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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 a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.

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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Clement: Weak grips are injuries in the making for many golfers

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The crazy things golfers do to square the face!

Like Jordan Spieth, trying to go to a bowed wrist at the top or in the downswing to square the club is placing you in a dangerous position for your lead wrist; you are one tree root or deep rough situation away from a nasty injury that could easily require surgery. Don’t let this be you.

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Clement: Laid-off or perfect fade? Across-the-line or perfect draw?

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Some call the image on the left laid off, but if you are hitting a fade, this could be a perfect backswing for it! Same for across the line for a draw! Stop racking your brain with perceived mistakes and simply match backswing to shot shape!

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The Wedge Guy: The easiest-to-learn golf basic

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My golf learning began with this simple fact – if you don’t have a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, it is practically impossible for your body to execute a fundamentally sound golf swing. I’m still a big believer that the golf swing is much easier to execute if you begin with the proper hold on the club.

As you might imagine, I come into contact with hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. And it is very rare to see a good player with a bad hold on the golf club. There are some exceptions, for sure, but they are very few and very far between, and they typically have beat so many balls with their poor grip that they’ve found a way to work around it.

The reality of biophysics is that the body moves only in certain ways – and the particulars of the way you hold the golf club can totally prevent a sound swing motion that allows the club to release properly through the impact zone. The wonderful thing is that anyone can learn how to put a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, and you can practice it anywhere your hands are not otherwise engaged, like watching TV or just sitting and relaxing.

Whether you prefer an overlap, interlock or full-finger (not baseball!) grip on the club, the same fundamentals apply.  Here are the major grip faults I see most often, in the order of the frequency:

Mis-aligned hands

By this I mean that the palms of the two hands are not parallel to each other. Too many golfers have a weak left hand and strong right, or vice versa. The easiest way to learn how to hold the club with your palms aligned properly is to grip a plain wooden ruler or yardstick. It forces the hands to align properly and shows you how that feels. If you grip and re-grip a yardstick several times, then grip a club, you’ll see that the learning curve is almost immediate.

The position of the grip in the upper/left hand

I also observe many golfers who have the butt of the grip too far into the heel pad of the upper hand (the left hand for right-handed players). It’s amazing how much easier it is to release the club through the ball if even 1/4-1/2″ of the butt is beyond the left heel pad. Try this yourself to see what I mean.  Swing the club freely with just your left hand and notice the difference in its release from when you hold it at the end of the grip, versus gripping down even a half inch.

To help you really understand how this works, go to the range and hit shots with your five-iron gripped down a full inch to make the club the same length as your seven-iron. You will probably see an amazing shot shape difference, and likely not see as much distance loss as you would expect.

Too much lower (right) hand on the club

It seems like almost all golfers of 8-10 handicap or higher have the club too far into the palm of the lower hand, because that feels “good” if you are trying to control the path of the clubhead to the ball. But the golf swing is not an effort to hit at the ball – it is a swing of the club. The proper hold on the club has the grip underneath the pad at the base of the fingers. This will likely feel “weak” to you — like you cannot control the club like that. EXACTLY. You should not be trying to control the club with your lower/master hand.

Gripping too tightly

Nearly all golfers hold the club too tightly, which tenses up the forearms and prevents a proper release of the club through impact. In order for the club to move back and through properly, you must feel that the club is controlled by the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. If you engage your thumbs and forefingers in “holding” the club, the result will almost always be a grip that is too tight. Try this for yourself. Hold the club in your upper hand only, and squeeze firmly with just the last three fingers, with the forefinger and thumb off the club entirely. You have good control, but your forearms are not tense. Then begin to squeeze down with your thumb and forefinger and observe the tensing of the entire forearm. This is the way we are made, so the key to preventing tenseness in the arms is to hold the club very lightly with the “pinchers” — the thumbs and forefingers.

So, those are what I believe are the four fundamentals of a good grip. Anyone can learn them in their home or office very quickly. There is no easier way to improve your ball striking consistency and add distance than giving more attention to the way you hold the golf club.

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