March 2012

March 2012: Golf Tips from a Pro - How to Prepare/Train for Tournaments

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Becoming better at any endeavor requires improvement, and improvement comes through change. In fact, it requires three stages: change, changing and changed. First, we need to realize the need for change. Once realized, we can begin to make the necessary changes. When these changes have been made, they are now changed. The game of golf is no different. Yet golfers tend to be creatures of habit, even if those habits are bad.

All of us have played in or plan to play in events important to us. For some, it’s a member/guest; for others it’s a city or club championship, and at the highest level, it is qualifying for or winning on a professional tour. Yet very few golfers realize that how we prepare and practice/train for an event in the days, weeks, or months prior to that event has a great effect on how well (or not so well) we perform.

When preparing for a tournament, pros and amateurs alike will wait until the week prior to the big event to take a last lesson and work on their swing. All the weeks and months prior to this time were spent playing golf, and now a week or two before the event, they all want to work on their swing. In reality, they have the entire process backwards.

Say you are scheduled to play in the biggest event of the year in six weeks. Ideally, you would divide your training schedule into three phases, each consisting of two weeks. The phases are as follows:

This is when you realize you need change. It starts with making sure all your mechanics and fundamentals are in the proper place by taking a lesson or two—not waiting until the week before the event to take a lesson! In this phase, almost all of your time will be spent on the range and putting green, making the changes, with very little time allocated to the course. Staying on the range allows you to focus on mechanics without worrying too much about scoring. Resist the urge to go onto the course just because you think you are hitting well. Hitting, chipping or putting well is not the sole goal here. The goal is to make sure the fundamentals and mechanics are right. Remember you are in the process of change, and going onto the course will only allow you to fall back on what has been comfortable in the past, negating the progress you have just made.

You are now in the process of changing. Practice time is divided between range time and course time. During range time, you are shifting away from total mechanical thinking to a blend of mechanical and target thinking. For example, in Phase I you might have missed the target greens because so much attention was placed on mechanics. Now that the mechanics have improved, you can focus on hitting the green. If your mechanics begin to slip, shift the focus back to mechanics until they are corrected. Half your time should be spent on the course so that the changes made on the practice tee and putting green can now be assimilated into the playing process. This is also known as the adaptation to change.

Now that you have spent four weeks making sure your mechanics are correct and are able to use those mechanics to hit to targets, it is time to implement your changes. Almost all of your time is spent on the golf course with very little time allocated to range time. How many holes you play is irrelevant. What is important is that while you are playing, your focus is on hitting the shot and scoring. By this time, all thoughts of mechanics should be fully embedded deep within your subconscious and no longer require conscious thought. You have just spent four weeks working on your swing. Now is the time to allow it to work—let it happen.

You will notice this practice schedule is the opposite of what most golfers actually do. This schedule allows you to get all your mechanical work done early in your preparation without fear of shooting a high score. Then it allows you to implement the changes slowly to your game and gives you time to make final tweaks if necessary. Finally, it gets you into playing the game of golf instead of thinking about how you’re swinging the club. By the time the event rolls around, your swing, body and mind have been trained in the proper sequence, allowing you to play well.

The winners at any sport do not win by accident; there is a method to their winning. It begins with preparation and ends with being prepared. If you would like to know more about how to practice and prepare for a member/guest, club championship, or tournament, contact Pete Popovich at the Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head. I can set up a practice routine with each phase tailored to your specific needs so you can start preparing to win.

For more information, contact the Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head at (843) 338-6737,, or on Facebook at Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head.

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