How to Prepare for a Golf Tournament

In this article we’ll cover how to prepare for a golf tournament. We’ll include some top tips to help you optimise your performance and hopefully win your up-coming event! I’ve gone pretty in-depth, so apologies if you’re reading this the night before, but below is a step-by-step guide for mastering golf tournament prep – I hope it serves you well.

1 – 2 weeks before the golf tournament

Great preparation takes time. Ideally you should start your preparation 10 – 14 days before an event (when scheduling allows it). During this time-frame get your game in shape for performance. Stop worrying about your backswing technique and instead focus on hitting great golf shots.

Below are my five key tips to help you get in a performance mindset running up to the tournament:

#1 Play skills games

Pick a handful of skills games you can play each week (1 – 4 depending on your time). Your aim when playing skills games is to maximise your score, it doesn’t matter how ugly the swing or shot is, just find a way to get your golf ball to your target. Amateur golfers love spending time perfecting their swing on the golf range, but are often guilty of not taking part in this type of gritty practice – this practice is crucial for tournament prep.

Keeping scores for skills games makes practice fun, and also helps build confidence as you beat your old personal best – you know your golf is improving. My personal core skills games leading up to a tournament are as follows:

Hopefully, you have your own favourite skills games, if not check out the link below for some ideas:

#2 On course multi-ball golf practice

Try to fit in 9 holes when the course is quiet and practice a few extra drives down tight holes. Fit in 2-3 approach shots from key distances 100, 125 & 150 yards. Drop some balls around the green and try to hole each chip shot.

During your on-course practice consider where you are aiming and where you want the ball to finish for every shot. For each shot think about where can you afford to miss and where is fatal – factor this in when picking targets. Great players often aim away from pins or favour one side of the fairway on challenging holes.

Remember – great tournament golf is about making great decisions and avoiding big numbers as well as firing at flagsticks and making birdies.

#3 Practice key shots

In the weeks leading up to your tournament consider which shots will be critical to your performance. You may need to practice a ‘prod’ off the tee with driver that gets you in play. If your course is getting dry, practice running long irons for short par 4’s and bump and run shots for around the greens, both will come in handy. If you play golf in the lush tropics (not Leeds in the UK) you will need finesse chip shots out of thick rough, so get practicing.

Pick two key shots that you will require during your tournament and make sure you get 20 – 40 practice reps a week. Don’t worry about practice variability too much and don’t worry about perfect technique. Just practice these shots until they feel like 2nd nature. Your aim it get so comfortable playing these shots that you enjoy selecting them under pressure.

#4 Play medal rounds – with a card in hand

The essence of golf is getting the ball in the hole in the fewest amount of shots. It’s so simple, and yet repeating this process 18 times over is hard. Something changes when you’ve got a card in your hands and you know your score counts.

A few weeks before your tournament aim to play rounds with a card in your hand. Set yourself a target score and complete the round no matter what.

Don’t worry if you don’t perform well, this is still preparation. You’ll probably card poor scores the first one or two attempts, but this is the entire the point of this exercise. Get the bad scores in now, you’ll make stupid errors and learn from them before your tournament. This helps you make some small, but critical adjustments for when you are playing under pressure.

#5 Keep on top of your basics

Keep on top of your basics for long game, short game and putting. Grip, alignment and posture are the glue that hold together golfing technique. When these start to wander all sorts of compensations will come into your golf swing.

Once a week, spend 10-minutes performing a quick grip, posture and alignment check. Alignment needs to be done on the range or golf course. However, grip and posture can be checked at home in a mirror. Just go through your set-up routine 5 times in a row and check your basics are sound.

1 – 2 days before the golf tournament

A day or two before you should finalise your plan for the tournament and on-course strategy. Begin with a score in mind that you wish to shoot, or a score that you feel will give you a good chance of winning the event.

Next, consider the strategy and decisions that will generate the maximum likelihood for success. I find it is best to plan each hole backwards, you can find a full guide on golf course management and building a strategy here.

Along with your off-course planning try to use practice rounds effectively. If you play the course frequently, you may know which pin positions are likely to be used for the tournament.

Practice putting up to these points from the middle of the green, and try to hit chip shots and bunker shots to likely pin positions. Finally, practice short putts around likely pin positions – nothing will give you more confidence during the tournament than knowing you’ve hit an almost identical putt just days before.

Before your tournament round

improve golf swing with analogy

On the day of your tournament you’ll ideally turn up with some time to spare – I find arriving 4 hours early is almost as bad as having just 10 minutes to spare, so aim for a time that allows you to have a focused warm up and a little time to spare.

Your aim is not to work on your golf swing mechanics, it is to warm up, see where your shots are going and to feel as comfortable as you can. Too many golfers become over-technical just before big events. Check out the following link for a short guide on creating an effective warm up routine and staying focused on performance. Here is a link if you want a more in depth guide to golf stretches.

This is also the time to remind yourself of your goal and your processes for the day ahead. If your tournament prep has been ideal you will have already planned your target score, where you need to aim on each hole.

There is no more you can do today to become a better golfer. Today is about executing the processes you’ve put in place and accepting the result.

How to play well during the golf tournament

As stated above, once the tournament has begun your best strategy is to focus on the process and the shot at hand. Consider your target, focus on making a great swing and see where the ball ends up. Then find your golf ball and repeat the process – that is the secret to great golf.

That being said, becoming a great tournament player does take time, you’ll make errors that you just don’t make out of tournament play. Try to have fun during every tournament, it is supposed to be a game. See each tournament as a chance to learn more about how to play great golf under pressure. This focus of seeing tournament play as a learning experience, rather than about the end result can be a really useful strategy for players who have struggled in the past.

If you are playing a 36 or 54 hole event just remember that you can’t win the tournament in the first 9 or 18 holes, but you can lost it. Keep focused on your strategy, avoid risky shots and the results will come.


Great tournament prep begins a week to two weeks beforehand. Hopefully the process laid out in this article has given you a great template to lower your handicap, win your club championship or prepare for your next professional event.

Use this template for your up-coming events then begin to adapt aspects to best suit your needs. Find the skills games that give you confidence in the weeks running up to the event and optimise your pre-round warm up for your home course. As always I hope this article helps you play better golf.

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Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider UK.

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A PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. I currently spend my time lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and working with elite athletes. In my spare time I build Golf Insider UK.

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