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Mental Preparation for Tournaments

You may have heard the Bobby Jones quote, “There’s golf and then there’s tournament golf”. All of us that have played in golf tournaments understand what Mr. Jones meant. His quote does not just apply to professional events. Amateur golfers can feel the same nerves before a big event. The mental aspect of the game has ended a lot of good players’ careers. Golf seems to be tougher than other sports when it comes to the mental side. Getting mentally prepared to play can be the difference between a good round and a bad one.


Most good golfers try to practice how they play. This means a couple of different things. First, they practice with a purpose. They put themselves in a realistic game time situation. It is important to get your mind used to some pressure. Use games or compete against a friend. Take it seriously and get used to “grinding”. This will not only help your game, but it will get you ready for tournament golf.

The second thing to remember is to develop a repeatable pre-shot routine. The same pre-shot routine should be done on each shot during practice rounds – not just each shot during tournament rounds. This will help you get in a groove and repeat your swing.


On tournament days, get your mind ready to play. First of all, get to the event with plenty of time to spare. The last thing you want to do is rush to the first tee. Secondly, start your tournament on the practice tee and NOT the first tee. After stretching and warming up, visualize the first hole on the range. If the first hole is a par 4 that for you is a driver and a 7 iron, play the hole on the range. Go through your pre-shot routine, see the shot and hit your drive. Then do the same with the 7 iron. Go through a number of holes until you feel comfortable. Take this as seriously as possible. Your goal is to get in a groove and create confidence. Remember, you can do the same thing around the putting green. Work on different ways to get the ball up and down before you head to the first tee.

In most events you have a few minutes after you get your scorecard and meet the fellow competitors, to wait to get on the tee. All players are different. Some like to get mentally prepared by seeing the last few putts going in the hole on the putting green. Others like to look down the first hole and see their first shot. This is a good time for you to get ready for your first shot and calm down a bit.

A lot of stress can be controlled by your breathing techniques. Deep breaths reduce stress by oxygenating your body. Always take a couple of deep breaths before you go to the first tee or even incorporate it into your pre-shot routine. When you get tight, your arms and shoulders get tense. Taking deep breaths will relax your upper body. Remember to concentrate on the exhale part of your breath and push it all the way out. You will feel the tension leave your body.

Realize that everyone feels nerves. If you don’t feel nervous, you’re not ready to play. The best way to truly be mentally prepared for tournaments is to play in a lot of them. Play as much competitive golf as you can and eventually you’ll learn what works for you.

Lastly, choose to have fun. The opposite of stress is fun. Golf can be tough. Many players get caught up in one bad shot and that leads to a bad round. Not every shot is going to be perfect. It’s how you react to those less-than-perfect shots that will determine your final score. Try to lose yourself in the game and enjoy your time on the course.

Remember these four things: be on time, visualize, breath and choose to have fun. Using these tips will help you prepare for your next big event and lead to lower scores.


Article Prepared by:
Frank Mantua
PGA Professional
Director of Golf
US Golf Camps