The first golf tournament is an exciting thing! I remember it fondly – first I forgot my trolley at home and on the way I lost my teammate’s scorecard on a course. I don’t tend to get nervous, but this also made me a little anxious 😉 .
But what is the best way to prepare and how to behave as a beginner in a golf tournament?
For me, the following points are an important prerequisite to be able to play a tournament acceptably:
- Good preparation
- Warming up
- Avoiding stress on the first tee
- Playing technique and course management
- Dealing with flight partners
- Eating and drinking
- Accepting bad strokes
- Scorecard of the teammate
- Taking advantage of beginner status and having fun
1. Good preparation
Ideally, pack your golf bag the day before and make sure you don’t forget anything. The most important things are:
- Clubs (ideally cleaned)
- Balls (take enough and label them with names or signs)
- Ball marker
- Pen to fill in the scorecard
- Cleaning cloth
- Towel in case of sun
- Umbrella in case of rain
- Rain wear for safety
- Food and drink
In my opinion, preparation also includes arriving on time and leaving in advance. This will save you unnecessary stress. Also inform your family about the tournament and make it clear that you will not be available during this time.
2. Warming up
Before every game of golf, it is essential to do a rough warm-up; this way you will avoid injuries. To make sure you don’t start out completely cold, practice swings are mandatory. Go to the driving range and hit 2-3 balls with each club. Then make about 20 approach shots in the pitching area. Finally, make about 20 putts from long and short distances.
The most important thing to remember when practicing: Don’t judge your strokes. Just slowly get a feel for your form on the day and the ball. Under no circumstances should you think that your game will be good or bad because you played well or badly on the driving range. Those are two pairs of shoes. How often do I hear teammates say on the course, “What a stupid thing to say – everything went perfectly on the driving range!”
Don’t burn yourself out. You still need a lot of energy for the tournament.
3. Avoiding stress on the first tee
You’ll be excited – even professionals and old hands get that way. If you accept that and take a deep breath, you’ve already won a lot.
Now for the first shot: Of course, you want to show everyone how well and far you can hit! But the comparison with reality is usually different. 8 out of 10 drives typically fly straight and far for you? Then, here you go, go for it. But are the chances more like 50:50? Then you’d better take a club with a hit ratio of at least 80 percent.
Don’t know your odds? This is also part of a game preparation (in general); check on the driving range with 10 shots each, how good all 10 have become. This will help you find your favorite club and also determine which one you need to practice more with. While you’re at it, make a note of the approximate driving distance of each club.
Additionally, it helps to manifest a stroke routine. You rarely do this as a beginner golfer, but in my opinion, you can’t start early enough. Divide your swing into two phases. In the first phase, take your practice swings (3 at most), then get behind the ball and find a spot where you want the ball to go and visually envision the shot. When you are completely convinced, the second phase begins. Go directly to the ball and make your stroke or swing. During these phases, you are so focused that you probably don’t feel any excitement.
One more important point: sometimes the tournament doesn’t start on tee 1. Look at the announcement to see if it is a cannon start. If it is, you will have to start your tournament at the hole that has been noted for you on the scorecard. In the worst case, you will have to allow up to 15 minutes of walking to get there.
4. Playing technique and course management
On the golf course, you should definitely not start tweaking your swing technique. Even if something is not going so well, remember your basics and try to swing loosely. The more you want to do, the more likely it will come to nothing because you’ll tense up.
Normally, you should already know your golf course and have developed your own strategy for each hole. But if you’re a beginner, you’ll probably lack that experience. But that’s not a big deal; you still have a handicap for that, which gives you about 3 strokes per hole. See also the last section “Using beginner status”.
But now to course management for beginners: Make it as easy as possible for yourself. Don’t try master shots over the bunker, but rather play past it. Make a plan for each hole:
Hole 1; Par 4; 350 yards.
As a beginner, you won’t make par – so don’t put pressure on yourself and play your game. Hit your favorite club three times each 120 yards, and you’ll be on the green in three easy strokes.
Another strategy for approaches: Even if a shot with a sand wedge impresses with a nice height, you should prefer a flat approach with an 8 or 7 iron. The error rate is lower: Play flat – win high!
5. Dealing with flight partners
You will not be playing alone, of course. Probably with people you have never met before. Don’t worry, you don’t have to make friends for life. But with a little social skill, you can turn it into a good get-together. Try to appear casual, don’t grumble, and look your teammates straight in the face. Praise and commiserate with your teammates’ strokes, but not too harshly. Nothing is worse than playing a round of golf for 5 hours and no one says a word.
Remember, even if your teammates have a better handicap, they are sure to be just as nervous.
If you have a troublemaker in your flight, it’s best to ignore them. It happens all the time that someone gets mad at themselves and even throws the club or chops into the ground. This is against etiquette and should be disregarded. In a serious situation, the sheriff will catch on and issue a reprimand or sending off.
Most importantly, it should not interfere with your own game. I myself have had it happen a few times that I messed up my game because of such an encounter. I had thoughts like: If I play well now, the other guy will surely be even more sour.
6. Eating and drinking on the round
It should be so obvious that you have to eat and drink during 4 – 6 hours of sport. But unfortunately this is always forgotten. Try to get into a routine of this as early as possible: Drink 2 – 3 sips at each tee. Eat a snack after 3 holes (banana, nuts, dates, dried figs, energy bar). This should protect you from the big thirst and hunger binge.
7. Bad strokes
How many very good shots do professionals make in a tournament day? About one!
This should make you realize that a sense of entitlement is completely out of place. Accept your bad shots; laugh and shake off the frustration. Thank goodness you don’t have to make a living playing golf like the pros.
Do like Tiger Woods – take ten steps after a bad shot. During this time, you are allowed to get angry. After that, the game goes on.
8. Scorecard and counting the teammate.
Unlike a normal round of golf, in a tournament the result (score) of each hole is recorded on the scorecard. This is not done for your own score, but for a teammate. At the beginning of a tournament round, the cards are exchanged. Who counts one is written on the card under “counter”.
After each round, the counter notes the score. Sometimes he will ask and check directly if counter and player have recorded the same number. Sometimes there can be discrepancies. Address them directly and try to find a consensus. In case of doubt, it can also be clarified after the round by the game management.
Most of the time, I have only had good experiences. I try to concentrate on my own game and note the score as it is given to me by the player. If I have the impression that this number is not correct, I address it.
By the way: You enter your own score in the column on the right. There is also a perforation there, over which you can tear off your strip with numbers – as a reminder 😉.
At the end of the round, you reconcile the score. The counter reads out and the counted matches it with his notes. Any ambiguities are corrected and finally sealed by a signature each. Now hand in the cards at the clubhouse – done. And: A missing signature makes the card invalid!
9. Use beginner status and stay relaxed!
You are a beginner and no one will expect top performance from you. Other players have a harder time. Enjoy this status and play relaxed. Rather use the safe clubs and make straight strokes.
With a handicap of 54 you have 3 strokes per hole “ahead”. On a par 3 you can make 6 strokes and still get 2 net points! That’s what I call a comfortable buffer 🙂 .
So don’t put yourself under pressure and try to achieve a par at all costs. Most of the time, nothing comes of it and the fun of the game falls by the wayside.
Instead, pay attention to the play of your fellow players. What can you learn from the old hands? How do they deal with bad shots? What tactics do they use? For now, just be a silent observer and try to play your game quickly. Nothing is worse than having a beginner in your flight who makes 5 practice swings, reads the green for 5 minutes only to chop into the ground or needs 4 putts.
You see, as a beginner you actually have it easier and don’t have to fear anything bad. As is so often the case, stress is homemade and rarely necessary. Whether it will be a good golf tournament or not, who cares?
The main thing is to have fun and be out in the fresh air in nice company. THAT is what this wonderful sport is all about.