In this busy age, effective time management is critical for business. Just as with work, so too with play. An avid and competitive golfer, I’ve come to learn how proper time management can also help you improve your golf game. Using your time before a round just a little more effectively can lower your scores without any additional practice.
The first tee mulligan is not permitted under the rules of golf, but is used by a large percentage of recreational golfers. Stiff from the drive to the course, or from a bad night’s sleep, golfers start to play stiff and unfocused. Their first shot is wasted and the entire round starts badly.
Poor early play is the result of poor time management. Too many rounds of golf begin with players pulling into the lot and dashing into the clubhouse minutes ahead of their tee time. There, they tap their feet nervously as they wait for the checkout, then rush back to the cart and, from there, on to the first tee. There is no time for stretching, no time for visiting the putting green, no time to hit a bucket of balls on the practice tee. All that is there for the players is tension and stiffness.
With proper time management, players should schedule their alarms to give themselves plenty of time before a round. A player should arrive at least half an hour before the scheduled tee time. In an ideal world, arriving 45 minutes early would be even better. That will leave you with the time to be properly prepared.
Upon arriving at the course, take the time to check and double check the contents of your bag to ensure you have everything you might require. Nothing can create more tension than having to dash back to the car just before teeing off to get something you forgot.
Stretching is good use of time...
Once you have paid your greens fee, take a few minutes to stretch. Whether it is a morning round, or one after a day of work, your body will not be ready for the rotation needed to create an effective golf swing. Your bed and your office chair are the enemies of the golf swing. Even the drive to the course in those bucket seats will work against you. Stretching is time worth spending.
There are a large number of resources in golf magazines, books and on the Internet on golf stretching routines, so there is no need to detail them here. Suffice it to say that you can do some very effective stretching exercises with just the tools in your golf bag particularly your clubs and your bag. You might even want to toss a small and lightweight latex stretching band in your bag.
After stretching, hit a small bucket of balls to loosen up. Make loosening up your only goal. Trying to fix your swing faults before a round will only mess up your game later. Try to get your feel grooved. Work on your rhythm. Be sure to rotate properly. Start with the short irons and work your way up to driver. Try half swings, then move on to full ones. Don’t swing violently; you risk hurting yourself. Similarly, don’t try for distance; you risk losing your rhythm. You want to use this time to develop a flow.
Stop at the putting green...
Next, stop at the putting green. On most courses, the speeds on the putting green are indicative of the speed on the playing greens. Do not worry about getting the ball in the hole. You will not learn anything about any one hole’s breaks on the practice green. Instead, just try to get it close. Imagine a two-foot circle around the hole and try to get the ball inside the circumference.
The goal of your time on the putting green is to develop a feel for the speed of the greens. If you can get your ball inside “gimmie” range from a variety of distances on the practice putting green, you will be more relaxed and confident when you get to the real thing.
Finally, as you get set to tee off, talk to the starter. Often the starter has valuable information as to course conditions. In particular, ask about hole locations. He should be able to tell you in what zone of the greens the pins are located. This is really useful information on those visually deceptive holes. Knowing flag locations will keep you from leaving a ball short, or going long.
If you follow these tips to manage your time before a round, you are guaranteed to play better golf. You’ll be relaxed, loose, confident and informed.