Getting back to Competition?

For most of ‘20 I’ve been playing ‘fun’ rounds on the same course with the same group, most of which er, let’s say, don’t challenge me (trying to be polite). They routinely take mulligans, free drops and don’t count penalties. I admit to re-hitting on occasion for experimentation purposes (we play 2-3 per week so my range time where I used to do my experimentation has dramatically dropped off).
I’m hoping to get back to competitive golf again in a few weeks and I’m concerned about the dramatic mental/attitude shift required. Course management will be key, as I won’t have the course familiarity. Strategy may change as consequences increase.
I’m thinking of cutting back one round a week to make room for some range time. I’ve played several recent rounds from back tees, counted all strokes and attempted to ‘simulate’ competitive environment but do not feel as prepared as I’d like.

Is anyone also facing this? Any advice? Thx in advance.

1 Like

I’ve always looked at it like there are multiple ways to play golf. I play in a league where we all play straight up, serious golf. I also play rounds with my buddies who aren’t as serious golfers, where we’ll take a mulligan or take a free drop. I’m not posting those scores, I’m just out to have fun. (Coincidentally also the rounds I lose the most balls as I take absurd lines or rip driver when I absolutely should not)

So to answer your post, I don’t think you’ll have any problem switching mindsets because you’ll know it’s a different environment and gameplay.

My situation is a little different from yours, I’m almost always competing in some way when I play, and I’m always playing with people who try to play within the rules. So there’s one thing you’ll want to look at, you need to evaluate and correct any bad habits you’ve developed regarding the rules.
The more significant change is in attitude, and to some extent I’d suggest you shouldn’t change much. Playing for fun, you can easily shake off a bad hole, or a bad day, because it really doesn’t count for much. Well, unless you’re thinking about getting back to top-level competition like State Amateurs, it still really doesn’t count for much beyond personal pride. Even then, its all about your opinion of you. So do your best to get over poor shots or poor holes and move on to the next one.
Course management is another factor, I agree with you there. Something like the Decade system, or the decision-making principles you can find in Lowest Score Wins, could help you in this. I try to make good decisions even in my “throwaway” rounds, or to at least understand when I’m taking a foolish risk. To me, competition stroke play is really mentally demanding, you really do have to pay attention to each decision, and then concentrate properly on every single shot. If your ballstriking is OK, you may be better-served by playing more rounds to get your brain tuned up. The ability to concentrate for an entire round of golf takes practice just as much as making good swings does.
Good luck, and have fun!


Hey there. I 100% understand where you’re coming from. I played high(ish) level junior golf, high school, college, and dabbled very briefly in mini tour life (3 events). I gave up competitive golf for a few years after. I was burnt out on the emotional drain from it all. I relearned how to play for fun and my game got better. I’m head and shoulders above what I used to be. I got back into competitive golf a few years ago and I’ve had a lot of success on the state and local level. This summer I’m gearing up for a couple USGA events and I feel readier than ever to compete.

The big difference - for me - has been getting my mind right and understanding it’s not life or death. Although some events may be big for me, I still go home to my wife and son and go back to my day job on Monday.

To compete at any level you have to approach the game differently. You have to be a little more cerebral. Know your tendencies and misses. Plan for them. If you’re unfamiliar with the course you have to be really smart about where you take chances and where you play back. If you’re standing on the tee of a 325 yard par 4 thinking “I can get there” you probably can, but should you? Do you know how much room you have green side to miss? Probably not. So play it back to a distance you’re comfortable with, hit a good wedge, and have a chance at birdie. It’s all about making smart decisions based on what you do and don’t know about the course. Play the course. Never play what you think other guys/girls are doing.

As far as dialing back play for practice, yes do that. The way I’ve always done it - and I’m not saying this is THE way, just my way - I do a full range day early in the week. I assess where my swing is at in case there are specific things I need to focus on for more directed practice the rest of the week. I chip and putt every day. Midweek I’ll play 18, then chip and putt. Next day I’ll hit the range and work on the things I know I need to work on. I’ll work wedges from 130 and in. Then I’ll chip and putt. Day before event I’ll play 9 hitting 3-4 balls from everywhere, then chip and putt and eat a healthy meal.

I play mostly two day events, so this works for me. It’s about preserving my body as much as I can so my swing feels like it should come game day while dialing in my mind around the greens every day. Short game practice slows things down for me and puts me in a good place regardless of how a round or range session went. It’s a full reset.

Good luck and remember the most important thing - have fun.

I loved something Max Homa says about bad shots and bad holes - “Forgive Quickly”


The last episode of get a grip is a must listen for anyone who wants to play competitive golf… just a phenomenal piece of media.


First off I’d like to sincerely appreciate everyone’s suggestions; I took them all to the course.
After the “Deep Freeze” here in Texas (literally no practice of any kind for three weeks, 43F indoors) I had 1 “prep” round, total disaster! Struggled just to make contact. To find my expectations you’d need a shovel.
First tee shot of tourney was looooong P5, nose into 35mph wind. Even after good drive and spectacular second, confidence not there to take on the wind. Laid up 4th to perfect position to wedge it to very elevated green. Hit perfect wedge to my target, just right of back pin, thinking I’ve got a makeable putt for par, feeling pretty good.
Partner: “Oh, rotten luck”. WHAT?! I watch the wind blow my ball all the way back across the green, down the hill and into the hazard below.
Yes, I allowed myself to get angry. But only ‘til I replaced my putter in the bag.
Then, all the good words of wisdom kicked in; let’s get to work.
I confess I’m not a good wind player, but I think I adapted rather quickly, even for me. I did suffer another double (wind-related) but generally played well. Even remembered to have fun, laughing hysterically at a totally flushed 5W to 15’. It was 165y, all carry over water. A good 65y shorter than “stock”, this was just a few holes after the same club flew 278y with the wind.
Get over bad results, they don’t define you. Get on with it. Big thanks to @davep043!
In 25+mph winds, do not attempt to work the ball; the wind will simply overwhelm. Think Tom Watson: reduce spin.
Astonishing(to me), it was easier than I expected to get into competition attitude. @Bigdadenergy you were spot-on. I tried to make the best decisions for my game and focus on playing the course and conditions. I think I did that for the most part. Had fun, too!
ps - the ‘golf gods’ took pity eventually. On the par5 13th, I hooked a blind 9i around a tree to 4”!!
Thx again to everyone for your great thoughts!

Btw, it all worked. Won my flight!


:+1:t2: Then you did well…Golf is a personal journey and you had fun! Not much wrong with that

Nice suggestions @davep043 @Bigdadenergy

As a 6-7 ish index, i am usually low man in my group (playing off scratch for whatever game we are playing). One thing I am trying to do is find a few + and scratch handicaps to play with at my club.

I think there is another level of focus/
pressure when your playing partner is hitting fairways/greens and scoring

I am looking to start playing some stroke play events and definitely need to shake up my typical outing which would usually be 4 ball with 3 double digit handicaps. Just not going to get the same intensity with that group imo

1 Like

This is a really good point. If you want to take your game to the next level and start competing you have to play with people as good or preferably better than you.
I lucked out that growing up my step-brother was/is probably the best golfer that’s ever come out of our area. He played on mini tours for a bit and is head of instruction at the country club we grew up on.
I always had someone to chase and it pushed me, so even now in my mid-30s I seek that out. After joining my club last year I asked our teaching pro, who coaches a local D1 school, if I could play a couple rounds with him. He put me on to the guys at the club who can really play and they’ve become good friends and my permanent playing partners.
The good thing about golf is that unless you’re Tiger there’s always going to be somebody that’s better than you. Choose to play against higher competition. It will make you a better player and more comfortable playing in tournaments.


I’m in a similar situation. There is one golfer in our little coterie who is several strokes my better; I always try to hook up in same foursome and since we both push-cart, share the walk together to pick one another’s brains. I haven’t been playing competitively for quite a while. I’d rather leave weekends (club events) free so wife & I can day-trip/overnight (at her discretion :grinning:)

During our rounds, I keep a “how’m I doing?” score card. In the line for each player, I’ll record scores for separate previous rounds. It gives me a quick reference of how I scored on each of the holes in these rounds. In effect, I’m competing against myself, aiming to improve on the holes that need it, which is most of them…

1 Like