It’s an all too frequent occurrence for competitive golfers. A single stroke can make the difference in whether a player misses a cut, finishes outside the top 10, or comes up just short of winning a tournament. When it happens, it’s so easy to look back and find all the lost opportunities and the wasted strokes. So how can a seemingly frustrating experience help your game? Because it’s in these disappointments that golfers learn the valuable lessons that can change the trajectory of a young career.
The trick to benefiting from competition is to recognize that every tournament provides, apart from the results, the following important information:
Irrespective of how many hours players practice or train, only the feedback gained under the pressures of a tournament can pinpoint the areas of a young golfer’s game that need to improve. It’s often in the tournaments in which players perform poorly that you can learn the most and understand what changes need to take place to improve play in the future. As a coach, I’m always interested in understanding the factors that lead to poor play, as well as the details surrounding a good tournament. Therefore, I highly recommend that junior golfers make regular use of a statistical analysis program that objectively captures and identifies strengths and weaknesses. At our Academy, our students use ShotbyShot.com.
Rating of Preparation, Decision Making, and Mental Toughness
At the completion of every tournament we ask our players to rate their preparation, decision making, and mental toughness. We’ve noticed a strong correlation between high ratings in these three areas and low scores. This focus helps our students commit their attention to activities that are highly controllable. Each and every tournament provides an opportunity to work on these important skills.
Better Understanding of In-Round Adjustments
One of the biggest differences between good and great players is the ability to adjust to all the factors that change during a round. We like to divide them between external factors (wind, green speed, etc.) and internal factors (fatigue, anxiety, etc.). The best players in the world almost seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to recognizing these in-round changes. They also have a deep understanding of their game and know the correct adjustments to make when it matters most. Less experienced golfers, especially younger players, are slow to pick up on the changes and then often compound these errors by choosing the wrong adjustment.
It’s normal to be motivated by and to concentrate on the potential outcome of a tournament. Unfortunately, it’s just not the best approach to take if the overriding goal is long-term improvement. Instead, I encourage young golfers striving to play at a high level to compete frequently and to turn their attention to learning more about their game each time they play.
Jeff Isler shares his observations, insights, and experiences on the game of golf and those that play it at a high level.