Is Playing A Practice Round Important?
Establishing a game plan prior to a tournament can ensure you are ready to play
By: Ted Gleason
Do you take practice rounds prior to a tournament seriously? After completing a practice round, do you have a game plan for the tournament? Are you keeping score in a practice round and then setting a score expectation for the tournament? Ask yourself these questions as summer approaches and you ready yourself for the tournament circuit. Many of you will be playing in multi-day tournaments or high-level one-day qualifiers like the US Junior qualifier this summer. Playing a practice round for these types of events will allow you to create an effective game plan for the tournament.
Establishing a game plan/strategy during a practice round was my players’ top priority during my college golf coaching days. An effective practice round can go a long way to being well prepared for tournament competition. Establishing productive practice round habits as a junior golfer will enable you to be well prepared for your tournaments now as well as for your college golf practice rounds in the future.
The following are a number of “keys” to consider prior to and during a practice round:
- Utilizing the practice round as a means to understand the conditions of the golf course and to establish a game plan given your golf skill set; do not make the practice round about shooting a certain score. Playing a practice round for a score can create unnecessary expectations for the tournament.
- Prior to the practice round, talk to the head professional and/or pro shop staff regarding any local knowledge tips and/or pointers about the golf course. Perhaps ask if there are any key holes on the golf course that typically cause players trouble or if putts tend to break towards a certain landmark throughout the golf course.
- Purchase a yardage book if available in the pro shop. If not, you can make a detailed yardage book on your own. This would include landing areas off the tee, carry yardages over bunkers/water/doglegs, green depths, charting tiers, low points and slopes on the greens; layup areas on par 5s and acceptable places to “miss” shots both off the tee and approach shots into the greens. Charting your own yardage book certainly requires a bit more work, but assists you in becoming more vested in the practice round as wells as more aware of the nuances of the golf course. Creating your own yardage book or adding to an existing yardage guide available in the pro shop is common practice during college practice rounds and is a good idea to develop these habits during your junior golf career.
- Establish a game plan off the tee by knowing the landing areas for par 4s and par 5s. Some may be obvious and not require much thought, while other landing areas may include bunkers, hazards and/or doglegs requiring more of your attention. It is important to know the actual yardage to the desired landing area, especially holes with potential hazards/dog-legs, and not just deem it a “3 wood” or “driver” hole. Conditions in a practice round could be much different than the actual tournament and these varying conditions (i.e. wind, temperature, firmness of fairways) can affect how far the ball carries and subsequently rolls. Make note of these landing areas and be aware of the conditions so you can make the best choice off the tee during the tournament.
- Hit a shot or two from the rough, fairway bunker, and/or green side bunkers during the practice round to ensure you are comfortable with the effect these conditions may have on the golf ball. Preparing for the unexpected is an important part of playing an effective practice round.
- Spend the majority of your time on and around the greens establishing a feel for the firmness and speed of the greens. Adjusting to the speed of the greens on a new golf course is an essential key in having a productive practice round. Hitting a number of lag putts throughout your practice round is recommended. Additionally, understanding how chips/pitches react on their “first bounce” will allow you to better gauge/judge your short game shots during the tournament. During this time around the greens, you can also scan the green to identify potential hole locations, the low point(s) on each respective green and where the best place to “miss” from the fairway might be so you can get up-and-down more easily (eliminating the possibility of short-siding yourself).
- If you are playing in a multi-day event, remember to continuously learn about the golf course during each competitive round as you may learn something new in the first round that you were not aware of during the practice round. This extra piece of information may become useful in subsequent rounds.
Remember, the goal of a practice round is not to keep score, but to learn as much as possible about the golf course conditions to ensure you have an effective game plan in place and that your game plan is realistic given your golfing skills. Although practice rounds may not be as much “fun” as the actual tournament, they can serve as a means to be well prepared for anything that comes your way during the actual event. Therefore, look forward to making the most out of your next practice round.
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