How to Play The Same Way As You Practice

How many times have you wondered: "If only I could play this round as well as I can play in practice...or why is my practice swing so different to my real swing"

This is one of the most common and also one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when playing golf competitively.

To find the solution to this challenge, you must first understand WHY this happens. Why is your round not as good as your practice performance?

The main difference between the two is caring.

When you practice, you don't care that much about the result and you don't care that much if you make an occasional mistake.

But when you play a round, you care a lot. In fact, you care too much.

You are worried when you make a mistake, every double bogey you make you become insecure about the next hole and you manage to interpret it in a negative, fearful way.

Or in other words, when you practice and don't perform well, you don't worry (you are not afraid), because there are no major negative consequences - no negative outcomes.

This is especially true if you practice without keeping score.

And when you play a round, there are negative consequences of losing; your handicap may go up, your parents and coach will be disappointed, you may feel embarrassed in front of other competitors and so on.

In other words, you are afraid.

You can approach this challenge in two ways - from the practice and from the round mindset.

Practice As If You Are Playing A Round

If you're a typical club or competitive player, then you probably practice much more than you play. With junior golf players, this ratio can be 10 hours of practice and then 1 round of golf.

If the 10 practice hours are all done without really playing under some kind of pressure-then the player will experience a completely different kind of pressure when playing in an official round.

The player needs to:
1. Approach their drills with total commitment and give a 100% effort to succeed in them.

2. Play some kind of counting and keeping score games. Even though this cannot completely replace tournament pressure, it does train the player to perform under some kind of pressure.

3. Avoid practice tanking. Many players don't want to realize the truth of their actual golf level, skills and abilities. How does this show?

When a player is playing a practice competitive counting game with a practice partner and the player seems to be losing, they stop giving 100% effort.

Why? Because they either consciously or subconsciously convince themselves that if they DIDN'T give 100% effort then they didn't really lose!

It's an escape from painful reality.

Because if the player has a lower handicap than his practice partner and gives 100% effort and then loses the practice game, this could mean: that the player does NOT really deserve the lower handicap, that the opponent is better, that perhaps the player is not improving any more, that good results can not be expected in the upcoming tournament, and so on.

All these fears and doubts associated with losing a practice drill put the player under pressure and they prefer to blind themselves from reality, to protect their ego and tank the drills.

The key for a champion, and for someone who wants to become one, is to become aware of this escape!

By tanking in practice games and not being willing to face the reality that even if you're a good player you cannot perform at your best all the time and that sometimes you'll lose a practice game / drill - does not produce long term results.

The player needs to be willing to face defeat in training sessions.

The player needs to give 100% effort and risk losing a practice session because only 100% effort can bring success in the long term. The player will also be much more aware of his weaknesses and will know what to work on.

Even if the weaknesses can be hidden in a practice-by losing on purpose-these weaknesses will sooner or later be exploited by good players in official rounds.

Play In A Match As You Play In A Practice

The "practice as if you are playing in a round" mindset will help you narrow the difference between the practice and the match pressure by upping the pressure in the practices.

You can also work on lowering the pressure in tournaments and imagine that you are playing a drill.

How do you do that?

Remember; the pressure is created by you. Your expectations, your perception of the tournament situation and your fear of losing, embarrassment, disappointment and others; all of these create pressure.

And all of these are in some way connected to the NEGATIVE outcome of the round. This is what you're afraid of and this is what you don't want to happen.

At the same time, you may consciously or subconsciously KNOW, that you cannot control the outcome. This lack of control creates anxiety and doubtful thinking.

You can solve this in two steps:

1. Check your thoughts, be more aware of what you're thinking and if you notice ANY thoughts that are related to the outcome (what if I lose, what if I win, how will I feel after this match, ...), CHANGE them!

The outcome is not within your control and there is no point wasting your energy and time on something you cannot control.

Instead REFOCUS on things you CAN control; how you warm up, what will be your main strategy, what will be your specific tactics off the tee, on which holes will you attack, keeping your pre-shot routines and so on.

These are ALL within your control and you'll feel much calmer and focused both before and during the round.

You must also focus ONLY on the "next step" - the process of hitting the ball - and NOT on the outcome (especially not the negative outcome) - missing the ball, slicing the ball, losing the tournament and other negative consequences that follow.

This mental discipline has to be trained into practice (practice as if you are playing a round) and then applied (play a round as if you are practicing)

2. Accept whatever happens. There are many unwanted things that happen in a round of golf: wind, sun, noise, disruptions, lucky shots, and unlucky shots.

All of these can cause you to lose focus by becoming too emotional. You need to accept all these situations as part of the difficulty of playing a golfing round. Don't complain and waste energy and emotions on things that you cannot control.

Accept them and focus on your effort and strategy. Let these unwanted events go by and focus on what you want to do in the next point. Acceptance is the key to playing in the zone which allows you to play your best golf.