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The 6 Deadly Sins of Playing in Golf Tournament Qualifiers

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The time is here: longer days, practicing after work, playing an extra nine late, and for competitive golfers, summer tournaments. As you probably know, the more prestigious the tournament, the more difficult it is to get a spot in the field. And because of this, we have the dreaded qualifying rounds… you know, the one-day, typically one-round qualifiers to get into that big junior golf tournament or your State Amateur or State Open. Personally, the sting of these qualifications hits close to home.

When I was in high school, they were holding my State Open at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which was the closest thing to Augusta I was ever going to play. So I signed up for the qualifying event. The qualifier was at my home course, which was also home to a Tour event and the longest course on the PGA Tour at the time at 7,600+ yards (at sea-level). It was going to be a great test of my game. I would make the turn at 1-under par, but by the time I got to No. 17 I had shot about 500 on the water-filled back nine. I was not going to Chattanooga.

Sadly, this memory would persist every time I teed it up in a qualifier going forward. Sometimes I performed OK, but other times I did not. So today I’d like to help you not make the same mistakes I did back in the day with my round of 35-500.

Not Picking The Right Course For Your Game

The most important thing to ensure (if you have options) is to pick the course that best fits your game. It may sound obvious, but golfers make this mistake all the time. If you don’t hit your driver straight, don’t go to the tree-lined place down the street. You must always play to your strengths and work around your weaknesses, because under pressure your weaknesses will be exacerbated.

Traveling Too Far

Just because there’s a qualifier in Hawaii does not mean you should fly there! Unless you are planning a longer stay than an in-and-out trip, I would not suggest flying somewhere to qualify. Travel is a grind, not to mention expensive, and the time crunch necessary to get in practice, a practice round, and the event itself is often too much to expect a top performance. Stay close to home where you will be fresh, comfortable, and more likely to qualify.

Changing Equipment

Just because Felix Clubworks fit you with a new super-hot driver last week does not mean you’re ready to try it out under the gun. Yes, you do need equipment that works for your game, but you also need ample time to test it and see how it reacts under pressure and in different conditions. Personally, I know what my tendencies with my old equipment are, and sometimes that is good enough to get me past the qualifier until I really have time to hone in that new driver.

Thinking You Have To Go Low

People think you need to shoot 68 in every qualifier to make it, when in fact that’s rarely the case at the local/regional level. Qualifying usually only takes a steady round. You don’t need to play lights out; hit the fairways, aim for the center of the green and don’t be a hero around the greens. A hot putter is a bonus, but qualifying is more about making the putts you’re supposed to make and not three-putting than rolling it like Jordan Spieth.

Remember, in many cases, the lights-out golfers already have exemptions into the big tournament, so you’re not competing against the absolute best. Think about being Nick Faldo when you qualify: steady and calm. Par is a good score and a bogey is not the end of the world.

Changing Your Method

Now that you have a tee time for your qualifier, don’t go changing your pre-round routine. If you usually show up 45 minutes before your tee time and hit a few balls, it’s no smart to show up 2 hours before and hit a huge bucket of range balls. Changing your routine will only add stress and get you out of your comfort zone. Simply do whatever you normally do and go from there. Also, if you’re hitting a cut on the range when you normally play a draw, don’t try to make a quick swing change before the round. Dance with the girl you brought; that’s to say, it might be best to play the cut instead of fighting it all day.

Giving Up Too Soon

Too often I see players “quit” after making a double on hole No. 3, feeling like they have blown their chance to qualify. Remember, a 2-over round of 74 has a pretty good chance locally, so don’t fret. You never know how the other players on the course are playing, and there’s no reason to assume the worst. Just keep playing your game.

When things begin going poorly, also try to remember that you’re playing golf! Enjoy not being at work and learning more about what you can improve in your game.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. The Dude

    May 16, 2017 at 9:16 am

    most play the qualifiers because the course is really good……. they know they have zero chance of “qualifying”…..there are soooo many pretenders @ qualifiers it’s scary…

  2. Dave R

    May 15, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Hey Jim that’s what you get for having to qualify a whole bunch of us hackers, if not for for the hacks your tour would not exist so get a life buddy.

  3. Joey

    May 15, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Thank you to whoever posted this i saw it right on time because this weekend I have a Qualifier and this really helps.

  4. Nick

    May 15, 2017 at 9:49 am

    7) Being terrible.

    I caddied for one of my clients (Web.com Tour player) in the US Open local last week where the guy shot 127. He was in the group behind us. We had a lost ball and a ruling in our group on the first three holes and still couldn’t see them behind us by the time we got to the 4th green. That’s not fair on the guys you’re playing with.

  5. Bert

    May 13, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    Great advice, seen these mistakes made many times.

    One additional thought is to stay away from meaningless conversations before play. Such wasteful time talking and perhaps upsetting yourself should be guarded against. Stay focused on why you’re there, not what Joe Blow had to say.

  6. BIG STU

    May 13, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    Pretty solid advice especially 3. 5 and 6

  7. C.S. Anderson

    May 13, 2017 at 10:12 am

    I agree with what Tom is saying. Good info. To nit pick: Who edits these articles? The old theory that after you write the article it should be printed as a hard copy and read by one or two people besides the writer would have served the credibility of this article. The way this article looks right now is “AMETURISH”.

  8. Alex

    May 13, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Great article. I you play tournament golf you’ve been through them all. Sound advice, especially 4, 5 and 6.

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Instruction

Golf 101: 3 fundamentals to straighter shots

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Editor’s Note: This article was written by Kyla Carlson (Alaska), Hayley Mortensen (Oregon), Garret Howell (Arizona) and Seth Abrahamson (Guam), four students in New Mexico State University’s PGA Golf Management Program.

It is our belief that the majority of golfers are looking to achieve a straighter ball flight at a more normal trajectory. To accomplish this, we put together three fundamentals to help golfers improve. They are:

  1. Contact the Ball with the Center of the Club Face
  2. Contact the Ball when the Club Face is Square to the Target Line
  3. Swing the Club along the Target Line

Below, we take a step-by-step approach to helping golfers achieve these fundamentals so they can hit straighter shots.

Fundamental #1: Contact the Ball with the Center of the Club Face

In the photo above, Hayley demonstrates the circular nature of the swing as she maintains her balance.

Setup: A balanced setup is one where your weight is evenly distributed between your feet (50 percent on your right foot, and 50 percent on your left foot) and evenly distributed from heel to toe. The reason for the balanced setup is that it creates a radius between you and the ball. By maintaining your balance, you maintain the radius of the swing. Therefore, the center of the club face will return to the ball.

Swing: It is important to remain balanced throughout the swing. Be sure not to slide the weight of your body from left to right, as we want a balanced, circular rotation, not a swaying motion.

Fundamental #2: Contact the Ball when the Club Face is Square to the Target

In the photo above, Garret demonstrates holding the club with the grooves vertical. In addition, he demonstrates holding the club face “open” and “closed.” respectively.

Setup: To confirm that you’re holding the club with a square club face, stand up and hold the club out in front of you so that the shaft is parallel to the ground. From this position, the grooves of the club should be vertical.

A neutral grip gives the player the best chance to return to the point of impact with a square club face. A neutral grip is one where your palms are facing each other. In addition, the palm of the right-handed golfer will face the target. The club should be positioned behind the ball so that the club face is square to the target. Then, set your body so that you’re square with the grooves of the club face and so your club is in the center of your stance.

Grip Check: With your normal grip, stand upright with the club out in front of you and allow a friend to hold the club head with his or her index and middle fingers. Once he or she has a hold on the club head, relax your joints and lean back. This will mimic the centrifugal pull that is created by the swing. Depending on the position of your hands, the club head may twist one way or the other. If it does, adjust your hands (clockwise or counter-clockwise) until the club doesn’t twist. A neutral grip will not twist.

In the photo above, Henry does the grip check to confirm that Garret is holding the club with a neutral grip.

In the photos above, Garret and Henry also demonstrate the effects of holding the club with a “strong” and “weak” grip, respectively.

Swing: The club face should maintain its relationship to the player as it swings. The player should make no attempt to twist the club face. Holding the club face with a neutral grip will allow centrifugal force to square the club face at impact (as long as the player started the swing with the club in the middle of his stance and maintained balance throughout the swing).

Fundamental #3: Swing the Club Along the Target Line

In the photo above, Kyla demonstrates swinging the club along the target line. Notice how the shaft of the golf club tracks the target line as it swings around her body.

Setup: Set the club face so that it is perpendicular to the target line (Orange Line). The shaft of the golf club should also be perpendicular to the target line. Then set the feet and shoulders so they are parallel to the target line.

Swing: The shaft of the club should track the target line and point directly at the target just prior to 9 o’clock in the forward swing. Thinking of the shaft as a fire hose or telescope can be a helpful visualization for a player to understand this concept. A drill that may be helpful is to swing a short pool noodle along the target line, stopping before 9 o’clock to look through the hole and confirm that its pointing at the target.

By understanding and practicing these fundamentals, you will experience straighter shots and have more fun playing this wonderful game.

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Instruction

Davies: The Trail Elbow In The Downswing

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In this video, I discuss the role of the trail elbow in the downswing. I also share some great drills to help golfers deliver the trail elbow correctly, which will help improve distance and contact.

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Instruction

The 3 different levels of golf practice

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“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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