What can we do to play better in club competitions?

I’m back after a little time away from the blog. Home and work life have been a bit busy lately, all is good though. This article has been in the making for a couple of months and i’m glad to finally get a new article up.

With club competitions back up and running here in the UK, I’ve jumped back into playing in my club competitions. I’ve struggled with my golf post lockdown by that didn’t deter me from risking my handicap going up.. It has by the way only .2 though.  At Derllys Court they are seeing a great turn out for all competitions with around 75 players on Sundays.

I ran a few polls on Instagram and found that not all club golfer play in club competitions 58% of voters said they regularly play. It will be interesting to see how the new world handicap system affects those not playing in comps and perhaps not submitting cards very often. Will the new requirements create some pressure like that of a competition considering that golfers will have to submit their scores?

That’s an article for a later date, back to those golfers playing in regular competitions, the clear majority (69% of voters) play worse in competitions. Compared to social matches they play with friends.  I’m one of them as well. So it got me thinking, why do club golfers tend to play worse in competitions than any other time?

I reached out to the following PGA Pro’s to ask them some questions:

Stuart PilgrimHead Pro at Teeside golf club

A head pro at 24, Stuart was one of the youngest head pro’s in the UK. Still playing in PGA events in the UK, at national, regional and county level, Stu’s knowledge of the game and experience in playing competitive golf will help me shed some light on how we can play better in golf in competitions.

Oliver MortonBased at Archerfield Performance Centre and founder of the leading edge golf company.

A specialist in holistic golf coaching and one of Today’s Golfer top 50 coaches, Oliver has worked with Major winners and Ryder Cup golfers.  I couldn’t resist he opportunity to pick his brains a little for this article.

David BartlettBulbury Woods Golf Club

PGA Professional for the last 17 years and part of the swing zone team at the Open in 2018, 2019 and will be part of the team in 2021 at Royal St Geroge’s . David manages a full teaching schedule with playing as much as possible on the Clutch Tour and PGA West Region.  David is also Bunker Mentality ambassador that has some great tips on his Instagram page.

The Q & A’s

In your opinion what’s some of the main causes for club golfers playing worse in competitions compared to social rounds?

  • SP: When it means more, you tend to put more pressure on yourself.  The skill is to stay loose and relaxed allowing you to fully commit. Pressure makes your tense, and can lead to you not fully committing to shots.
  • OM: They approach the game totally different. Basically null and voiding their experience. Don’t treat competitions differently to your bounce games and vice versa.
  • DB: Golfers start doing things they think they should do in a comp, like a better routine, use a better ball, warm up. All of this is good, but it’s not what they normally do for a social round of golf. This ends up adding to extra pressure.  Golfers need to be able to switch on and off between shots so they are not mentally drained after 4 hours. Concentration is only required for a short amount of time. In reality you only need to control the next shot, not the next 4 hours

Any advice for pre round thoughts? Should there be a game plan in place before the day starts?

  • SP: You can have a plan for the course, but there are a lot of factors you need to take into consideration.  Play each shot as it comes, being able to adjust and adapt is the advantage to look for. Play the shot or the hole, depending on how you are playing in the round rather than a pre-planned strategy that might not be working out.
  • DB: Yes if you hold success as a bigger value that enjoyment and score or handicap reductions is what you want.  Plan out which are the holes you want to attack, and which ones simply need you to navigate. (You could mark your card with an A or N for each hole)
  • Rookie’s Thought: Despite opposite answers here, there are elements of both that would help me. I have some form of a plan for a round, but i need to be adaptable when the plan doesn’t go right due to my play on the day.

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Is playing in as many competitions as possible the right approach or selecting the competitions to play in?

  • SP: If you’re hitting a run of bad form, play in what you can. If your confidence is down, get some more practice rounds in to build yourself back up.
  • OM:  Take note of what the pro’s do. They establish their ‘Majors’ 4 important tournaments for the year. Then they play in events that help prepare for their majors. It’s important even for club golfers to have the blend of activity and recover/reflection. Simply playing in everything is a bad idea. Every event should serve a purpose. IE; to develop your experience, etc.
  • DB: Comes down to enjoyment and goals ultimately. If you are going up .1 every weekend for a year and your goal is handicap reduction then maybe a few weeks off to grind or realign your golf would be advantageous. If it’s not about handicap reduction or winning then play in as many as possible to gain experience of being in a competition.

Is there a routine in a week leading up to a competition that a club golfer can/should adopt?

  • SP: All practice is good practice, as long as it’s good quality. Doing drills at the range to iron out a fault is good, as well as having a plan of attack for a round. Course and weather conditions always change, so playing on the course for practice rounds not only competition rounds is a good idea.
  • OM: Pre-Round preparation should be exactly that. No ‘Fixing’ allowed. Understand and establish behaviors for when you are in play mode vs train mode. Experiment with different tasks and time frames to see what works best.
  • DB: I wouldn’t say anything specific other than for a while it would be good to just mix it up if things haven’t been going well. Quite a few golfers play 9 holes the night before a comp. Only down side is if you play well the night before then hit a few bad shots in the comp. It can have a negative impact for those with low resilience or the lack of ability to self analyse.

Advice for getting back into a round after a bad hole or two, and the head starts to go?

  • SP: Mentally being able to move on is key. Some pro’s do the imaginary 10 yard line, once they walk past it, they forget the last hole. Don’t start to attempt a swing analysis after a bad shot. Sometimes it’s a case of a bad swing or being out of sync. The focus needs to be on the next shot, not the one that was just hit.
  • OM: Don’t allow blips to become trends. Ask yourself “Are my actions going to help or hurt me?” Don’t allow your last shot influence your next shot (unless it was a good one). Try to keep your post shot reactions neutral, objective, factual or positive.
  • DB:  Nearly impossible for the club golfer to deal with properly. Learning to manage expectations levels is a good start. Some coaches encourage golfers to count to 10 before walking after hitting a poor shot. I personally encourage golfers to stay as level as possible, not to up or too down. To also focus on the positives as they carry themselves on the course.
  • Rookie’s Thought: Some great advice. My 1st competition back i lost my head on the 9th and my round went from average to terrible and resulted me posting a 104. Since getting these answers I’ve taken all of their approaches to keep calm and not panic over one bad shot or hole. The 10 second/10 yard line has worked for me.

What’s more beneficial to mid / high handicapper’s improvement? Range sessions or more rounds of golf?

  • SP: It’s a mix for me. If there is something in particular you’re working on then spending time practicing that is vital, that more often than not will be range work. That then has to be transitioned into a round of golf where the focus shifts to playing golf and don’t attempt to play a swing.
  • OM: Course Time! Good coaching should incorporate tasks and challenges that help learning in the arena you’re required to perform in.
  • DB: A tough question! I’d have to say that golfers learn more for themselves on the course and only really learn stuff at the range if they’ve been given the work to practice at the range. High Handicappers need to hit a lot of ball to solidify technique. It’s a tough question, as on course golfers will learn distance control, landing spots and how to cope with slopes (ball above and below feet). So for that reason I’d pick on course.
  • Rookie’s Thought: For me i’m at a stage where i need to spend more time on course. Situational pressure on the course can not be replicated at the range. Understanding my game on the course is now vital for my goals

There I some good answers and advice from the 3 pro’s, elements of this I’m definitely taking on board for my golf.

Let me know what struck a chord with you…

Until Next Time, Happy Golfing.

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