It’s a familiar scenario. There’s a big tournament coming up; maybe the monthly medal, the club champs or some cup that everyone flocks to once a year to bring home the bragging rights. Whatever the occasion, you badly want to play well so put in some extra hours working on your game. It’s paying off and you’re feeling quietly confident about your chances.
Then the big day arrives, and the feel has vanished. Your opening tee shot resembles a Steve Waugh slash through the covers and a double-bogey start puts you on the back foot. But you’re determined not to let it ruin your day. A promising tee shot and solid iron into the next calm the nerves, however three putts later and you’re left wondering why the golf gods picked this day to kick you in the nether regions. Doubt inevitably creeps in from then on and by the time it’s over, the 19th hole can’t come soon enough.
Playing well when it matters the most is one of the hardest things to do. I’ve shot 65 one day, 75 the next and thought, How the heck did that happen? Over time I’ve come to realise it’s all part of this amazing, yet frustrating game.
‘Playing well when it matters the most is one of the
hardest things to do.’ – Nick O’Hern
So how do we perform at a high level on big occasions? Well, that’s something you can never guarantee. However, there are a few things we can do to give us the best possible chance of playing well and they revolve around one critical element: preparation. Being prepared and knowing you’ve ticked every box necessary to excel is a very powerful asset. Here are some things I recommend working on before your next big event:
1. Think of the areas in your game you’ll call upon the most. Depending on the course, that might mean ball-striking, chipping or bunker play. Putting is a no-brainer since to score well you certainly need to be competent with the flatstick.
2. Work on particular shots that trouble you on certain holes. Practising these beforehand will help you feel more comfortable when confronted with them in competition.
3. Find out where the pin positions are going to be. Knowing where the best position to leave your ball on and around the greens is vital for a strategy on each hole.
4. Have a mental gameplan before you start the round. It gives you something to fall back on if things start to go haywire. In the heat of battle, we golfers tend to make some curious decisions. That little white ball can distract our minds to the point of becoming irrational. Writing down some notes before the event, when you have a sound and logical mind, helps to remind you of what you should be thinking about. Because out on the course it can be a much different story.
Doing all the above before you step onto the first tee instills an inner confidence knowing you’ve given yourself every possible chance to succeed. And finally, it took me quite a while to realise that I could prepare well, do everything right and yet still not play well. Accepting the notion that you can’t control everything on the golf course will help free you up, and ultimately, let you enjoy yourself out there. If you’re prepared and have an accepting mindset then I’m pretty sure you’ll have a good day out there anyway, no matter what the score.