I wanted to write a follow up to Andy Morrison’s post “Practice vs Competition….There is only ONE game” because it is one of the most frequent mistakes I see good golfers make. I think it all comes down to how you define practice. What is the role of practice? What is it supposed to accomplish?
Here’s the definition I prefer to use from Google : “rehearse: engage in a rehearsal”
If this is the case, then it only makes sense that when you are playing for practice that you are trying to rehearse shots you will use in competition. There seems to be this disconnect between practice round golf and tournament golf. I think the way practice is carried out can be one of the main reasons. As a golfer begins to compete in tournaments, there is a study in course management that I think may actually hurt some people. There seems to be some generally accepted practices that player’s know they ‘should’ do vs. what they actually want to do. In fact, sometimes they may choose what they ‘should’ do over what they are good at doing.
As a college coach, I see this to often from many competitors. Examples can be chipping or putting from the fringe, going for it on par fives and working the ball. First off, I think it is important to distinguish the difference between trying to figure out the best play and practice. Trying to figure out the best play is not practice as I have defined it above. Remember, I am defining practice as a rehersal. I see many players from 235 out on a par five go for it without even thinking during a practice round and lay up from the same place in the tournament.
All the practice (rehersal) they have done has been meaningless because when the time comes to hit the shot they’ve been rehersing, a different shot is selected. It’s as if they are trying to learn two separate games; a practice game and a tournament game. If these two are not the same than no amount of practice will aid the tournament golf. Like Andy said, there is only one game. You choose in advance what that game is and you practice it and apply what you practiced to a tournament round. I also agree with Andy that the main difference between practice golf and tournament golf is the value we assign to each. Aside from the value judgment we make about them, there is no difference. Same tools, same grass, same holes and same everything else.
Learn to practice and compete with the same game. It will be more comfortable, familiar and relaxing. These things will allow for more trust and lower scores when you want them the most.