. We’ve all experienced nerves, stress, and disappointment dating back to our school days when we’d endure an all-nighter to cram for a chemistry or history final. While you may not want to carry over many of those habits to your training for a golf tournament, there are still a few common variables that can be applied to your tournament’s preparation.
Know the Course
If there’s a practice round offered, use it! Even if you’ve played that course before and feel like you know it, don’t skip it. I can tell you from previous experience, you can never know the course too well! Aspects and characteristics of different courses can change over time.
Case in point: a course greens renovation from Bent to Bermuda grass. Your past experience is based off of Bentgrass. Well, playing on Bermudagrass is a completely different animal and an obstacle to overcome if you’re not accustomed to that surface. Green contours, speed, and firmness may be vastly different than what you experienced previously.
PGA Tour players start preparing for tournaments early, sometimes weeks or months in advance. It’s not uncommon for us to hear about Tiger or Phil visiting a golf course months before a major event. They want to know what’s changed, how it has affected the playability of the course, where to miss and not to miss, and feel comfortable with their respective plans of attack heading into that week.
Get Plenty of Rest
A good night’s sleep (minimum 8-9 hours) prior to the round is of the utmost importance, but so is not wearing yourself out by playing too much golf leading up to the big day. You need to be fresh, up to strength, and alert for whatever the course or conditions throw at you. If you’ve just come off a stretch of playing five straight days leading up to the practice round date, that’s too much. I’ve found in my own game that sometimes playing too much heading into a tournament is detrimental to my success.
You can still be at the top of your game without overdoing it if you’ve spent the appropriate amount of time on preparations the week before. Spend one day for 2-3 hours solely dedicated to your short game: chipping, pitching, bunker play, and putting. Try to envision yourself in every situation you may encounter during crunch time. Build a routine so that you’re alternating the proper amounts of rest with the attention dedicated to the various aspects of your game that need it the most.
Eat and Drink Right
Food and drink are essential to our diets, but the right ones are even more important to getting optimal performance during the big event. Loading your body with the right nutrients can help you maintain your mental focus and physical energy in those crucial situations when you need it. Leading up to the day(s), stick to lean meats and seafood that are high in protein, low or moderate in carbs, and low in fat for your larger, sit-down meals. For breakfast and snacks, vitamin rich fruits and vegetables are great to keep your body full of important nutrients.
Do your best to stay away from caffeine drinks and alcohol. Save those beverages for the victory celebration! While adding the items previously mentioned to your diet are beneficial, overeating is just as important. Don’t overload yourself going into the big day or the morning of.
Once you tee off, it’s also crucial to keep your energy level up, which can be difficult over a 4-5 hour round in the heat of the summer. To combat this, store a bag of nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.) in your bag to snack on. They provide you with an extra source of energy to complete the last few difficult holes. Other good choices for mid-round energy boosts are fruit (grapes and bananas are my favorite choices, but apples and oranges work too), carrot sticks, a type of granola or energy bar, and string cheese. Avoid the urge to get that that jumbo hot dog with chili, mustard, and onions at the turn. Can you tell I’ve done that before?
1. Know the Course – Courses change over time, play a practice round.
2. Get Plenty of Rest – You need to be fresh, up to strength, and alert.
3. Eat and Drink Right – The right essentials help maintain mental focus.
So remember, whatever you personally decide to do leading up to that big day, planning is key. Put together a game plan that you can manage. Scout the golf course in advance even if you’ve played it a dozen times in the past and know the intricacies that all golf courses are known for developing over time. But don’t overdo your practice time or workouts because you need the proper amount of rest in order to be fresh and up to strength when the day arrives. And when you feel like your body or nerves are starting to get tested in the first 1/3 of the round, take a deep breath, take a minute to relax and gather yourself prior to that next tee shot or your second shot, and refresh yourself with a nice piece of fruit, a few almonds, or a granola bar. Good luck! Hit ‘em far and straight!