Prioritize Your Practice Sessions to Prepare for a Big Golf Tournament
By Keith Stewart, PGA
It is the toughest professional cut line in golf. For the 312 men and women PGA Professionals who arrived in Port St. Lucie, Florida at the end of last week, the struggle is real. Let’s first take a look at the prize. Each competitor is looking to become one of the Top 20 finishers in this year’s PGA Professional Championship (PPC).
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If you are blessed enough to earn one of those coveted spots in the “Team of 20”, you will then be able to compete in the 103rd PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina.
This week in Florida represents so much more to all of us than just competing for Kiawah. We all have goals in golf and life. Each successful qualifier this week will share some common preparation characteristics. We can learn from their success and apply it to our own quests.
Whether it’s a major championship or a mixed foursome holiday extravaganza; every tournament is someone’s PGA Championship.
It’s been said before that all pressure is self-induced. We create anxiety in our golfing mind prior to competing at any level. As a PGA Coach, it is our job to “coach” our players through their nervousness. Not everyone can practice daily or has played golf for the same length of time. Experience is the key and it doesn’t matter how much you have as much as how you use it.
Try this practice routine the next time you are preparing for a big tournament.
Let’s say you have just a couple practice sessions available prior to playing. Break up that training time following these guidelines. Practice the shots you will hit the most often for the largest portion of your preparation. For all of us, that’s our putting and short game. It’s no coincidence the shots we feel the most pressure are the shortest in length.Spend 50% of your rehearsal focused on gaining confidence on and around the green. Follow along on the Golf Channel this afternoon in the final round of the PPC. The winner will putt great and save a crucial par or two when needed. Every player will hit the same number of drives, but they won’t hit the same number of shots from 100 yards and in.Use your favorite drills during this confidence calibration of your touch. Building a solid amount of short game esteem will better prepare you than anything else you can do. For the other half of your practice time, break it into short increments of using all types of clubs. Fairway woods and hybrids off the turf, mid-irons to specific targets, and groove a simple shape to your drives. This portion of your practice will be far less stressful because in the back of your mind you know the short shots are covered.
This PGA Coaching plan will build confidence in your game. You can be a beginner or seasoned club championship participant and still receive the same amount of return from a successful strategy such as this. Though your performance may vary even with this training technique, the pressure you feel will not likely go away. So, combat the nerves just like the men and women of the PGA of America by preparing properly with practice sessions centered around those shots that really count.
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.