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How to prepare for a golf tournament

Golf Care, 19th March 2024

how to prepare for a golf tournament


Knowing how to prepare for a golf tournament is important to any golfer, regardless of your level. After all, whether it’s a week-long stay at Augusta or a local, one-day charity fundraiser, you want to perform well no matter what—and as the old adage goes; fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Golf coach Duncan McCarthy has worked with winners on all the main tours, and an important part of his job is to make sure that his stable of players perform at their best when it really matters. A big part of knowing how to prepare for a golf tournament is time management and ensuring you have the right level of mental and physical energy out on the course.

There are many decisions to make during the week leading up to a golf tournament, and making smarter ones can really help improve your scoring.

In this article, Duncan speaks to us about all the things golfers need to consider to get the most out of a week away on tour.


How to prepare for a golf tournament

how to prepare for a golf tournament


I would highly advise a rest day if you’ve had a tournament the previous week. So, if you are coming from a previous tournament, I would always advise a player to try and take Monday off or at least half a day. You’re often travelling anyway, but I think it’s always important to have rest time. And if you’re doing two tournaments, that’s likely 14 straight days, so you’ll need some time off. 


Seeing a course for the first time

Sometimes, players spend too much time on the range and don’t learn enough about the course. If you have a caddy, they will often walk the course and confirm lines off tees and carries, but the player should also see everything beforehand and hit the odd tee shot a couple of times to test a few clubs.

You need to know where you can miss it and where the no-go area is. Even if you win a tournament, you’ll not hit every green, so you’ll need to chip and putt a lot—you have to be comfortable on the greens, both with the pace and your course strategy.  If you achieve those things, it’s a sign that you have had some good prep days.


The pre-tournament days

how to prepare for a golf tournament

Let’s say the tournament is on the weekend. I like to get my players a touch more competitive on perhaps the Tuesday and Wednesday, so it sharpens them a little bit in advance.

So, if we’re doing nine holes, I might say to them, ‘Right, you have got 45 foot total, so all of your chips have to be within 45 feet over the nine holes.’

If they finish on 44 feet, I will owe them a fiver and vice versa. Or they might do an up-and-down challenge for nine holes, where I’ll say, ‘Seven out of nine up-and-downs—you win, six is a half, and five is a loss.’

Amateurs can learn so much from the pro’s short games. Around 60-70 per cent of the game is played on and around the green, so you should always pay attention to this area. A shift in that attitude towards where you are prepping or practising is very useful for amateurs.

When on the range, have a purpose or goal and know what you want to do—whether it’s a number of balls or time allocation. You should then try and succeed and achieve that goal, rather than just going on and on aimlessly. You might hit three balls working on a swing move, then two to a target with your routine—do that 10 times, and you’ve hit 50 balls. This is a great way of doing it because you’ve got a nice mix between running your performance routine and working on your swing development. That’s a nice balance, and you’re not just ball-bashing all the time.


The warm-up

I had one player recently who would get to the 1st tee 15 minutes early, which is not advisable. You want to get to the tee four or five minutes before. You don’t want to get on the tee when the group in front are still on there; arrive when it’s empty instead.

Most golfers normally spend around 20-25 minutes on the range when warming up, then about 10-15 minutes on the chipping green, and another 10 minutes on the putting green. When you add that up, minus the walks in between to get from one area to another, you’re probably looking at about 45-50 minutes in total, which is more than enough, even for the top pros.


The early tee time

how to prepare for a golf tournament

As a coach, you’ll want to be looking at what a player is doing before they go to bed before a tournament. Are they winding down, or are they actually winding up without realising it?

Unfortunately, the last thing most of us do at night before sleep is look at our phones. This gives a false sense of stimulation to the eyes and the body, making it hard to shut down. It would be more beneficial to partake in some form of meditation instead, or write a journal entry to sooth the mind. By doing this, you’re subconsciously telling yourself that you’re ready to go to bed.


The late tee time

If a golfer has a later tee time, I’d normally look at this and say, ‘What would you like to do?’  

Let’s say you have a 2pm tee time. You might get to the club for 11.30am and have some lunch first. Then, you might go to the gym or the physio truck and into your normal warm-up routine.

So, realistically, it’s just a lie-in, and you might just want to chill on the sofa and watch a bit of golf first.  


The pre-round chat

Some golfers like to have some form of a pep talk before starting, while others are in their own bubble. Working out which category you fall into here is a good step towards learning how to prepare for a golf tournament.

If I’m giving a pep talk, I’ll only go over things we’ve already spoken about anyway to reaffirm them. I wouldn’t introduce new things or ideas at that stage. I might, though, say things like, ‘You’re going to have a challenge out there,’ or ‘There’ll be part of that round today where you’ll face a challenge or an obstacle,’ and we’ll chat about how best to deal with it.

Every golfer will have negative thoughts, and they’ll probably never completely go away, but we can learn to build better relationships with them. As a golfer working towards a big tournament, you’re naturally going to focus on the worst-case scenarios and outcomes, and that’s fine—but don’t forget about the best-case outcomes, too. At least give yourself a chance to walk off the 18th green and say, ‘You know what, I was proud of what I did today.’

And if you can say that most of the time, you’ve done alright.


The evenings

It’s important to mix with the right people when overnight stays are involved. I’d always rather sit by myself and order room service than go out with people who are going to drain me. But when I do go out for dinner, I make sure I’m with good people.

On the PGA Tour in the US, many golfers stay in host houses or Airbnbs because there’s more normality involved, and you can do things similar to what you would at home. You have to be switched on and make sure what you’re eating and drinking will benefit you rather than hinder your performance or sleep.

Ultimately, you want to go back to your hotel room after dinner thinking, ‘I really enjoyed that. Those were good people, and that was a good conversation.’

Golden rule: Don’t talk about missed putts or waste energy complaining about this or that over dinner, and then go to sleep on those thoughts later on because you’ll only reinforce them further in your subconsciousness while you’re asleep.


Specialist golf insurance with Golf Care

Knowing how to prepare for a golf tournament is one thing, but when the day arrives and you’re in the zone, the last thing you want is to be worrying about things going wrong and distracting your mind.

That’s why many golfers choose to protect themselves and their gear with specialist insurance to give them peace of mind to focus on the task at hand.

If you’re playing golf regularly, be it a tournament or a casual round, you might want also want to consider protecting yourself with specialist golf insurance in case the worst should happen.

With Golf Care, policies include Equipment Cover up to £7,500 and Public Liability of up to £10m, so you can worry less and focus on winning more.

Click on the banner below to learn more and get a quote.

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