Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stroke Play Strategy

As a follow up to my post about Match Play Strategy I mentioned I would write a similar post on my Stroke Play Strategy.  Here are some bullet points I refer to prior to playing a stroke play round.  I also keep them in mind throughout the round to stay focused on my goal of shooting the lowest score possible.  I know this should always be the goal but sometimes I lose sight of it.
  • Hit fairways and greens- it is a simple concept but difficult to do sometimes.  However, in stroke play it is critical to shooting a good score.
  • Par is always a good score, 18 pars is never a bad thing- I focus on this because it can be hard to play conservatively at times. 
  • Stay patient- do not get ahead of yourself especially if you get into trouble on a hole.  Slowing down and making a good decision can be the difference in saving par versus making a bogey. 
  • Everyone is playing the same golf course- no matter how difficult the conditions are, everyone will face the same challenges on the course.
  • If you get into trouble, get out, do not be a hero- oftentimes your total score can hinge on a single hole.  If you find yourself in trouble get out, take your medicine and move on.  Do not ruin a good round on a single hole.
  • Take no more than a bogey-  a bogey can be recovered with a birdie but “other scores” are tough to come back from.
  • Go ahead and release the club, do not play tight- hit the shot and accept the result, your practice and preparation will pay off here.
  • SLOW DOWN- this is especially important in making decisions or when trying to get out of trouble.  I struggle with this one all the time.
  • When nervous take deep breaths and more practice swings- I have found this to have a calming effect.  It will keep you loose and allow for a more relaxed swing.
  • Do not hit the shot until ready- the way I like to think about this is that I only have one opportunity to hit this shot my entire life.  It sounds dramatic but it helps me to put it into perspective.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sucking it up in a Stroke Play Tournament

I recently tried to qualify for the Pennsylvania State Mid Amateur Championship which is being held later this month in Williamsport, PA.  The Mid AM is for players over the age of 25 and that have a handicap index less than 7.4.  I chose to enter the qualifier this year for three reasons.  First, I prefer to play competitive golf over social golf.  Second, the qualifier was held at Sunnehanna Country Club in my hometown.  Third, I wanted to test my game under pressure to see what I need to work on for the remainder of this year and next.  There is no better way to test your game and nerves than by playing competitive stroke play golf.  Unlike team sports you are out there on your own with no one else to blame and nowhere to hide.
The start of the event was delayed by two hours due to heavy fog.  So, after we warmed up we had a nice long wait before we teed off.   Any time I play stroke play in qualifiers I try and handicap the field to know what I need to shoot to make the cut.  In this case I was thinking 78 or 79 would make the cut and advance to Williamsport.  So, all I had to do is play reasonable well and I would get through.
Well, my plans were altered on the first hole as I had “one of those starts”.  Without reliving the events of the entire hole (in an effort to keep my sanity) lets pick up the action on my fourth shot from the greenside bunker.  The first hole is a par four and yes, I was laying four in the greenside bunker, not good.  The sand conditions at the course that day were heavy and wet due to the morning fog.  So, I tried to pick the ball a little cleaner than normal (hit closer to the ball) and harder since the ball was about sixty feet to the hole.  This is where the terror began, as I bladed the ball over the green, down the hill and into the woods.  I found myself with my ball against a rock, in thick trees on an uphill slope.  After a few whacks in the woods, a poor chip shot and two putts I walked off the green with a double digit score.  It was the highest score I have made on a golf hole since I was eight or ten years old.  Needless to say I was very disappointed and just a little angry at myself.
After that debacle I knew I was going to have to grind to post a respectable score and not embarrass myself any further.  I could have easily threw in the towel and gave up or not posted my score.  However, neither is my style.  So, I buckled down and fought all day to shoot in the mid eighties.  That was certainly not my plan at the start of the round.  However, I was proud of my effort, patience and stick to it ness.  I kept telling myself all day that every one that plays the game competitively has one of “those moments” at some point.
In the end, I hung in there, played my hardest on every shot and never gave up.  It was not my best performance by any means but I am proud of the effort I gave.  In stroke play golf every shot counts so whether you play well or poorly the scorecard does not lie.
What do you do to stay focused and positive in stroke play tournaments?