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Listen to 15-Time Major Champion Tiger Woods: “Practice What You Know!”

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Tiger Woods of the United States hits his tee shot on the 12th hole during the final round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Whether a competitor is a rookie or a past champion, you know what’s in store while heading to the course, so how can you prepare to play your best? Practice what you know!
In my years as a PGA Assistant Professional at Isleworth Country Club, I learned many things from my mentors. It just so happens one of those mentors was Tiger Woods. Since I was there from 1998 to 2003, there was a great deal to discuss with him when it came to preparing for tournaments. One of the great preparation tricks he taught me was so obvious. If you know, then you’re aware of just how helpful it can be. 
Practice your par 3 yardages.
Let’s use Augusta National Golf Club as an example. There are four par 3’s. Traditionally they play as some of the most difficult holes on the course during the Masters. The brutal fourth ranks as the all-time third toughest hole on the course and the famous 12th is ranked fourth. You can give yourself an advantage on these holes prior to the tournament. We know each of the par 3’s plays to a specific yardage. There may be a small range, but overall, they will require the same club each day. 
If one of the par 3’s has a wide range of tee box length, then practice from a front and back yardage. It doesn’t matter where they place the flagstick, you can be prepared. Why is this so important? These will be the only approach shots you can be 100% sure you will have during the tournament. Since you know what they will be, you should make yourself as comfortable as possible playing from there.
Successful golfers and champions, all have strategies that help them become triumphant on the course. Augusta National Golf Club is a good example for reading purposes, but you can take this lesson and use it to prepare for all of your rounds. It’s especially important when preparing for a pressure-packed tournament situation, but don’t be afraid to employ this tactic every time you play. Grab a scorecard and look at the par 3 yardages when you get to the course. Make sure you use those irons, hybrids, wedges or woods required to hit those tee shots in your warmup. 
If you have a home course, make those yardages part of all your practice sessions. Think about this, each time you practice your putting, work on specific distances. We always work on 3 to 4 footers. Why? Because those are the most popular distances we will putt from all day. If you knew you would have six 10 footers, you would practice them! 
Well, you know those par 3 distances. Doesn’t matter where you go, you can prepare. In anticipation of any round there’s very little we do know. Doesn’t matter if you know your course like we all know Augusta National. Since golf is hard, take the advice of a 15-time major champion and practice what you do know. Improve your par 3 scoring and there’s no doubt your handicap will go down and your par 3 scoring will be the envy of all your friends and competitors.