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The Right Mindset: Playing a Course for the First Time

By Abby Parsons, PGA
Published on

For many players, the night before playing a golf course for the first time is
comparable to Christmas Eve. If it’s a once-in-a-lifetime course, many feel the
pressure to play their best round ever, believing that otherwise they will not be able
to fully enjoy the experience. Other players want to make sure they take in every
architectural wonder of the course until the last putt falls.
Playing a course for the first time in competition, however, is a whole different
animal. Depending on the player, playing a course for the first time in the opening
round of a tournament can be intimidating. For others, it opens the door to playing
Not knowing where the trouble is on a golf course allows the player to stand over
the ball without thinking, “Don’t hook it left into that hidden bunker,” or “If I hit this
club too far, it will run right into the trees.” These players will not be swing scared,
they will swing the way they know how to. Playing without fear is the better
competitive mindset.
When playing a course for the first time, there is always a chance players will
encounter unique aspects of the course. For example, there are environmentally
sensitive penalty areas in Florida, lava in Iceland, and much more. This makes for
an even more interesting introductory round for a golfer, but one hard to forget.
What about a layout not many have seen? The LPGA is taking on the Palos Verdes
Golf Club this week, where the so-called “perfect nine” front nine features no two
consecutive holes with the same par. The mentality of a golfer varies from par to
par. For instance, par 3s are opportunities to attack pins, par 4s are safer holes
where you hit the fairway, green, and two-putt, par 5s are birdie and eagle chances
if you are a long ball. For this reason, a unique layout like Palos Verdes can be more
mentally taxing for a golfer to switch from one par to another every hole. This
makes Palos Verdes a fun and difficult layout for the pros.
Taking mental (and physical) notes of a course you are playing for the first time is
pivotal for the next round played. If you have another competition round there the
next day, these notes are crucial. Even if you are playing for fun, it is always good
to have some notes from prior rounds to help you navigate the golf course.  
Getting to know a golf course along the way is exciting. Learning the greens’ quirks
by hole 7 or the thickness of the rough by hole 12 makes for an experience that is
all about adapting to the course. Just because your home course’s greens hold
every approach shot, does not mean that this new course will. Playing a course for
the first time can also open up doors to new creativity in your golf game. Shots that
cannot be played at your home course in Michigan may work out for you on a
course in the tropics. New grass, new layout, new scenery.
The unknown when playing a golf course can be nerve-wracking; however, playing
without fear due to the unknown makes for swinging freely and an enjoyable time
on the golf course.