Yesterday I played the best round of golf in my life, a +2 74 on a course in Hamilton ON, Dragons Fire. Despite the tees being moved forward I still had to execute golf shots, scramble and sink putts.
I strive to play my best every round but have a history of getting in my own way and derailing potentially successful rounds. The excitement of playing well, and the knowledge of knowing I’m playing well, has been impossible for me to maintain over 18 holes in the past. There were two factors which helped contribute to my success yesterday that I want to share (for your benefit and as a reminder to me). These two factors may help golfers who are traveling to new and nice courses.
First is to maintain a pace of play that will be optimal for you (within reason, please). Some people play very fast and others less so. When I travel to play golf I look back and find the round was a blur; oh, I can remember some shots here and there but the round does not have the flow I would like to think back about. My cousin who has played extensive amateur tournament golf shared some good advice for me in terms of scoring well. First, develop and trust a pre-shot routine and don’t hit a ball until you’ve gone through that routine. This can take the nerves out of the equation somewhat by helping you focus on one shot at a time. His second piece of advice and I followed this for the first time for 18 holes, and that is to take more time over putts. Read the putt from a couple angles possibly, visualize the line to see the ball go in the hole and trust the putt. I made 8 putts over 5 feet in length (which is nothing amazing, but very good for me).
The second factor which was instrumental once I was done the 15th and knew I was +1 was to think of each 3 hole stretch as its own micro round. The course I played has a 5-3-5 final stretch and it would have been easy to get all wide eyed thinking about birdie opportunities to get to even par or better. I am proud I did not do this. Instead, I stood on 16 seeking to hit a good shot and position myself for a good start on this 3 hole round. It helped and I started with a pedestrian par. A good tee shot on 17 was met with bad luck as a wind gust held my ball up and it landed short and fell back into a hazard. I maintained routine, took my medicine and bogeyed the hole. On 18, I was not greedy and simply tried to hit a good tee shot to give me a chance to get back to even for this 3 hole stretch. I missed a birdie putt on the high side and tapped in for par and a +1 on that leg and an overall +2.
Everything was deliberate, even my walking rate and breathing. As a public player with a bucket list to cross off there are some outstanding courses which create more than the usual amount of first tee jitters, some of which last for many holes. I feel these tips will help me realize it’s just me and the course. And regardless of how prestigious and pristine the course is, it is the same game and requires the same execution. I welcome your thoughts to this approach and any additional tips you may have on how to travelproof your game!