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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Being at your Best for Tournament Competition

By: Rick Sessinghaus, Psy.D, PGA

No matter if you are a seasoned pro or playing in your very first tournament, we all want to play our best in tournaments. With the summer tournament schedule here, juniors tend to put so much pressure on playing well in these events. In order to be at your best you certainly need to practice your physical skills, however improving your mental skills will have help you deal with the tournament pressure.

Getting ready mentally for tournaments comes down to proper preparation, the correct mindset, and being able to learn from each experience. So, do you know how to get ready for tournaments? Preparing starts with having a plan for the round. If we are lucky to get a practice round we can see and map out a plan for the course. If we don’t get a practice round, then I advise a golfer to play to their strengths. Next, the night before you should make sure you have all of your equipment in order and before you go to bed visualize the course in your head. This helps us to begin to have a “mental” practice round and reinforces success. The morning of the tournament is very important to set the tone for the day. Make sure you eat a nutritious, balanced breakfast and you give yourself enough time to get to the course before your tee time. Once you get to the course, it is important to warm-up the body and the mind. On the range the goal is to get into the smooth tempo you want to take to the course. Also, begin to hit shots on the range you will have on the course. Play the shots you will have on the first three holes on the range before you go to the course. Next, take some time on the practice green to get the speed of greens and get your feel ready for the day. The last area to prepare before you go to the first tee is your mindset.

Your mindset controls what you are focused on, how you feel, and how you act. As you go to the first tee remind yourself how you want to act for that round. When you played your best, what were you thinking about and how did you act? For most golfers, when they were at their best they were focused, confident, and relaxed. You can be that way on the course, but it has to be something you train, just like your golf swing. Having the proper mindset allows you to get the most out of your physical talent. During your round it is important to use a proper pre-shot routine that keeps you focused on the present shot. Also, in between shots it is fine to talk with your playing partners as a way to stay loose. Finally it is important to use a post-shot routine to celebrate your good shots and learn from your poor shots.

The final key area for successful tournament play is being able to learn from each shot, round, and tournament. Unfortunately, most golfers never learn from their rounds and continue to make excuses, ignore what really happened, and don’t take responsibility for their mental skills. Coaching my students I stress a proper post round routine which includes three key questions:

1.Did you have fun playing today?
2.What did you do well today?
3.What did you learn from today and need to improve next time?

Notice none of those questions had to do with score or where you placed in the tournament. I want you to embrace that the process is more important than the outcome. The outcome will only improve with a better process.

As you get ready for the busy summer tournament schedule remember to prepare yourself to be the best you can be, train your mindset, and learn from each experience. We are all fortunate to play this great game and the most important goal to achieve is to enjoy the experience. Have fun and stay focused, confident, and relaxed on the course.

Dr. Rick Sessinghaus is a PGA golf professional who is the author of Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game and the creator of the first virtual mental coach for golf. To learn more, visit