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Very first golf tournament. What to expect?


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Hi All! So I started my golf journey four years ago. Being so competitive, I couldn’t stand that I was so bad my first few times out. This led to my admitted addiction to this incredible sport. Fast forward to today and I am finally a low single digit handicap (2.7). Being in competitive athletics my whole life, I wanted to take my hobby to the next level and start competing in local tournaments. So I signed up for a fairly popular local tournament and have been prepping for it since the snow melted here in Ohio. I never played in high school or college so I don’t know what to expect in a real golf tournament. Clearly, it’s not just a regular old 18 holes (36 holes in this case) with the boys. Aside from the rigorous practice, I have been working on the mental aspect as well.

so what should I expect? For those that are experienced, what advice would you give and what would you change in your first tournament knowing what you know today?

 

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1. It's competitive play, therefore there will be significant pressure. If you haven't played under pressure before, it's a tall ask to win. Winning is a learned thing, you don't usually just come up

I started my competitive journey this year. Notes from my experience. 1. If you can play a practice round on the course...do it. I have done it both ways and having a little knowledge of the course

A few things I will throw in: Do not get yourself too excited and amped up before the tournament. It is just golf. No one cares what you shoot but you. The best way to combat nerves is a solid routi

First and foremost, go with no expectations, and just play golf!

On the first tee, you'll trade cards with another player (unless COVID has changed the protocols); there will be a spot where you keep their score, and usually a separate line for yours (noted as "Marker score" sometimes). At the end of the round, you'll sign both their card, and yours -- AFTER checking yours for accuracy. Generally on the first tee you'll also compare golf balls, numbers, and markings, to ensure you can identify your ball. If you are not in the habit of marking your ball with a Sharpie ... start now.

Realize that you do need to pay attention to etiquette, especially around the greens. Don't stand anywhere near someone's line, and be cautious of where you're walking to mark a ball or putt out. It goes without saying, when someone else is preparing to play, just stand still.

Additionally, make sure you're paying attention to the Rules of Golf. Knowing exactly where you can (or cannot) take a drop, and the process for doing it, is important. If you're not sure, ask for an official.

Have a great time, and good luck!

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Don’t be surprised by how nervous you’re going to feel. My first real tournament, my hand shook putting the tee in the ground on the first tee. Absolutely did not expect that.

Take your time and don’t let other players determine your speed of play. It’s really easy to get taken out of your rhythm by really fast or super slow players.

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1. It's competitive play, therefore there will be significant pressure. If you haven't played under pressure before, it's a tall ask to win. Winning is a learned thing, you don't usually just come up and start placing. So go in trying to learn, and develop your mental game.

2. It gets weird because during play, great players become obvious. Check them out, watch them, and watch their demeanor. They walk a bit smoother, carry themselves taller, and trust their games completely. You'll know when you see them, they stand out. They don't talk much, hit great shots, and tend to hover around but never relaxing, and seem to be on their own a lot. These guys are the top players, and are there to win. If a "great" player is always bragging, boasting, trash talking, and walking around parading himself amongst his peers, you know that when it counts he's one of the first to choke his guts out.

3. Winners win. It's their craft. When you find a consistent winner, talk with him after, get into his brain, ask the good questions. Be personable, but pay attention, and realize the difference between flash-in-the-pan dropout statistics and the guys who do it so often you could shoot them (Lol).

4. During competitive play, it's important to learn to deal with distractions. Rude comments, critical playing partners, and stupid crap happens all the time. They're only good for talk, and they get by on that. Beat them, clean their wallets, but try not to talk about it.

5. Get used to poor info. Tee times, groupings, etc. aren't great in amatuer events, so be sure to keep updated and confirm with a specific source on these things. It sucks, but it's how it is with low-end events.

 

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I've played a bit of competitive golf, though most of it pretty poorly. Try to enjoy yourself. If you have never experienced it before, be prepared for quite a rush! Stay within yourself and try not to be too distracted by your fellow competitors. Be cordial, bur remember, this is not just a friendly round of golf. Play YOUR game.

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Thanks for the replies so far! This is just what I needed before my tournament next weekend.

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I started my competitive journey this year. Notes from my experience.

1. If you can play a practice round on the course...do it. I have done it both ways and having a little knowledge of the course is super helpful.

2. You are going to be nervous. Make the last part of your warm-up hitting the shot you will hit on the first tee. Hold onto that visual and that feeling.

3. Play your game. DO NOT make decisions based on what the other guys are doing. I had the experience of having my playing partner blow a 2i past my driver on the first tee and was immediately intimidated. I was actually beating him (and in 3rd place) thru 13 until a bad double on 14. Do not get caught up in what clubs they're hitting, etc.

4. Know your strengths and trust them! Play a fade? PLAY IT. Good putter? TRUST IT.

5. All of that is easier said than done, but most importantly HAVE FUN.

 

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Like @golfgirlrobin said- don’t be surprised by nerves if they pop up. My first experience with nerves was in a Pro-Am I played in. While I didn’t have trouble teeing the ball when I took my stance on the first hole (several hundred spectators) I noticed my hands were shaking like I had palsy. Very disconcerting.
In my first couple club championships I wasn’t overly nervous like above but my scores were 10+ worse than normal. It took several tournaments before I was comfortable, and even then when there is a lot riding on a 3 footer it suddenly looks like 7 feet.
Don’t be surprised by anything that happens. Heck, you may win the thing.

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A few things I will throw in:

Do not get yourself too excited and amped up before the tournament. It is just golf. No one cares what you shoot but you.

The best way to combat nerves is a solid routine. And breathing. Gankas has some of the best stuff I have learned to calm yourself down. Check it out. The 7-4-11 breathing and how to get your mind external vs internal. It has helped me more than anything for tournament play.

Do not try a hero shot if you haven't practiced it. Stick with what you know you can do. If you are fading it, don't try to hit a perfect draw to fit a perfect shot, hit the fade.

Take ZERO penalty shots and ZERO three putts. Do those two things and you are picking up shots on the field.

Trust your first read. If you think it is a 9 iron, hit the 9 iron. Doubt destroys rounds and swings. Pick your club or your line and trust yourself. Indecision is a killer.

Understand over 36 holes that you are going to have a bad stretch somewhere most likely. Ride it out and scratch and claw to save pars when it goes sideways a few holes. And remember that everyone else is going to have their bad stretch too. Trust me, no one hits 36 greens and every fairway, battle through it.

Count your blessings that you are getting to play golf, enjoy yourself, embrace the nerves, have fun, and good luck. There is always another day.

 

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Expect:

Nerves - at least for the first hole or 2 and the first few 3-4 foot putts. A score in the 80sGolf and tournament golf are two very different things.

Advice

It was posted above - don't try a shot unless you've practiced it (and I'll add only if you can pull it off 7 of 10 times). Trying the hero shot to save par usually leads me to more doubles and triples than pars. Other than that, as much as you can, try to treat it like any other round of golf.I used to clean all my clubs the night before a tournament, replace the gloves on my bag with 2 new ones, replace all the golf balls with new ones fresh out of the sleeves. I amp'd it up to something bigger than it is, and after the first bogey, it wasn't fun anymore. It just turned into a grind. The more you can think of it as just another round of golf instead of a tournament, I think the better off you'll be. And since you're competitive, this won't be your last tournament. So I would use day 1 as a learning experience and day 2 as your chance to apply a lesson from day 1 and improve.

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I will toss in - bring your caddie! I a talking about an imaginary one.

I was competitive national level athlete when I was young so I thought my first competitive golf tournament would be no big deal. I was so wrong. I was so pumped up and almost in an internal frenzy the entire day and never really settled down and blew up on many holes. Being pumped up is great for some sports but not so good for golf and I did not know how to channel it.

The best thing I have find to help me is to pretend I have a very nice rational caddie with me and carry on an internal monologue with them. If find it really helps slow down my mind, get outside of myself and think through what I am doing. Your millage may very, but I think finding a way to slow down your mind is really important.

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It's just golf where the rules of golf are enforced. Don't concern yourself with what others do and don't be chatty either. Just play within yourself, stay clear headed, do not overthink, relax and focus on the task at hand. Pace of play may not be to your liking but don't let it get to you.

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You can certainly expect less chit chat. Maybe after a couple holes people will start talking but at least in the beginning (and depending on the level of the event) it's gonna be pretty quiet; everyone focusing on their own games. Respect that.

Depending on how many rules officials are available you may see the second ball option come up. Maybe that's just a Finnish thing but when I played in a club championship with one official for the whole course, any rules question became a 'play a second ball and sort it out later' affair. Also with rules, learn some of the stupid ones that can get you DQ'd. (Practicing on the course, incorrect card) There's always someone who picks up a DQ for something (In my club championship open flight, mostly plus caps, a contender got bounced because he holed out a wrong ball and then teed off on the next hole.) Don't be that guy.

Work on the 1-3 foot putts that so often get raked up in casual rounds. Those are for keeps now, and you won't always get to storm up to the hole and bang in the 3 footer you just ran by. You'll have to mark, think about it, replace it, and cash it. That's a lot harder than saying 'that's good' and walking off.

Don't expect to win, but that's different than not playing to win. I quite accidentally won a club sunday comp by simply sticking with "Safe, no lost balls, no three putts, no heroics" and discovering after the round I had held it together as everyone else had melted down around me. Just make a game plan, stick to game plan, and play golf.

Best of luck!

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Just like a regular round of golf... don't let self imposed pressure tighten you up. You have to almost not care what you shoot, be ok with any results, and just enjoy testing your game.

Highly recommend SLOWING EVERYTHING DOWN to start the round. Sometimes the adrenaline is up, and you get quick. Just like Jack Nicklaus when he wanted to hit a longer driver, you have to play for that body response.

Warmup with a lot of short shots around the green, pitching, wedges, etc.

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Biggest surprise for me was the SLOW play.... OMG hit the ball lol! I play fast and that is not a good thing in tourneys cause feels like I get rusty in between shots. You ever see a guy on the range hit balls at the same rate he does in a tourney...... don't think it's ever been done lol!!!

 

Also if the guys in your group are cool let them know you're a rook and if you can ask for their help if you need to drop a ball etc... there are a few anal retentive things about golf rules, a few lol, that I don't focus on too much in regular play but in tourneys they care....

 

Most of all learn what you need to learn for next time and how dependable different parts of your game are in competition then practice later remembering those tourney situations.... can you trust your draw or do you go to old faithful fade etc...

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Have fun and play relaxed. My approach to it would be since its a 36 hole event get it in your head that there is no need for nerves until late on the back nine of the 2nd day if you have played well enough up to that point.

Stay patient the first day, you hear it all the time with the top players....you can't win the tourney on Thursday but you play your way out of it.

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google heart math, buy it, use it and thank me later. It is amazing. Most everything else has been covered. Play your game, have a strategy before hand and stick to it. Do not have expectations and only focus on the shot at hand. Tournaments will show you where your game is at. Whatever you shoot, that is it. Try to improve from there. The guys that fail every singe time are the ones that think they are better than they are. You will shoot a score, that is where you are. If you shoot a 87, you are a 87, try to shoot 86 next time. With that approach, you will be a tournament monster in a year or two.

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Expect Nothing! and have fun :)

play within yourself.... you know what you can do and can't do.

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Here's what happens with many guys, even if you have some tournament experience... and we've all been there a time or two....

You're doing all the things you're suppose to do or you see pros do, even though you normally never do those things in any casual round (e.g. length of pre-shot routine, spending more time reading putts, number of practice swings, etc.). And you grind and grind and at some point the round feels so far off the rails you finally give up... you're out of contention and the tournament, won't make the cut (and you're kind of hoping you won't), so you may as well just play for fun the rest of the way in rather than no card it. Guess what happens as soon as soon as you change that mindset? You play pretty well into the house. Golf REALLY is a mental sport. You can be your own worse enemy.

Practice like you play, play like you practice. Whatever it is you do, don't do anything, or try to be anything, different in a tournament. If you're a one side look no practice swing putter on Monday, don't be reading putts from 3 angles and gauging the rotation of the earth on Thursday. Stick to a routine and just do the routine.SLOW DOWN. Trust me, the adrenaline is flowing, and you're going to be amped up... and that leads to quickness and tightness, which are swing killers. Even if you feel like you're swinging 50% off the first tee, I bet it's more like 85% and you can start off with a nice shot and feel for the day.Everyone sucks sometimes... get over it. Be OK with whatever the results are. And that goes for the day and every shot. BTW, hate to break it to you, but no one else but your mom cares how you did anyway, and mom doesn't really care either, she just pretends to care.Practice being uncomfortable and under pressure when it doesn't really matter. Play games with yourself about needing to do X on a hole, or today I have to break x, etc. Practice being under the gun, so you know how to deal with it better. You do anything enough, it won't be any different than a normal $1 a hole round with your friends.... which might be the first place to start.The driving range is for warming up the muscles and determining your miss for the day. And yes, you should always do it before a round. The golf course is for doing whatever it takes to get it in the hole, no matter how ugly it looks, with that known pattern. Don't fix it, don't work on it, don't think about it. Just scratch and gouge and fake it till you make it. If you're hitting 20 yard cuts on the range, play it every hole.Have a handful of go to shots you can rely on. For Tiger it was the stinger. Figure out your stinger. If you're choking on a shot, remember a shot you've pulled off before that was similar or hit that go to shot.If you're not confident you can pull it off, don't try it. I don't care if its driver on a par 5 or a sand wedge from a tight lie. Don't hit shots that are causing bad thoughts, especially early in the round, and especially if the range warmup indicates you should be concerned.Last, but not least, remember why you entered a tournament. Tournaments are for testing yourself. You signed up because you wanted to be tested, so enjoy it. If you don't want to test yourself, then don't enter tournaments.

 

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Expect a lot of jitters and nerves => bad shots => bad holes. My advice would be to play safe - drive with your 5 iron if you have to if your Driver isn't working for you. Try to play to your handicap for fun rather than better than your handicap to win. Be aware of the bailout areas on every hole and when in doubt or unsure hit the ball there.

Good luck. Have fun. Let us know how it went and what advice you would give the next person.

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So glad to see you are going to do this. There is simply nothing like competitive golf. It's a whole "thing" in and unto itself.

Absolutely slow down, but mostly just your thinking, breathing, and walking. You don't necessarily need to slow down your routine or anything else. Just walk up to the ball slowly. Walk up to your putts slowly. Trust me on this. The "walking up to the ball slowly" thing really helps people who can get a bit nervous. Helped me tremendously over the last few years. Help me break through to actually win a couple events.Spend time on the putting green hitting a bunch of 2.5 to 3.5 footers (you can start with these or end with them or whatever. I prefer to hit a few 15-footers to get a feel for speed and then immediately move to 2.5 to 3.5 footers to get that great feeling of holing the ball). You will be nervous over these your first tournament, most likely, so hit a bunch of 'em before you go to the first tee.If you can get a yardage/green slopes book or if you have a nice yardage/green slope app like GolfLogix (what I use), use it when necessary.It can definitely help to have a plan for your tee shots (2-hybrid here, 3-wood there, Driver on this hole, etc.). Just be ready to adjust if the wind conditions (or tee locations) change.Do not hit stupid shots or take stupid risks. You know what they are. Don't attempt/hit them.Good tournament golf is about executing your process. It is not about "outcomes." The outcomes come from you properly executing your entire process.Do not ever become invested in the outcome of a putt. You read the putt, you choose your speed, you choose your line. Once you do that, you execute your stroke and the moment that ball leaves your putter, you become -- instantly -- a disinterested observer of how the putt rolls. Also, always pay attention to how the ball rolls out and "finishes." That will tell you what you next putt is likely to do -- which will help you hole it.Much more to discuss, but that's a good start. :-)

Best of luck to you, and ... ENJOY!!!

 

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sometimes i wish we could "star" individual comments. a lot of really good stuff here.

Much more to discuss, but that's a good start. :-)subscription cost for future updates?

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Thank you all for the great advice!! I just got back home and shot a 77 and 76 for a 153 total. Very happy with it! Putter was hot both days but approach shots were ?. Definitely got things to work on. I’m so glad I did that. I missed those competitive juices flowing

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Fantastic!

are the results online?

PING G400 Max - Atmos Tour Spec Red - 65 - S
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congrats. I have to ask... did ANYTHING on this crazy thread actually help you, or you tried using while you played?

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Yes for sure! I went it to it with zero experience in competitive golf so all the advice was certainly helpful. It helped me be comfortable on the first tee when I started feeling those first tee jitters. Knowing that everyone goes through that was comforting and blasted my 3 wood 260 to the left side of the fairway.

One of my biggest takeaways from this thread is to just slow down. Slowing down really helped when the pressure was building. Doing that helped me go 11/13 on scrambling (also proving my approach shots were trash lol).

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