If you are going to play a sport, then I think it is important to compete from time to time. Competition helps gauge your skill against the competitors of the day and highlights potential flaws in your game. Through the years, I have played in many tournaments. I have won my fair share and each time I compete, I learn something new.
Look around your local golf club, I bet you can identify the top players. If you can, is it because they have a smooth swing or they have great equipment? I would say no, these top players have won a tournament or two through the year. And once they have, they become the players to beat; at least locally.
I ran a poll recently and asked if players compete and if they do have they won a tournament, I was surprised to see the majority of players actually did:
As stated earlier, I have won my fair share of events. Interestingly, as I became a better player, my wins became a little less frequent. Mostly because the competition was improving and I needed to step up my game. Regardless of the effort, my game only improved so fast and continues to be a work in progress.
Early in my competitive career, 30+ years ago, my flaws were not swing related (surprisingly); my woes were rooted in my understanding of the game:
Course Management. I did not understand course management at all. I was basher of a player. I hit the ball as far as I could, as often as I could. It was all well and good to approach golf this way, however I was not playing to my strengths. I was just playing un-abandoned golf.
Taking my Medicine. I would always try the impossible shot. Regardless of my earlier mistakes in the round, I would compound them by making more, unnecessary mistakes and sometimes played myself out of the tournament on one hole.
After addressing these and many other challenges in my game, I started to see success in my game. About 20+ years ago, I started to understand the importance of other non-swing aspects of competition. I had to focus on the mental side of the game by controlling my emotions during matches. This was the most important change during that time because it empowered me to make consistent swings during pressure situations. I still work on this skill, but over the years, mental mistakes have less influence on my game.
Over the past 5 years, competition has demonstrated that I needed to focus on the more refined aspects of my short game. These changes came across by watching skilled players and their approach to golf. Nothing is earth shattering, but these changes have helped me maintain a low single digit handicap and with any luck this year drive towards scratch.
Improved Equipment. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but fitted clubs has really helped my game. Each club reacts the same on contact, the shafts are tailored to my swing and my set of Titleist 915s has increase my confidence in my game.
Learning to used all my wedges. I have 4 wedges: 48, 52, 56, 60 degrees. Each has a specific use and focusing on these clubs by hitting my approach shot to a distance, my short game has improved dramatically. I now have confidence with all 4 clubs and my options for approach shots is vastly improved.
Improved Putting. I work at the flat stick. Putting is critical to low golf scores. In my case, putting makes up about 40% of my strokes. So, why would I not spend time focused on improving this skill; it just makes sense. During competition, putting woes are the most evident of all skills, therefore I understand the need to improve this critical skill.
Playing my Game. I do not worry about what other players are doing during a tournament. I focus on playing my game to the best of my ability for that day. I have found that by staying focused on what I was doing helped lower my scores and remain competitive.
Playing competitive golf over the years has helped improve my game. By keeping an open mind and paying attention, we can find areas of improvement that do not show up during regular rounds. Sometimes weaknesses only show up when pressure is applied during golf tournaments; it really depends on the player. Regardless, competition can help improve your game. All we have to do is pay attention and not let our ego make all the decisions.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!