“She shot 72 in her practice round, why can’t she do that in tournaments”.
As a long-time competitive player, I simply want to say, “it’s just not the same thing” and expect people to take that as an answer. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way so let’s see if I can create some of the feelings of playing tournament golf that just can’t be simulated in practice rounds.
Even if you take your practice round seriously, count every stroke, and play with intent there are still no consequences to your shots and decisions. From the minute you wake up on tournament day there is a different mentality and feeling in your body. This can vary based on which day of the tournament it is, the caliber of the tournament, where you stand on the leaderboard, your playing partners, and the potential for college coaches to be there. When you arrive at the course, the atmosphere is different, you can feel the extra seriousness and focus among players, parents, and tournament staff. It’s not as relaxed as a practice round day. So even if you are a more laidback type of athlete, it’s still hard to ignore the difference in the air of tournament day.
Skip to stepping on the first tee, where practice round day you didn’t get your scorecard, meet the other players, identify your ball, have a rules briefing, and have your name announced to tee off. You don’t stand over the ball worried about what happens if you hook it into the trees. Or in the fairway worried that if you miss the green you might not get it up and down and make yet another bogey. Or standing over a birdie putt nervous that you may actually make it and be under par for the first time in a tournament round. Maybe you see your parents get extra excited because you made a birdie. Or you are faced with a rules situation that you don’t know so you get extra anxious about what to do. Maybe your playing partners are scoring better than you. Or you have 3 holes left and you’re en route to post your lowest tournament round ever or even better, win the tournament! Yes, we as competitive golfers think about all of these things, and many times as we are standing over the golf ball about to swing at 90+ mph to hit a golf ball that is 1.68 inches with a clubface that has an even smaller sweet spot.
All of these scenarios create extra anxiety, excitement, consequences, and overall “uncomfortable feelings,” whether good or bad, that just aren’t going to be there during a practice round. Practice rounds are intended to learn the golf course, strategize, plan, and practice possible shots. I personally never kept score during a practice round. I would sometimes take my time on a putt to read it, see how it broke and the speed. But most of my time was spent learning the course specific to the next few days for different pin placements.
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