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6 Steps to Follow in a Playoff During Championship Season

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Whether you are involved in a seven-person sudden death extravaganza like the men competing for the bronze medal, a member-guest shoot-out or head-to-head playoff to decide a club tournament the strategies to succeed are all the same. Playoffs are very nervous moments. They immediately jettison us from our comfort zone and into competition limbo. It’s very tough to think in those heightened pressure-packed situations. Follow these steps and you’re bound to be better prepared than the person(s) you are matched up against.
Keep these 6 PGA Coach Playoff Principles close by. The best place is in your golf bag. After all, playoffs just happen, they aren’t something you plan on. Therefore, if you like to compete, it’s time you started being prepared.
  1. Reset – You have been playing golf all day. Get something in your stomach. Drink some water as well. When we have an empty stomach and face dehydration it’s easy to have lapses in clear judgement. As soon as there’s a possibility you’re playing extra holes, reset and get ready. One more thing, don’t forget the bathroom as well. What if the playoff was four or five holes?
  2. Where are you going? – A well-run tournament will have selected the playoff holes in advance. Ask what holes you will be playing. There may come a time when you face a decision on the course that involves thinking of the next possible hole (ie: where handicap strokes fall).  Know where you are going.
  3. How sudden is sudden – Not every playoff is sudden death/victory. Many times, a playoff can be aggregated over a couple of holes. Listen to the official explain the playoff situation. If he/she doesn’t explain it or if you are confused ask a question before you start.
  4. Rules of Engagement – Make sure you understand the playoff format. In most cases it will be the same rules of play as the competition, but not always. Don’t assume ANYTHING. Get comfortable with the parameters and then repeat them to your caddie or partner. Make sure everyone on your team knows what is happening, the tee box you are playing, etc. Too many playoffs at the club level are won by mistakes.
  5. Know your opponent – Many times competitions involve handicap strokes. When they do, make sure you find out all your competitor’s handicaps, and write them down on the scorecard. Keep track of where they get those strokes and if there’s a percentage allotted. An ill/well-timed handicap stroke can make a huge difference.
  6. No time to waste – Playoffs are meant to decide a winner as quickly as possible. Be aggressive when determining your course of action. Presume your opponent is going to play very aggressively as well. Get comfortable with the notion that par or net par just might not get it done. An aggressive mindset can help fend off the pressure. Go on the offensive and you’re less likely to make a defensive swing or decision.
Here’s why this list is so valuable. When you are in the “moment” all your nervous energy will distract you from the apparent.
These steps will allow you to understand the situation and perform your best. Keep this list in your bag and review it once your told to get ready for a playoff. Chances are this list will be the perfect difference maker and lead you to victory!

Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.

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