Golf tournament preparation – 3 tips from the world’s best golfers

At the time of writing this I have just returned from the British Open. How a player prepares for a golf tournament is a key factor in determining their final performance.

However, many amateurs overlook this simple area.  Great golf tournament preparation is a quick win for boosting performance and saving a couple of shots each round. In this post I will cover some simple tips you can steal from the world’s best players on great golf tournament preparation.

On the surface these three tips may all seem quite similar. However, the beauty is that they are all subtly different and serve a slightly different purpose. By combining all three you will add some great depth to your golf tournament preparation and maximise your ability to perform. All three tips can be packaged into a 15 minute short-game warm up.

Whether you’re about to embark on some serious golf, or you want to maximise your prep for your own club championships. I hope these tips are give you the competitive edge you need to win.


Golf tournament range practice
My extra tip for you – If you’d like to really understand how the best players in the world practice, head to a major golf tournament on a practice day (it’s really cheap and easy to get tickets). By doing so you get a great idea of how the best players in the world prepare for their elite performance you see on TV over the coming days.


Is golf tournament prep different from normal practice?

When elite players are away from big golf events they will spend a lot of time refining technique and honing their game. This generally comprises of three types of golf practice.

When they reach a golf tournament they will still fit in some of these practices. However, they will also add a new type of practice – specific golf tournament preparation to optimise their chances of winning that week.

This type of practice is difficult to summarise because it very individual and can encompass many elements. It really is something elite players learn over many years of sharpening their golfing skills on the road.

Below are three ‘tips’ or sections that I observed at the 2018 British Open. I’ve focused on the short game as I feel it is a key area to dial in for a tournament. However, on each point I’ve given you ideas of how this might extent throughout your game.

If you would like a similar post for long game just leave a comment at the end of the post. Or check out this article on 5 critical steps for better course management.

Golf tournament preparation – Short game

At this point your aim is not to change or refine your short game technique. Instead, your aim is to get very good at guessing what shots to play, how the ball reacts out of different lies and how the ball lands and rolls on and around the greens.

To do this the top guys use a great blend of practice variability, repetition and realistic situations.

Dustin Johnson – varying trajectory

I watched Dustin spend 20 minutes practicing his 30-yard pitches, this is a key shot around tough links courses like Carnoustine. Dustin hit all of his shots from the same distance, but varied the trajectory.

The first 10 shots were a standard pitch shots with his 60 degree wedge. He followed this with 10 low shots, with the same club, that were loaded with spin. Last, he hit 7-8 high flop shots from the same distance.

This warm up serves two purposes. Firstly, Dustin is practicing the shots he feels he needs for this week. However, a deeper element is at play.

By varying the trajectories he builds up a rich picture of how the greens react to many varying trajectories and spins. He observes how the ball reacts as it lands each time. He finds out how quickly he can stop a ball if he loads it up with spin. When he plays a high, soft shot he learns how much the ball rolls out.

Take away message 1

By the time you finish your pitching warm-up your aim is to have an instinctive intuition of how balls bounce and reacts on the green. By practicing extreme trajectories you will get a feel for how the ball should react when you hit shots in between these trajectories.

Patrick Reed – realistic lies

This is such a small point that it almost feels insignificant. However, I feel its worth its weight in gold. Many golfers will prep for an event with perfect lies. However, the top guys know that, even they, will not be striding down the middle of the fairway all week.


Here Partick Reed tries to emulate how his golf ball will react if it comes bouncing into a pot-bunker. Practicing just a few of these shots in your golf warm up gives you a massive advantage for similar types of shots you will experience during competitive play.

This can be extended to many other areas of your game. When you prep for tournaments do you spend much time in the semi-rough and rough? Do you know what clubs are feasible to hit out of various lies and what shots are a no-go?

Take away message 2

Every course will challenge you in different ways. Try to practice unique shots that you may need beforehand. Make the lies and positions as realistic as you can. A small change, such as throwing a ball into the bunker, adds a surprisingly high level of difficulty to your preparation.

Unknown Golfer – hit from variable lies and positions

Recently, I wrote a very geeky post around what causes us to play bad golf. Within the article, I highlighted that one potential reason for bad golf was the inability to predict what a correct swing or pitch shot should feel like.

In short, to hit great golf shots you need to have the ability to predict what is required, as well as the ability to execute the shot at hand. This first point is a seriously undervalued aspect of skill development in golf.


golf Tournament preparation

Each time you visit a new golf course you need to update this forward model so you (your supplementary motor areas) know what is required for each shot. A great way to dial in this forward model is to use some varied practice.

Above, is a tactic I observed around 50% of pros applying during their warm up. Using red spots, I have highlighted all the areas this pro hit chip shots from in a 5 minute period. He only hit one chip shot from each location and his caddy dropped the ball each time.

This type of practice means that every shot is different and distinct. For every shot your brain has to go through the process of problem solving and guessing what is needed for a great outcome. It really dials in your ability to plan golf shots.

Take away message 3

Use a small amount of variable practice during your tournament preparation to dial in your ability to plan golf shots at a new golf course. It is the quickest way to start feeling comfortable with your distance control for chipping and putting.

Golf tournament preparation – conclusion

There we have three simple tips to improve your golf tournament preparation.

  1. Hit pitch and chip shots with varying trajectories. This will build up a rich picture of how greens react.
  2. Practice from realistic and challenging lies.
  3. Use variable practice to dial in your shot planning and distance control.

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Many thanks & happy golfing. Will