Guide to tournament golf

One Month Prior to a Tournament

Always know what tournaments you have coming up and what tournaments you are gearing up for. I always liked to have a throw away tournament before a big one to see where my game is at. For example if I am gearing up for the Callaway Junior World I might sign up for the San Diego Junior Masters as my throw away/ prep tournament. I will do everything I can to win the Jr Masters but anything I do wrong I will take note and try to fix it in time before the Junior World Event. This is a great system for development and is used by players at the highest level.

Week Prior to a Tournament

One week prior to a tournament is time to get confidence level to an all-time high. This is not the time to be working on a new technique. I will spend the first few days of the week on the golf course trying to gain control of the ball flight and taking inventory of the shot pattern. I will notice how I am striking it and may make alignment adjustments to accommodate the current ball flight. I have always felt that if I could hit it solid every day I could get it around and shoot par or better. Anytime I played tournaments working on my swing would be a struggle and just not worth it. If possible I will play the same golf course as the tournament or will find a local course that will have similar lies and course set up to the tournament course. My goal is to be calm heading into the tournament and have all areas of my game in good shape so I am ready to score startimg on Hole 1. Hopefully I don’t have to figure it out as I go and my preparation has my ready to go on that opening shot. I will be nervous but that is because I care and am prepared and know that if I do everything right I will win.

Day before a Tournament

A Day for Short game and putting on the same greens the course will be played on. I want to know how the chips will react, how the putts will roll, how they will break. I will want to hit balls on the range and go through my routine just like the day of the tournament and then play 9 or 18-Holes. If the tournament will be a long grueling day then I will only play 9-Holes. If it is a tough course and I need to gain more confidence on key holes then I will play 18-Holes.

Day of Tournament

Wake Up early and slow everything down. Learned that listening to Johnny Miller on NBC watching golf coverage. A very good system to get yourself in a good frame of mind for tournament play. You never want to feel rushed, agitated before an event. Your goal is to control your ball so you first must control your body and your mind. Get to course about 1:15 minutes early. Check in with tournament staff, stretch, get acclimated to the surroundings and get started on warm up program for the day. Ideally you will have a warm up system that you do each day that is the same and helps you play well. I want to be striking the ball solidly; I want to be in control of my tempo and transition so I can hit the shots with the right speed. I want to hit tee shots on the range focusing on targets and being successful. I will try and play some of the holes that I will see that day on the range and start to work on visualizing those shots. If I can picture them on the range and hit the shot then I can probably do it out on the course. My plan is for my warm up to develop confidence. Nothing new hopefully. I will test all my key shots and make sure they are working with my normal adjustments. Example would be a punch shot, a cut shot, a high fade, and a flip wedge. I will hit putts focusing on speed on long putts, I will test uphill and downhill and breaking putts. I will try and make 20 putts in a row from 3 feet to build confidence. Lastly I will play a mock 6 holes trying to get in the mood of scoring. If I have a good run of putts I will be done and ready to go make putts in competition. I will chip last and work on my feel trying to get my hands soft and by body working through the shot to hit the different lofts. I will practice short and long chips, pitches, and bunker shots. Hopefully I hit some good ones and I am ready to go.

During the Round

My goals are always the same:

  • Play with confidence for the entire round. Right from the start when I shake hands with the other competitors I want to feel like I am the best player in the group.
  • Stay calm for the whole day
  • Bounce Back from mistakes on the next shot while not letting the bad shot cause more bad shots
  • Have a good breathing system throughout the round. Never want to get moving quicker. Sometime I get ahead of myself and need to slow it down and play on the right pace.
  • Choose shots carefully but do not over think. Stick with my initial instinct as that one is usually the right one
  • Commit to something on every shot. I never want to be wishy washy over the ball or putt. Always need to feel like there is a plan of attack.
  • Roll each putt with good speed never feeling like I am forcing to make putts.
  • Play with no expectations. Good rounds happen when you least expect. I know lots of players who have withdrawn from tournaments because they hit the ball bad on the range. Almost all of best rounds have been when I struggled on the range before play. Generally that makes me play a little more cautious and things work out a little better.
  • Eat something every 3-4 holes so I don’t lose energy or focus. Eat trail mix, non-sugar items, turkey sandwich, bananas, etc. drink water only.
  • Watch for distractions and when I notice them back off and start over. Most bad shots happen because of negative thoughts or when you are distracted by something else.
  • Stay in the round no matter what because you never know what will happen. I try to stay optimistic and patient at all times.

After Round 1

Evaluate what I did right and wrong during Round 1 and go to the practice tee and correct anything that I feel like I could have done better. Maybe I missed left with a couple of 7 irons and I want to work on that and get the ball flight I like back. Maybe I mis judged a few chips so I will go try the same shot on the green and make it better. Everything is to build confidence and only have good shots in the brain. When you have bad shots in your head you will continue to hit bad shots.

I hope you enjoyed this Simple System to Playing Competitive Golf. If you have any questions please contact Chris Smeal at 619-339-2377 or Email me at