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Practice, Practice, Practice, scores come down, still do bad in tournament

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My 14 year old son has been playing golf for 2 years now. He wants to play golf for a college someday. He puts in a tremendous amount of practice and playing time and his scores have gone from the 100's to the mid to high 80's in those two years, however, when he plays in tournaments his scores are terrible. For example, recently he played a practice round and scored very well, the next day he played a tournament and his score was above his average score. He is getting frustrated because the other kids in the tournaments say they have been playing about as long as he has but they rarely ever practice yet they score better in the tournaments than he scores in a casual round. Does anyone have any advice on what he can do to improve his tournament score?

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Some guys that practice on the range/putting green a lot can't seem to bring it to the course....if this is the case, have him get out and play more rounds and spend less time on the range.

It may also be simply nerves and the more tournament golf he plays, the more acclimated he will become.

Lastly, make sure that priority No. 1 is having fun......college is a long ways off.

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The only way to get used to tournament golf is to play tournament golf regularly...simple as that really

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Easier said than done.......but I try to tell myself I'm just playing another practice round with the "guys" when I'm in tournament play. It's all about nerves, if you can keep them under control, your scores will follow. Again, easier said than done!!

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Is he counting all the strokes in the practise round? It's very easy for someone to miss a 2 footer in a practise round and say "I'll give myself that since I should have made it". That could inflate expectations a bit.

It's more than likely the pressure though.

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Playing in tournaments involves a lot more than just going out and playing golf. There's added trappings and distractions you just don't face in a Thursday afternoon round with three friends.

If he's looking to play competitive golf, he needs to start charting his game. Have a separate "stats" scorecard to mark down fairways hit, GIR, scrambles, etc. A lot of the stuff you can plug into the Scorecard or similar software, and find patterns over several rounds.

Then, look for patterns in "problem" areas.

Another thing is developing the mental side of the golf game. Don't get rattled, keep an even keel. (I wish I had explored the mental side about 30 years ago.) One pro said he had a big jump in his success when a friend of his, a pro boxer, told him about the importance of steady breathing. Some people pick up the bad habit of holding their breath before a big pitch shot or putt. This can give you the jitters and a jerky swing.

Although he's only 14, near the end of HS you might want to get him a TPI swing analysis. This will show if there are any spot flexibility or strength deficits he needs to overcome.

Posted by BallStriker...

Some guys that practice on the range/putting green a lot can't seem to bring it to the course....if this is the case, have him get out and play more rounds and spend less time on the range.

A related factor is practicing with purpose. You don't need to hit 400 balls every day. If you hit some wedges and a few drives and lose your concentration, it's time to pack it in. Don't practice so much you're stale at "game time."

Looking ahead to college...

He needs to work on his golf to make it to college. But, he also needs to be a good student to remain there.  I'm a college professor, and golf is extremely challenging for the student athlete. In the spring golfers may be away from campus several days at a time, and they need to coordinate with professors to keep up and make sure they don't flunk out. Time management is the key.

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Originally Posted by Golfing Dad

My 14 year old son has been playing golf for 2 years now. He wants to play golf for a college someday. He puts in a tremendous amount of practice and playing time and his scores have gone from the 100's to the mid to high 80's in those two years, however, when he plays in tournaments his scores are terrible. For example, recently he played a practice round and scored very well, the next day he played a tournament and his score was above his average score. He is getting frustrated because the other kids in the tournaments say they have been playing about as long as he has but they rarely ever practice yet they score better in the tournaments than he scores in a casual round. Does anyone have any advice on what he can do to improve his tournament score?



Well, based on my dime-store psychology, I'd say he's putting too much pressure on himself during tournaments.  As such, the question becomes; how do you get him to play with the mindset that allows him to play to his abilities as opposed to a mindset that hinders him from playing to his abilities during tournaments?  Without knowing his personality and the dynamics of how you and your son interact, it's difficult to say what the best approach would be.  Nonetheless, here's what I would suggest:

Suggestion #1:  Ignore what the other kids say about how little they practice.

First rule of competition; get into your opponent's mind.  Odds are, they're lying about how (little) they practice.  The effect this has on your son is that he adds pressure to himself because he feels he should be playing better than them due to his frequent and intense practice regime.  Yet, he's unable to.  This type of cognitive dissonance creates frustration and at that point, he's battling himself as well as the other players. Case(s) in point.  I have a bud that I play with all the time.  He's a 6 capper and a good golfer (well, good relative to me).  At any rate, he often get complimented on his abilities.  He tells everybody that he's been playing for only 3 years.  Many people are impressed at his level of play in such a short period of time.  The truth of the matter is that he's been playing for 8 years.

In another case, when I first got into golf, I often played with another bud of mine.  Since we were both new to the game, we were pretty "craptastic".  As time went on, he started to shoot lower and lower scores.  I had a better long game, but he wiped the floor with me on the short game.  When I asked him how he got so good with his short game, he replied, "I don't do anything.  I see the shot in my mind and I make the swing."  It wasn't until I was chatting with his wife one day that I discovered the truth.  When I complimented him on his improvement to her, she replied, "Yes.  He's been working real hard to become better.  In fact, he spends about 2 hours per day hitting golf balls at various distances over our pool from one side of the yard to the other."

Why do/did these guys lie?  Simple.  They have a built in excuse should they perform poorly.  With my current bud, if he tanks a round, his excuse is that he's still new to the game.  With my previous bud, if he tanks a round, his excuse is because he doesn't practice.  They do this so they can create this mental safety net that allows them to have everything to gain and nothing to lose.  Hence, they play relatively pressure free.

Even if it turns out that these kids are actually practicing less than your son, so what?  BFD.  There's no brownie points for practicing less in golf.  Come up with a routine/schedule that helps your son become a better golfer.  At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that he plays in the tournaments in a manner that makes him proud and gives him a sense of accomplishment.  The rest is immaterial.

Suggestion #2: Boring golf is good golf.

During practice/casual rounds go ahead and hit those low percentage shots, attack that pin and damn the consequences.  That's what practice rounds are for, to challenge yourself and test your limits.  In essence, push yourself until you fail.  However, during tournament rounds, play boring golf.  Have your son hit the fairway (or as close to it as possible) with his tee shots even if it means leaving the driver in the bag on certain holes and sacrificing some distance.  From there, have him aim for the center (or the fattest part) of the greens on his approach shots and tee shots on the par 3s.

This past weekend's PGA tournament (Canadian Open) there was a driveable par 4.  The day I was watching, I saw the group of Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and Lucas Glover play the hole.  Plenty of firepower from this group of players to reach the green with their drives.  If memory serves me correctly, both RF and AK tee off with driver and LG tees off with an iron.  RF puts his drive on the front of the green, AK puts his drive in the rough left of the green and, LG puts his drive in the center of the fairway.  RF 3 putts for par and AK hacks his approach shot out of the rough but fails to make his up and down and takes a bogey.  LG nails his wedge close to the hole and 1 putts for birdie.

Suggestion #3: Script out each hole so that your son plays them according to his strengths.

By having an idea in advance how he wants to play each hole, hopefully he'll tend to focus on what he needs to do with each shot rather than become engrossed in what his competitors are doing and trying to "match" their shots.  You never want to play someone else's game; you want to play yours.  I've seen players in tournaments mimic what their competitors are doing.  For instance, they see their competitor pull out a driver on a 300 yard par 4, so they do the same.  Next thing you know, both players have this 35-yard pitch shot to the green.  The competitor may be fine with this because he has a very good short game.  However, the player that "copied" the competitor may not have as good of a short game.  His strength are his full swing shots.  He ends up chunking or skulling his approach shot and takes a double-bogey.  In hindsight, he should've hit say a 4i out of the tee box and left himself a full wedge shot to the green instead.

Of course there will be some mishit shots here and there that will require some adjustments, so the script is not etched in stone.  Rather, it's just a tool to take out some of the uncertainty (stress/pressure) of what his next move will be and to ensure that the round is played in a manner that gives him the greatest chance at being successful.

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it seems to me he needs to get out and play more competition. when i first started playing events at my club i was shocked at the mental side of the it...it is what i enjoy most about it. the only way to get comfortable is to repeat it often.

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My 14 yr old is having the exact same issues. Playing 2+ years and one full year of tournaments. She is a +2.4 hdcp but shoots mid 80's on easy courses in tournaments. She plays a lot of tourneys. I figure it has to be in her head. She plays most days and shoots at or under par on difficult courses from the men's tees. Put her in a tournament and it's a different golfer.

Did any of this work out for your son? Which advice did you try and what would you recomend? How is his game now?

Thanks for any advice.

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@Golfing Dad and @Chuckles206


Just my thoughts on preparing young golfers for tourney play.

Two things, first would be a heavy dose of match play. Have them play as many rounds as they possibly can.
Match Play builds several key features for players. They must grind when their behind in a match and also to hold a lead.
It also is a key with play around the green and putting to win or halve holes.
Also the beauty of match play is every hole counts.

Second, make sure they develop a routine to play golf one stroke at a time and not let them become frustrated due to a poor shot or bad bounce.  

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I coach our varsity team and I have also started entering into more tournaments so I get a chance to see it from both sides. I tyally shoot mid 70's and on a good day I'll be anywhere between even part to 4 under. I started playing competitively 3 years ago when I felt I had enough game to compete and I typically would go out the first day and shoot really well then just fall apart the second day. I routinely was shooting around 2-3 over par the first day and would go out the second day and shoot an 86. I did that in about 4-5 tournaments but just kept working on things. I would also routinely thin the living daylights out of my opening tee shot. Finally last year I shot a pair of 76's to win our club championship.

This year I decided to try and qualify for our state amateur tournament and went out and shot a 95, it's been a long time since I've been that high..lol. You really just have to keep competing and eventually you will get used to it. I played a few more tournaments this year and I am finally hitting that point where I play as well in tournament play as I do in my casual rounds, I am finally internalizing everything and being able to play my own game without all those distractions. I'm also getting back to the point of where I thrive on that feeling but it has taken a few years for me. Just have to walk away from those tournaments you haven't done well in and just reflect on them and make changes accordingly, usually in the head game.

As a coach I really push the kids to have a short term memory and don't track your score. Play the percentages is also a saying I drill into them, play shots that you know you have a better chance of making then not making. I had a golfer this year who is in her first year playing seriously and really had a chance to make the state championship for individuals. Her putt on the last hole did a 360 around the cup and stayed out, if the putt had fallen she would have made the state championship that she missed by one stroke. I found out she had a hidden scorecard and she was adding up after every hole so she knew where she was at all times. She went into the last few holes telling herself she had to get certain scores on the last few holes and just set herself up to fail. Short term memory, write the score down and move on. 

The more tournaments or fun harmless wager situations you play in the better. I routinely play the kids for a drink in the clubhouse or I will play them for paying for their dinner on our way home from a match. The more you play with pressure the easier it will become as you know how your body and mind will feel and respond when the adrenaline and nerves are going strong.

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while, i do not have kids, if i did..... or if i was to give someone advise on what to do to prepare them for a tournament.....  1 - find the toughest golf course in the area and play it a couple times before said tournament... 2 - have a small wager, for your kid.... like 2$ for every par, 5$ for every birdie, and 10$ for a eagle... but if they get a bogey or worse, they have to do 10 pushups or 10 squats..   or do the same for Fairway's hit, Greens in reg, and birdie or better .....  

and dont listen to what other people say... cuz you always have the one person who never practices.. or just started, and is shooting sub 80s ... which never happens.... golf is a game where u have to put the time in to become good..   

And take it one shot at a time.... if you duff a shot or whatever.... dont try to play the hero shot, play it smart so you are not just killing your score..

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Did anyone notice the original post was from 2011, and the OP hasn't revisited since 2013 ?

Since that is the case i wonder how much pressure comes from well meaning parents that envision a golf prodigy in the family. It seems like a great idea to start someone out very young and maybe at least get a college scholarship out of the deal. But with the head game that golf can be, it might be pretty tough on the student if he/she feels more pressure from the parent than from true love of the game.

I see various parents on this forum essentially asking for advice on behalf of their kids. It seems like those questions should come direct from the golfer and be asked to their coach or instructor.

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7 hours ago, gregsandiego said:

Did anyone notice the original post was from 2011, and the OP hasn't revisited since 2013 ?

Since that is the case i wonder how much pressure comes from well meaning parents that envision a golf prodigy in the family. It seems like a great idea to start someone out very young and maybe at least get a college scholarship out of the deal. But with the head game that golf can be, it might be pretty tough on the student if he/she feels more pressure from the parent than from true love of the game.

I see various parents on this forum essentially asking for advice on behalf of their kids. It seems like those questions should come direct from the golfer and be asked to their coach or instructor.

 

The reason I asked for advice on this board is because after 5 years I thought he could give some real perspective. Hindsight is 20/20. Who better to ask? The time difference was the reason I responded at all.

 

I also agree about the crazy golf parents wanting their 5 yr olds to go pro, but if you notice the question was about teenagers who’ve only been playing a couple of years and are independent golfers, not the ones who's parents are dragging out the toddlers to the range. Independent is the key, it has to be the player’s passion.

 

As for why I didn't let my 14 yr old daughter post the question on a message board full of older men, Really? I'll parent my own kid, you parent yours. We just wanted some advice about golf from someone with relative perspective. There has been some great advice from some about golf, let’s leave the social issues on another board. Thanks.

 

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Tournament golf is completely different than rec golf. Like some others have said, have him play the game more instead of practicing so much. Ignore what number competitors shoot. Golf isnt a contact sport. If he focuses on his own game things will take care of themselves. 

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12 hours ago, Chuckles206 said:

 

The reason I asked for advice on this board is because after 5 years I thought he could give some real perspective. Hindsight is 20/20. Who better to ask? The time difference was the reason I responded at all.

 

I also agree about the crazy golf parents wanting their 5 yr olds to go pro, but if you notice the question was about teenagers who’ve only been playing a couple of years and are independent golfers, not the ones who's parents are dragging out the toddlers to the range. Independent is the key, it has to be the player’s passion.

 

As for why I didn't let my 14 yr old daughter post the question on a message board full of older men, Really? I'll parent my own kid, you parent yours. We just wanted some advice about golf from someone with relative perspective. There has been some great advice from some about golf, let’s leave the social issues on another board. Thanks.

 

 You have some good points. Thanks for the reply.

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