For Your Next Tournament, Practice Smarter — Not Harder

I’m in Cincinnati this week working with a couple girls I coach on the Futures Tour. One of the girls (Jimin Jeong) is preparing to play the Women’s U.S. Open next week at Pine Needles. This will be Jimin’s first U.S. Open and she is understandably very excited. She’s worked extremely hard this year and made the Open field in Chicago a couple weeks ago as the last qualifier. However, as Jimin readies to play this week, she is making mistakes that I’ve also seen lots of amateurs make. So, as I work with Jimin this week to correct these problems, I thought it would be a good lesson for all of us to remember.

Jimin’s first mistake – looking too far ahead.

Here she is, in Cincinnati, with a golf tournament to play, and most of her thinking so far has revolved around the U.S. Open. Now, I’m all for preparing for majors – and if we would have known a couple months ago that Jimin was in the U.S. Open, maybe we would have scheduled this month a little differently. But, it makes no sense in preparing for a tournament that does not resemble in any way the event you are playing in. The greens at Pine Needles, a Donald Ross signature course, will be fast and sloped. The rough will be high and the fairways will run fast. The course in Cincinnati, The Golf Club at Stonelick Hills, is beautiful – but the characteristics are much different than Pine Needles. Instead, we’re working on things that will help her not only this week – but next week as well. We’re working on her fundamentals; grip, alignment, pace, routine and short game. We are not inventing new shots – just perfecting her comfortable ones.

Learn from Jimin’s first mistake to prepare for a big event.

If you have a big event this summer – spend the few weeks prior working on fundamentals. Make sure you are aimed properly. Work on your routine. Work on short putts. Work on short shots around the green – especially if you can simulate the type of shots you’ll have in the tournament. Don’t however, start a complete overhaul of your game, which to take hold, might take months. You are looking for familiarity in pressure situations – not newness.

Jimin’s second mistake – working longer hours.

I see this one a lot. Someone has a big event and all of a sudden they try and make up for lost time. Instead of spending their usual 2 hours on the range – they spend 5. Instead of spending an hour on the putting green – they spend 3. Now, in theory, this may sound like a good idea. After all, hard work is a good thing – right? Wrong, in this case, it’s not a good thing. I had to make Jimin go back to the hotel the last couple days. She was tired and if she stayed – she would have played poorly this week and next. The trick is not to work harder – it’s to work smarter. I stopped her from hitting 500 balls a day, so she could work on finding her set up. I told her, if we found her good set up, her swing would find her – she wouldn’t have to look for it. I said, it makes no sense to hit thousands of balls this week to feel something. Instead, lets practice visualizing and walking into a good set-up a couple hundred times. Fortunately, she agreed and we’ve had a couple good days of practice. I think she will get a little better each day over the next week or so – and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she played well not only this week – but next.

Learn from Jimin’s second mistake to be ready for your club championship.

Trying to make up for lost time with too much practice is like trying to lose 10lbs in 2 days. It may work – but it’s not too healthy. Usually what happens to a golfer who all of a sudden spends more time on the range is – too much thinking. They will start working on something or try a new swing key. This is a disaster going into a big tournament. Again, you want familiarity, not new. You want something to rely on – instead of something you can’t trust. A better approach is to develop a game plan to play the course. The plan should be based on the state of your game now – not when you had your best ever run. If you’re struggling a little off the tee – adjust the plan accordingly. If you’re struggling with irons – play to the fat of the greens and practice chips from where you expect to miss. On the other hand, if you’re hitting it well, adjust your plan to a more aggressive nature. And remember, short game, short game, short game. Sure, Tiger Woods is the greatest winner in golf today – but that wouldn’t be the case if he weren’t also the best putter and chipper. 68% of your shots will be played from inside 100 yards – so practice accordingly.

So, to prepare for your next big event, I suggest these few tips. Ease into the week. Otherwise you may peak too early. Exercise a little each day to get the blood flowing. This will also help keep your brain sharp, which will be at full capacity under the gun. Work on your short game and develop a plan based on the state of your game heading into the tournament.

Good luck and think good thoughts for Jimin next week.

5 Responses to “For Your Next Tournament, Practice Smarter — Not Harder”

  1. Hi Andy
    Most interesting article. Notice “68% of your shots will be played from inside 100 yards”. In someway or another you will reach those 100 yards and then the “real” play begins. A good advice is to take a putt-lesson or two. Almost nobody takes putting-lessons according to pros in my area! Confidence in the short game makes often confidence in driving and seconds shoots.

  2. peter says:

    hi i cannot wait for my order to arrive just by reading all your tips i can see a great improvement in my game i am 62 years of age and i hit the ball 300m last week playing with my pro friends i out drove them .all i did was work on the possition of the hands that you showed .please send my order as soon as possible .i want to get going i feel good tra la la la la la la la . ha ha ha ha

  3. Albert Toy says:

    I purchased your Teaching program at the end of last year. I was scoring 80-83 on consistant basis. I play on a daily basis weather permitting. My short game was the best part of my game. Living in Columbus, Ohio left me with only practice indoors for most part of the winter. Part of my practice with your (now mine) new swing involved swinging over weight clubs. This I think has strenghten my wrist and forearms and has made my wrist more supple to obtain close to 90 degree angle on right hand. When I first got out this year it was still new to me and it was frustrating when I was not hitting ball well. I reread your program and it was amazing what I got out of it this time. I have logged in 23 rounds and the last ten rounds have all been under 80 (lowest being 74). I know for me what has really been the key was the strenght of the grip, by starting with tight grip and actually it feels like I tighten even more to start my reverse press. When you press against left thumb knuckle with right palm it feels like your hands grip tighter, it also moves your hands forward slightly and gets your weight on front foot ever so slightly. It also took a while to figure you do not swing arms but turn your waist and shoulder to get club into the air behind you. What has been so sweet about my (not yours anymore) new swing is there are very few moving parts it seems, it is always repeatedable. I am very excited for the rest of this golf season and know that I have not finished getting better. I will go back and read again and see what else I have missed
    Thank You

  4. Rick Tod says:

    Again it proves how important the mental part of the game is. You can think your way to greater success.

  5. Dennis Kearns says:

    Hi Andy
    I really enjoy your articles. This one is special to me because it took forever for me to learns . I would hit balls for hours trying to develop shots I was certain I would need. But as you reminded me one of my pro freinds said well just practice the stance the grip and tempo and you’ll do ok. He also added that the stance also included line-up both on the clubs and the putter as well.Thanks for the reminder!:wink:

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