Tournament Prep is LIVE

As I write this, I am one week away from my first individual tournament in 15 years. To say that I am excited is an understatement. Every day I wake up and review the courses I am playing using Shot Pattern. 

While I review the courses, I envision how I will be playing each hole. This helps to paint a clear picture and strategy in my head. It also helps to battle the anxiety that is building over that first tee shot. 

Regardless of all my anxiety, I need to get ready to play golf. So, how exactly am I preparing, and is this something that you can or should incorporate into your next tournament preparation? It's pretty simple, lots and lots of practice, but how I am practicing is what makes the biggest difference. 

Here is a breakdown of what I have been doing the last 2 weeks and what I am planning in this final stretch: 

Two and Three weeks out from the tournament:

Driving Range Sessions

I have a bad habit of coming across the line and then leaving the face open so technique work is my primary goal. So, I am doing overcorrection drills to get the club way behind me and then bowing my wrists at the top to help close the face at impact. 

These drills are not intended to be identical to my real swing but rather push me into an uncomfortable position. Once I can get into this uncomfortable position, my swing likes to become more neutral. AKA, between way across the line and way behind and with a flatter wrist at the top. 

Trying to describe this drill in a written format is nearly impossible. If you struggle with a cupped wrist and come across the line, you need to hire a coach. 

After drilling the overcorrection, I focus on games on the range. This is often giving myself a visual fairway on the range and trying to hit a driver into the fairway. Then I will pull a random yardage to the green (130-180) and hit the corresponding wedge to a flag at that distance. 

This game is the closest way to simulate on-course play without actually playing. 

Putting and Chipping Sessions

Putting and chipping sessions are pretty straightforward. I like to start with using the putting mirror for 20-30 putts. This helps to ensure that I am lining up correctly with my eyes and shoulders and starting the ball on the right line. Without this, nothing else about putting matters. 

Next, I work on a speed drill of some sort. This could be getting a ball to stop about 1-2 feet past a hole on a 12-15 foot putt or trying to get inside 4 feet in any direction from 20, 30, and 40 feet away. Speed drills are of utmost importance when putting. 

Lastly, I will work on some sort of game like 9-hole drawback or around the clock. These drills add simulated pressure to your routine which is critical for on-course performance. 

Chipping for me is randomized. I throw a handful of balls into an area and pick a hole to chip towards. However, I like to make sure that I am never on a perfectly flat lie. I will hit shots from all different angles and lies and with different wedges. 

By practicing with different lies and wedges I have been able to gain a better understanding of how the ball will react once it is in the air and then rolling on the ground. For example, a ball below your feet is going to come off to the right (for a right-handed player) so you need to aim further left and a ball on an uphill lie is going to go higher in the air so you need to club down.

Lastly, I will practice getting up and down from various areas, lies, and distances. I will only use one ball and will play 9 holes. The goal is to get up and down at least 50% of the time. 

Playing Full Rounds of Golf

I am not going to get into too much detail here. I will simply say this, you can practice at the range and putting green all you want but nothing is going to simulate playing golf like actually playing golf. 

If you want to perform your best, you need to be playing on the course as much as possible. 

Practice Changes One Week Out

Now as the tournament approaches, practice changes slightly. Here you want to be thinking about peaking for the tournament. 

Peaking does not necessarily mean playing and practicing a lot. It means that you need to be preparing for the courses you will be playing and be sure you are resting and recovering for a grueling tournament. 

I am no expert at practicing for a tournament, but this is what I am doing to get ready: 

In this final week, you are no longer hyperfocused on technique work. This doesn't mean don't do any technique work, but rather focus more on skill drills and games on the range. Perhaps you spend your first 10 balls doing technique drills to be sure you are in a good spot and then it is straight into games. 

The key with games at this point is that you simulate on-course strategy. Think about the holes that you are going to be playing and then simulate a few holes. Maybe the first hole is a driver and then an 8 iron. Then the second hole is a hybrid off the tee and then an 80 yard shot. The third hole is a 140 yard Par 3 and so on.  

Getting your mind mentally prepared for the shots that you will be required to hit while you play will give you some confidence when you step up to that first tee. 

As far as games on the putting green, nothing changes here. You are still focusing on speed, alignment, and green reading. Focus on pace control and you will be fine. 

Lastly, you do not want to over-exert yourself on the course. Play a couple of rounds to keep your mind sharp but don't overdo it. There is no reason to play 6 rounds of golf in the final week of preparation. You will be exhausted by the time the tournament gets here. 

Make sure you take a day off before the tournament. Do anything besides golf. Hang out with friends, go for a walk, or do anything else that keeps you present and not thinking about the tournament. 

And that's it. It is show time and you have done your very best to prepare for the tournament. Whatever happens on the day happens. It's golf so it could be great or it could be terrible but it doesn't matter. 

No matter how you play, your loved ones will continue to love you and your life will go on. Besides, this game is about fun and competition is fun. Enjoy yourself.