Timbo Letter #3 – Preparing for an Important Round
If you want to be the best player you can be then you’ve got to play. There’s no point in hiding on the practice fairway or playing the same course over and over.
So get out there and play. Play as many different courses and events that you can. This will take you out of your comfort zone for a little while and increase anxiety levels – but there is a way to combat that.
Here’s how a Pioneer prepares for a round of golf:
In an ideal world you’ll treat every round as the same. This works in theory but it’s much harder in reality. Important rounds will always increase our desire to do well. This is a good thing because if you know how to control the nerves you can play even better.
The first step is to relax and avoid panicking. Lots of golfers (including me before I worked it out) will change their routine completely before the big game. They’ll practice more, they’ll get to the course too early and worry and stress about certain holes and upcoming shots. The short answer is don’t.
Stick to what you normally do and you’ll be in good shape.
Practice rounds: If you get the chance to see a new course then you’ve obviously got to take it. But don’t fall for the trap of trying to shoot record scores or even worrying about your score during practice. These rounds have one purpose. And that is to learn the course. Study the course, learn the bounces and how the ball rolls. Never get suckered into playing matches during practice rounds – they are for learning the course.
Another fantastic tip is to walk the course backwards. Start on the 18th green and make your way through the course back to the first tee. This gives you the best view of the course. You can learn about the best landing zones and see all potential trouble. I often think this exercise is better than playing the course.
Game plan: Your practice rounds will give you an idea how to play the course. I’d like you to stick to the shots you like best. Sometimes this means that you’ll hit irons when others are smashing the driver – don’t let this worry you – your plan is for YOU only.
Your game plan needs to be flexible. But don’t fall for the mistake of getting too aggressive. In most cases a flexible plan will mean you gear back. Taking less club and aiming away from the trouble will mean you’ll swing with more confidence.
Most of all you have to listen to your gut. The game plan is not set in stone – you’ve got to trust your instincts and learn to live with that.
Pre round: This is the time to warm up. You are not making swing changes or trying to find your swing. If you don’t panic your natural swing will present itself. It can be a good idea to avoid the practice fairway altogether – there’s too much distraction there. All the others tweaking, searching and disrupting you is not a good thing.
If the golf course has a practice net use that. Start slowly and gradually get your body moving. Remember, you are hitting balls to warm up. There is no need to tweak and alter your swing. An automatic golfer doesn’t judge and rate his practice performance – he is simply getting ready to play.
The same goes for the short game. Unless you think the greens have changed dramatically there’s probably not much need to speed time on the putting and chipping green. Automatic golfers don’t lose their skill – it’s there waiting for you. So use the short game areas if you feel the need – but don’t waste time and energy attempting every conceivable shot.
Opening tee shot: This is important Timbo. My advice here is to take the longest club you feel confident hitting. Then you’ve got to do your best to let go, relax and let the shot happen. If you can get good at this you’ll maximise your chances of hitting a great one.
Too often I see golfers get scared. They swing carefully and simply attempt to guide the ball. Don’t be shy. Learn to hit the ball with authority and without fear.
Here’s another point: Your opening tee shot is the best one to stuff up because you have the rest of the round to recover. So let rip – you don’t have anything to lose.
Random thoughts: Here’s a few more things that popped into my head.
- Think about playing the course not about your swing.
- You’ve got to like the golf course. Some holes won’t suit you but plenty will, so don’t let the course distract you.
- You don’t need motivation or to be pumped. Keep your mind calm and focus on what you want to achieve and you’ll be better off than most.
- Play your shot not the one the course designer wants you to play. This is something that took me a long time to figure out. You’ve gotta play your game.
- Short game is still important.
- You’ll beat most by staying in the moment, playing your shot and not worrying about the course or your swing.
- Let go and relax. Don’t think about golf golf golf all of the time. Give yourself time to enjoy other stuff. It’s a big bad world out there and it’s good to see it. You don’t lose your skill or your game.
- Have fun – this is a cliche’ but learn to enjoy playing. This is your chance to shine and experience the magic of playing golf.
That’s it for today Timbo. Next lesson we’ll talk about some on course strategies.