How to Prepare for a Golf Tournament: 10 Proven Tips
Written by Brittany Olizarowicz

Britt O has been playing golf since the age of 7. Almost 30 years later, she still loves the game, has played competitively on every level, and spent a good portion of her life as a Class A PGA Professional. Britt currently resides in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children. Current Handicap: 1

Updated on January 25, 2024

I started playing golf tournaments when I was about 10 years old.

Through the years, I’ve competed in hundreds of different events at the amateur and professional levels. I can tell you without a doubt that there is some skill involved with preparing for a golf tournament.

Golf tournament preparation goes beyond just working on your shot game or knowing how to master that first tee shot. There is a deeper level of thinking here and some mental work that needs to get done in addition to these basics.

If you are wondering how to prepare for a golf tournament, be it a friendly competition or something a bit more substantial, here are my 10 best tips.


1. Practice Rounds Are Key

If you have the chance to get a practice round at the golf course where your tournament is being held, it can help. Playing the golf course before competing in your tournament will ensure you have a better idea of where to hit the ball and which clubs to use.

I understand that this is not always possible as many golf courses are out of town or too difficult to schedule a practice round. If this is the case, you can use google earth or a golf yardage book to get a better look at the holes you will be playing.

Some golf GPS units also allow you to go through each of the holes on the course to see what you may be up against.


2. Nerves Are Normal, Expect Them

One of the things that I struggled with as a young player was being extremely nervous before an event. At one point, I went to a sports psychologist and explained that I was apprehensive about the event and was having difficulty even showing up for the first tee shot.

The psychologist asked what would happen when I did play, and I told him my game was always the best it is and that I would pull off shots that I couldn’t even think of doing in non-tournament rounds.

We eventually discovered that the nerves were there because I cared and because it mattered to me to play well. These are all things that you want when playing in a golf tournament. Of course, they need to be controlled enough to allow you to swing and participate, but you should have some.


3. Spend More Time on The Practice Green

Before a tournament, you are going to want to know the speed of the greens.

The greens are typically rolled to the same speed that the practice green is. Even if you watch professional players, they will spend the majority of their time warming up on the practice green and not on the driving range.

The driving range on the day of the event will be filled with people doing last-minute preparation and working on getting ready for their event. However, there won’t be much you can change on the day of the event on the driving range.

Hit a few balls to warm up your body, and then head over to the practice green and get the speed down. This is what will help your scoring.


4. Fuel Your Body

Be smart about what you eat before a golf tournament day. Have some small snacks like granola or a power bar.

Save the big meal for when you are finished with your round. The last thing you want to deal with is a stomach problem as you are trying to focus on your game.

In addition, make sure that you stay hydrated. With all of the other things that you are thinking about, forgetting to drink water is a major mistake that many first-time tournament golfers make. Always keep a water bottle in your bag and take a sip or two after each hole.

If it is warm out, start drinking water the night before so you never reach a level of dehydration.


5. Take The Day of The Tournament Slow

When preparing for a competitive round, you will have some tension, and your muscles may get tight.

One of the best ways to deal with this is to take deep breaths and allow plenty of time. Don’t run to the tee box with half an energy bar in your mouth, waving at your playing partners and apologizing for being late.

This is not the way to show up for your first golf tournament, and we can guarantee you that the start of this tournament will be less than ideal.

Show up at the golf course about an hour before your tee time. Create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Having a game plan as to how to prepare for the tournament will only help eliminate those first few bad holes that cost you too many strokes.


6. Set a Goal

Playing in a golf tournament is a big accomplishment in and of itself. However, you should set other goals for yourself.

Be careful to set a goal of winning the tournament; to be honest, we all want to win. This is a challenging goal to put on yourself, and it could cause unnecessary pressure.

Instead, you will want to set smaller goals that are attainable and that you can check on throughout your round. Something that I have used in the past would be a goal to never three-putt or try to hit the center of the greens at least 10 times.

Sometimes a goal could be to par every par 3. The key is to pick something that you can focus on that you have a bit more control over. Winning the golf tournament is likely something you don’t have much control over.

Even if you play the best round you have ever played, you won’t necessarily be the winner of the event.


7. Have a Plan For a Bad Shot Situation

Bad shots happen. When they happen, you have to be prepared to accept the consequences. Any golfer who goes into a tournament thinking they will not experience a bad shot is doing themselves a disservice.

There are hazards and bunkers and sand traps all over any golf course, and if you hit the ball into them, you must know how to recover. Learn the rules of golf, and have a rule book on you to help in any situation where you may have questions.

The key here is to ensure that your plan is something that you can stick to and that you have the skills for. Learn how to hit a knock down or punch shot to get yourself out of trouble. In addition, work on bunker shots and get up and down from difficult locations.

In a golf tournament, you may get into some bad situations, but if you recover quickly, your score will likely not be overly impacted by it.


8. Expect Some Adrenaline

If you are playing a tournament, it may amp you up a little bit. This is a natural reaction that many golfers have and something that can actually be helpful. Some adrenaline in your body will increase the distance you can hit the golf ball.

As long as you are expecting this, then it should not do much harm. Expect your irons to go about half a club longer if you have some adrenaline going. Be aware that this does not increase your tempo.

Sometimes when your adrenaline is running strong, you can get a little out of balance or lose your tempo. Deep breaths and sticking to your pre-shot routine should help to slow things down and keep you in control.


9. Remind Yourself of The Prep You Have Put In

One of the most helpful mental tips I’ve ever used on the golf course is to remind myself of the prep work that I have put in through the years. When standing over a golf shot in a tournament, you may start to doubt yourself and your ability.

However, if you can remind yourself of all the work that you have put in to get there, the chance of you pulling off a great shot is considerably higher. Don’t stand over a four-foot putt and hope to make it.

Instead, stand there and remind yourself of the thousands of four-foot putts you have made in the past.


10. Don’t Over Practice The Day Before

The day before a golf tournament is not the time to put in months or even years of work.

This is a time to get yourself into a good mental place, ensure your body is loose and ready to swing, and take care of proper nutrition and water requirements.

You may put too many thoughts into your head if you try to get a bit too aggressive the day before a golf tournament. These thoughts lead to trying to change your golf swing, and that’s a mistake the day before an event.

Instead, work on creating some awareness of the course, maybe even a game plan for the first few holes. Practice putting and chipping, and if you have the time, play a leisurely 9 holes of golf.

These are all good ways to prepare and ensure you are saving your focus and energy for the day of the event.


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Brittany Olizarowicz

Britt O has been playing golf since the age of 7. Almost 30 years later, she still loves the game, has played competitively on every level, and spent a good portion of her life as a Class A PGA Professional. Britt currently resides in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children. Current Handicap: 1