Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Practice vs. Preparation

            As we enter the summer golf season it is time to sharpen our games for competitive golf events.  This includes all aspects of our game both physical and mental.  I do not play that many events each year due to my work schedule however, I try and play a handful that I enjoy competing in.  I know that I am not one of those guys who has endless access to practice facilities, lessons and competitive games to prepare.  My schedule mainly consists of a few Mid Am events that I can qualify for, the Club Championship, a Match Play event and a few invitational’s.  I would love to play more competitive golf but the bottom line is that I do not have the time to spend on my game in order to prepare. Actually, I prefer to play competitive golf over social golf any day of the week but that is not an option.
I decided to write this blog because I wanted to put my thoughts down on paper describing the differences between practice and preparation as I see it.  I see practice as more of a repetitive, physical action that comes from the time spent on the practice tee.   Whereas, I see preparation as more of a mental exercise.  I truly believe to play great golf in competition you need both elements and need to prepare for both accordingly. 
Now, it is no secret that you need the physical and mental aspects of the game.  What I am suggesting however is that you need to focus on both and think about both distinctively.
For practice, there is no substitute for going the range and hitting golf balls to hone your swing.  Likewise, there is nothing better you can do to improve your scores than to spend time on the practice green chipping and putting.
The difference for me in preparation is how do you think about your practice and how do you situationally prepare?  Most of us go to the driving range or practice green and just hit balls, chips and putts repetitively.  There is very little thought on what the target is, where the ball should land or how the putt will break.  When I prepare for an event I hit each practice shot to a specific target, each chip to an intended spot and each putt on a particular line.
Another preparation tip I employ is to put myself in a frame of mind during practice to hit that specific shot, chip or putt as if it was under intense pressure during tournament conditions.  I know that is difficult to reproduce those feelings of pressure that you get when playing in competition.   However, we must make every attempt that we can to try. 
So, the next time you prepare for an event do not just stand there and beat balls.  Do not stand there and just hit chips.  Do not stand there and putt to the nearest hole.  Instead, hit a golf shot that you will face during the round.  Hit pitch shots or chips that will matter in saving a stroke or a hole.  Finally, do not just lag the putt rather, try and make it while at the same time leaving yourself a short comeback putt.

How do you prepare for golf tournaments?