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Play the Game
By: Andrea Furst (profile)
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‘Are you training for playing the game or training to make swings?’

Playing the game in its true form is a combination of technical skills such as set up, swing path, and ball contact; mental skills such as bouncing back from ‘bad’ shots, setting annual goals, and having confidence in your abilities; physical skills such as flexibility, aerobic capacity, and strength; and tactical skills such as course analysis, hole planning, and shot selection.

Professional tour members may well be paying attention to all of these. However the truth is that some players only love working on their technical skills and some only love working on their physical skills but most rarely only love working on their tactical and mental skills!

The aim is for all players is to maximise their strengths and minimise the exposure of their weaknesses. Think of the course as your competitor and to compete you need to manage each of the four skill types to the best of your ability to combat the course in each and every competitive moment during a tournament.

The game is a complex mix of all of these skills however it is far too often that the technical and physical skills are the two primary skills that attract players’ undivided attention and therefore those are the skills that are trained. The onset of physical training is predominantly due to some of the key players in the men’s and women’s game putting more emphasis on ensuring the body is athletic, and the predominance of technical instruction and reliance on equipment are a constantly evolving part of the game of golf despite the general consensus that golf tournaments are mainly won between the ears!

Tour players match the demands of competitive golf by training the skills required to play in their practice schedule. Similarly, the aim of any golfer’s practice schedule should be to train all of the skills that are needed in a competitive round and throughout the days of a competitive tournament. The emphasis is on up skilling yourself as a player through making your strengths the heavy weights in your game in addition to bridging the gap between where your weaknesses are and where you would like them to be.

So, have you got a practice schedule that ensures that you can play the game? Does it have time in it to train your mental and tactical skills?

You need to provide yourself with evidence that you can perform certain skills in a practice schedule so that when you find yourself in these positions on the course you are adequately equipped to match the demand. This means that you are aiming to develop a practice schedule that ensures that you clock up hours of time that you are capable of the skills that place demands on you while you perform.

Try to see training and monitoring your mental skills in a similar way to training and monitoring your statistics. For example you can put ‘numbers’ on the times that you improve your ability to move on from poor shots or on the times that you picked targets for your shots or your adherence to planning your hole strategy. If you want to be a more holistic player and play the game you must integrate mental skills training into your practice schedule and more importantly monitor your progress.

The question to consider is ‘Are you training for playing the game or training to make swings?’

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