How To Play Golf: Like A Winner by Robert Sudha Hamilton
0 12 mins 4 mths

So, you have been playing golf for a while. Indeed, you are a member of a golf club. A real 7 day member with full playing rights. This means that you are entitled to compete in honour board events like the annual Club Championship. This is the numero uno event on the golfing calendar in clubland. The A grade club champion rules the roost in sheer golfing ability terms, as defined by victory in this major tournament. No other golfer can claim to be better at this club because the proof is in the results. Club Championship Golf: The unvarnished truth is sometimes hard to bear.

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Playing In The Club Championship

It is not easy being second rate or, perhaps, it is and that is where the real trouble lies. True champions rise to the occasion and meet all comers. The club champs come around every year. A section of the membership pay their entry fee and chance their arm. The match committee and club secretary regularly complain about the weeks of the club champs being poor in terms of revenue. The nature of this golfing beast is tough and unforgiving. Many members find the going just too hard for their own golfing pedigree. Therefore, this blue ribbon scheduled events is a turn off for the more socially inclined members of the golf club. Nobody likes to be reminded of their short comings. Stroke events off the championship tees are typically unkind to mediocrity.

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Mastering The Mood Pre-Champs

The course is invariably set up to play hard. The greens are firm and fast. The pin placements severe if you put your ball in the wrong spots. There is a frisson of excitement in the air. This buzz of low level anxiety puts the uninitiated on edge. Expectations mount up like restless stallions on heat. Clammy hands and dry throats are not uncommon. The serious golfers in with some sort of chance have practiced their short games in the lead up. “How do you think you’ll go this year?” Shy smiles and shoulder shrugs. Furiously beating hearts and minds ticking over at a rate of knots. “Gee the practice putting green is pretty quick!”

The realists in the field know deep down it will all come down to making putts.

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Putting Your Game To The Ultimate Test

Club championship golf: The unvarnished truth is rarely pleasant in the end. The vast majority of us will come up short in our shot at the title. The game of golf is a marathon and not a sprint. It grinds your hopes away over some 5 hours. Half a day of misery in some instances. Especially if you know that you are in for one of those days. When putts don’t drop but burn the edges repeatedly. When your chips don’t stick and canter past the hole. When that pit in the middle of your stomach feels like some black hole sucking out all the life. When your golf aint happening naturally and you start to push. Trying too hard stuffs up your tempo and timing – it makes things worse.

First Time Around At Club Champs

I was playing with a friend and it was his first foray into playing club champs. I tried to calm him down in the first round when he was fraying around the edges. However, it is the very atmosphere that can choke the unsuspecting. The grim ambience all around and the stretched out concentration exhibited by each four ball. There is no where to hide on a golf course and this is doubly true in the club champs. The usual safety valve of humour is far more constricted. Laughing at yourself is still an option but, perhaps, a bit like putting up the white flag of surrender. Nobody wants to pull the trigger too early on this stratagem of giving up. During the latter stages of the second round, Craig turned to me and said I don’t think I’ll be playing next week. He provided a volley of excuses and I could tell that he needed to let off steam. This test of golf is no mere walk in the park. It reveals our deep inadequacies in golfing terms.

I remember, in my own early days, being amazed at how the greenkeeper could make the course so much more difficult to play. Now, I am more familiar with understanding it is a team effort involving club captain and match committee.

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Playing The Green Eyed Monster

I suppose it is somewhat like the effects of climate change, it is no one thing that turns a tame track into a green eyed monster. Fast greens are a major component, especially at our course where they regularly keep the green speed quite pedestrian. Therefore, when they let them rip it is a shock to the system of a profound nature. Where they put the pins, on those ridges, and in the very worst kind of places, can enable you to rack up those scores. You can never switch off in golf around the greens. If you assume that you will get up and down without really examining the situation you are putting your neck in the noose for stretching. Surfaces around the green complex are cut down to leave gnarly grain growing against the direction you are chipping with your wedge. You appear to be close for a simple chip or pitch but think again. Duff it and your mental health spirals down. “I should have putted it! Damn this course!” The optical illusions on golf courses are rife, especially on undulating and steep greens. Somehow I have moments where I seemingly space out and forget that I am putting downhill and being so intent on holing it I blow it past.

Feeling like a fool on the links is not unusual.

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Departing Your Comfort Zone

The club championship is all about taking you out of your comfort zone on the golf course. The tees are back to test you by hitting your approach shots with more club. The bunkers have been filled up with sand, even at the back and around their entrances. Everything has been done to make this ultimate honour board event as challenging as possible. Quite possibly though it is our own mental state which provides the sternest test. We adsorb the collective hopes and fears of the scores of golfers competing in the event. Everywhere you look you see the aspirations and anxieties reflected back at you in the faces of your four ball grouping. On some level it becomes a house of mirrors distorting emotions and thoughts to the extreme level. Fear ferments under the cover of cotton golf shirts and slacks.

Welcome to the club champs for another year and best of luck.

Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of The Stoic Golfer: Finding Inner Peace & Focus on the Fairway

copies of The Stoic Golfer: Finding Inner Peace & Focus On The Fairway By Robert Sudha Hamilton

“You may play the same courses over and over and know every blade of grass on them, but how do you best handle a course you’ve never seen before, let alone a very difficult one? I have been a traveling golfer most of my golfing life and have enjoyed playing some pretty tough golf courses – sometimes playing better than you might imagine my skills would have taken me. Here are 10 keys I’ve used to approach playing different courses that has also really helped me playing the tough ones!

1.  Let go of good or bad expectations.

You need to stay in the present with any round of golf, but even more so with a tough golf course. Expectations of any sort take you away from the task at hand and increase pressure even if you feel confident.

2.  Stick to “fairways and greens.”

Keep your game plan simple and patient. Should you miss, don’t try your best “hero shot,” just get it back into play as quickly and safely as possible.

3.  Play the percentages.

Hit the shots you know you can hit, not the ones you would like to. On longer approaches play to the safe areas. These courses are likely to really penalize unsuccessful gambles. I’ve had many friends who played to their “handicap” at some of the nation’s toughest courses by simply playing safely away from trouble.

4.  Know how far you carry your average shots and club accordingly.

Play and club to your ability, not to impress.

5.  Play with your “trusted swing.”

Unless you are goofing around, trying new swings on a strange or difficult golf course is just asking for trouble.

6.  Focus upon tempo, balance, and hitting the sweet spot.

Do these three things and only these three and your execution is likely to be pretty special.

7.  Master the par-3’s.

This is one of the most interesting ways to tackle a tough golf course, but it has been the tactic that Corey Pavin used. Pavin ranked in the TOUR’s Top 5 par-three scoring stats 8 times in his career and credited that focus as a key to his success. The one-shotters can often be a letdown, but conversely can be a real boost if you keep your focus on them.

8.  Play your trusted set or combination of clubs.

Just as you will want to play your trusty swing and not make changes, the same goes for your selection of golf clubs. If you do switch a club, make sure that you’ve practiced quite a bit with it recently.

9.  Stay patient and stick to your process.

This advice works for every round, but even more so for difficult courses.

10.  Have fun!

“This advice may sound simplistic and overly obvious, but failure to do so limits so many during any golf experience, especially suffering a bad shot or hole early on. Besides, when was the last time you witnessed an unhappy player suddenly turn their game around? My answer is “Never!” “

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