Why Do Some Pros Succeed On Tour While Others Fail And Have To Sell Golf Balls? Part 2 of 3

This is the second part of a 3 part study on why golf tour pro’s make it where others, equally as talented, do not.  To read part 1 of this study click here.

Practice Plan

The study found that all the top touring pros have very detailed, individualized plans for practice and tournament days. The top pros practice plans ranged from warming up before a tournament to hitting balls after they’ve played on a tournament day, or the sequence followed on a practice day before and after they play.

It was found that some of the top pros like to practice more when they are playing well because they feel that when they have proper rhythm and the confidence they can build on that. Then on the other hand other pros just hit a few balls and leave it alone “if it’s not broken don’t fix it.” Also some top pros go through a rigid practice routine no matter how they’re playing.

On practice days, the pros try to have a good time, be relaxed and get a feel for the course. And most of the top pros hit more balls on the practice days than they do during the tournament. Once the tournament has started they just warm up and let it flow. Here’s some comments from the top pros on practice plans…

“I always come out here an hour before I play and putt first, hit balls, then putt again and go.”

“For the practice rounds of a tournament, like today, I hit a lot of balls and I practice a lot after I play.”

“I hit a few balls to loosen up, but not as many as I would before a tournament round. I hit more balls before the round on a tournament day than I would on practice day.”

“It takes me an hour to go through everything before a competition round and it might take me thirty minutes to go through it all before a practice round.”

“If I went out on Thursday and hit every shot perfect, I would go out and practice everything anyway.”

Let’s now look at a…

Pre-Tournament Plan

The study revealed that all the top pros have a very structured pre-tournament plan which includes two major categories:

1) a mental plan for course management/shotmaking strategies, and

2) a time frame plan (e.g., when to wake up, and how long to stretch, exercise and warm up, when to eat, when to get to the golf course, how long to hit balls and putt, and when to arrive at the first tee before tee off etc., etc.)

Here are some quotes from the top pros that will give you an insight into what they do to prepare for a tournament golf game…

“My tournament pattern is always the same. My pre-competition plan is getting up three hours before tee off time. When I get up I do some stretching and the exercise bike to warm up, and some exercise-weights for the rotator cuff. I eat two hours before. I get to the course one hour before tee off and hit balls and putt until I have the feel. On the first tee, waiting to go, I visualize the shot and recall the feel. My cue is smooth.”

“I go to the course on the day of a tournament one and a half hours before my tee off. One hour before I play I hit 30-40 balls, then I putt for 25 minutes and arrive at the tee ten minutes before tee off time.”

“There are certain holes on the course you get to thinking about, either you like them or you don’t like them. I have a certain plan for playing those holes.”

“Mentally at night before the round, I go over the course, see where I want to hit the ball and see myself make the putts.”

“I go over the holes and think how I would like to play them.”

“My plan for competition is going out and playing my own game and staying relaxed. To stay relaxed and joke around with my caddy and stay loose.”

Next on the golfing success list is a…

Tournament Focus Plan

From the study it was found that this tournament focus plan includes the mental focus and the thought process executed during the tournament. It’s been broken down into four sections…

  • The First Tee
  • During the Round
  • Between Rounds, and
  • In the Zone

The First Tee

The top tour pros become totally focused on this “one” shot, by entering an emotionally focused state – for example, by recalling a feel, calling upon a positive image or an optimal state of mind. This was found to be the opposite of the club pros as they generally think about something related to the “how to” or what they don’t want to do, rather than the feeling or sensation of the swing.

The following quotes give you some insight into what the top pros focus on when waiting to tee off…

“On the first tee waiting to go, I visualize the shot and recall the feel. My cue is smooth.”

“On the first tee, I always feel a good positive image of myself hitting it off the tee.”

“I have an optimal state in my mind which is not too up and not too relaxed…Only golf is on my mind…Feelings are on are on an even keel.”

“I stare at the target before teeing off. Just stare at it and think about that and nothing else. Get focused, totally one track.”

“Focus. Single minded and singleness of purpose in seeing that ball and only that shot.”

During The Round

“I won a tournament in Japan one time, primarily because I just got into my little world. The guys I was playing with couldn’t speak English, and I guess I turned my attention inward, and thought about my next shot.”

“I have really good concentration when I play. I don’t see anybody. I’m also a very sensitive person so if I have things bothering me it’ll show in my golf. That sensitive emotional side of me makes me the great player that I am but it also keeps me walking on an edge like anybody that is really creative, they kind of walk a fine line between genius and insanity. That’s a real fine line.”

“During the round, between shots I work on staying relaxed and I do a lot of that Quieting Reflex.”

“During the round I try not to think so much about what is going on in the tournament. I try to focus on one shot at a time and what I need to with that shot. Then just go ahead and hit that.”

“I try not to think too much after I hit the shot. I try not to dwell on the shot whether it is good or bad.”

“My plan is playing my own game and staying relaxed. To stay relaxed I try and joke around with my caddy and stay loose.”

“When I try harder and bear down, I kind of throw that veil over myself and think of nothing except whatever it is I have to do.”

“When I play extremely well I ignore everything around me and not pay too much attention to anything in particular and try to get myself into a tunnel vision and try to block everything else out.”

“I’ve learned how to take each shot as it comes, one shot at a time. I may have hit a good shot or a bad shot the last time but it doesn’t affect this shot.”

“During the round to refocus, I just try to think about something totally different, after my shot. When I get to the ball, that is the only time I think about the golf shot I want to play. That limits the amount of time I need to concentrate. That next shot is a new game. To refocus I have to work a little harder and be patient, don’t give into it. I can still pull off a pretty good round.”

Between Rounds

The top tour pros play in a four-day tournament almost every week and they have a focusing plan between rounds. Listen to these quotes to see what the top pros do between rounds to get the best results…

“During a tournament I stick to my game plan. I never change what is working.”

“During a round I’ll stick with what I’ve got. After the round maybe I’ll try and change something but not too much, just little things. You’ll begin to get into trouble if you start to fool around with the swing, or whatever.”

“I don’t try and change the game plan when things are going well or when things are going badly. I pretty much try to do the same thing as when things have been successful for me in the past. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t that’s the way it goes.”

“When things are going well, I’m more relaxed, patient and easy going on the course. When things are going less well, I wasn’t accepting the fact that I would make mistakes and hit bad shots.”

In The Zone – Tunnel Vision

The top pros refer to playing well as “tunnel vision” or being “in the zone”. Being “in the zone” means a special depth of concentration or total focus. Below are some quotes from the top pros on what it feels like to them to be “in the zone”…

“When things are going really well, I’m into the game and don’t even know if anybody is around, like tunnel vision.'”

“My best rounds, I try to maintain an even keel, have no fear of failure and I experience complete tunnel vision.”

“The intensity when playing consistently well, like last year, took quite a bit out of me. This year the intensity is not as strong as it has been. The energy and intensity it takes to be number one is incredible and it is very hard to maintain that level. I’ve been in the “zone” for four straight days at four tournaments last year. It is an exhausting experience. I can’t remember who I was playing with or what was happening. I was totally focused.”

“For my best rounds my focus was on the shot that I was hitting every time. Nothing else entered my mind, it was what I wanted to do with that shot and why I wanted to hit it, and then just once I got set, the swing. No thought at all. It was like when people talk about being in the “zone,” where I didn’t feel pressure. All I felt was the task at hand, that was it! There was a lot of confidence in my ability. I had a lot of confidence.”

“When I’m really concentrating and playing well I don’t wander at all. There’s just a calmness and simpleness about it. It is almost as if you’re floating.”

“My optimal state is when I’m in the zone. That’s a total feeling or relaxation and it only happens five or six times a year, tops. The only thing I can remember is, I was very relaxed and confident and that whatever I was going to do was going to turn out right.”

“I can get into the “zone” pretty easy. My “zone” comes usually with a couple of things. I say (to myself), you’ve got nothing to prove to anybody, go out today and play the best golf you can play. You are the best golfer that has ever lived and just go out and have a nice time.”

Let’s now look at what the top tour pros do to cope with distractions that they may encounter.

Distraction Control

From the study it was found that the top tour pros need and have developed effective ways to deal with most distractions like slow play, delays and the leader board. But when they’re in the “zone” there is nothing that seems to distract them. Here are some quotes that gives you an insight into the way they handle distractions…

“If you’re thinking about what you’re doing, you can eliminate distractions like airplane noise and you don’t have to try to. However, if you try to eliminate that (noise), then you’re listening for it.”

“The crowds used to bother me and make me nervous when I first started on tour, but now I see through them. Slow play is really annoying and I must prepare ahead of time to slow down my game and go with the pace.”

“My major distraction is the leader board. I try not to look and just play the game.”

“Delays are my biggest worry. I know what to do that works. Get away by myself in a corner and try to keep the feel to continue on with.”

“I used to get stage fright about crowds and things like that. Now I imagine the crowd as a painting, the bunch of people as a painting on a hill, and that worked pretty well.”

“Most of us out here, if we can get out of our way we will do all right.”

“If I’m playing well, nothing will distract me. I won’t look at the leader board if I’m playing well, until I get towards the end, maybe then I’ll ask me caddy, how many?”

“One thing that really bothers me is playing slow, because I have a tendency to speed up. I try to be aware that it is happening and not let it speed me up. I don’t like to look at the leader board that much, except to look at a number, but not at the name. Leader boards to me, create anxiety.”

“I enjoy the crowds. It is kind of fun having them cheer for me and all that. It’s a positive force.”

“I draw a lot from the crowd. I draw my affirmations or my response from the crowd. I’m always looking for positive reinforcement from someone out there to cheer me on.”

“I love the crowds at tournaments. When a large crowd is encompassing the green, all I can see is a funnel into the hole. I use it as a positive force to channel the ball into the cups.”

“Everything distracts you when playing bad. The player that is not playing well is backing off shots, telling people in the gallery to move and they’re hearing every noise on the golf course. Whereas the player who is playing well, you could drop their bag at the top of their backswing and it wouldn’t bother them.”

Let’s now look at…

Pressure Situations

Every golfer places some pressure on themselves and the top tour pros recognize and expect situations where they will feel pressure. And the pressure they feel is generally the highest whey the are in a position to win a tournament.

Now for a pro to win a tournament many different factors come into play. But the most important factors are to feel the shot that is about to be played and then to execute the swing in a totally focused way. If they do those two things with full focus then a lot of outside factors will be eliminated. Here are some comments the top pros made about pressure…

“When I’m in the hunt, leading a tournament, the pressure builds in that last nine holes.”

“I’m one that has performed better under intense self imposed pressure. I expect a lot of myself and the times I’ve played well are when I expect the best from myself.”

“I use pressure as a confidence builder rather than something that gets in the way.”

“When I first turned Pro, I had this, I have everything to gain and nothing to lose, attitude, which immediately reduces the self-induced pressure on oneself. You’re always looking forward and have nothing to get tentative about and nothing to get tight about.”

“If you are leading a tournament, you have to be able to turn down the volume a little bit, and slow your pace a bit. I have done that, I have walked a little bit slower. I might stop and take a couple of deep breaths. Then proceed on my journey down the fairway at a much more tolerable speed. I have my own self-defined parameters as to when to let it go and when to bring it back.”

In this final installment of this series you’re going to learn all of the main differences between a pro that makes it and one that doesn’t. And you will discover how you can apply this information to your own game to help you play up to your true potential. It’s good stuff so stay tuned. 

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Jeff Richmond