Hey, Team Titleist!
Have you ever struggled with your practice game not translating to the golf course? Many experts believe that this is usually due to players focusing too much on technique and not enough on developing the competitive skills you need to actually play the game well. The solution? Spend a good portion of your practice time simulating pressure.
It’s only natural to feel anxious when something is on the line - whether it’s playing a competitive match or you just want to play well on a bucket list course. The difference between really good players and those who struggle when there’s something at stake is that the better players learn to enjoy the nervous tension we all feel under pressure and they channel it to actually elevate their performance.
And the only way players learn to enjoy the feeling of being under the gun is by succeeding over and over in pressure situations.
One of the best ways I’ve learned to make my practice count is to make it competitive. Get together with a buddy and challenge each other. Closest to the pin contests on the range or short game area are simple ways to turn up the heat a little.
I have a great game I’d like to share that I learned when I was working as an Assistant at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, FL. We’d play this game almost every evening after work and my putting was never sharper. It’s called “Twenty-One” and you can play it either as a putting or a chipping game.
The rules are pretty simple.
- You get 5 points for holing a putt (or chip). No points if your opponent holes his/her put on top of you.
- You get 3 points for lagging your shot closer to the hole than your opponent and in-the-leather (within a grip-length of the cup).
- You get 1 point for lagging your shot closer to the hole than your opponent, but outside the leather.
- You get 2 points for any lip-out. Lip-out points are automatic, so if you lip out and your opponent finishes closer to the cup, you still get 2 points. Your opponent gets the appropriate points (5,3 or 1) for winning the hole. If you lip out and win the hole, your score is 2 plus the additional points you earn for the win (3 or 1).
- The winner of the preceding hole has the honor and gets to choose the next shot.
The object of the game is to get to 21 points before your opponent does. You have to hit 21 exactly. If you go over 21, your point total goes to 11. So if you’re at 20 points and you lip out, your score jumps back to 11.
You can play Twenty-One guided by golf etiquette or not. Sometimes disruptive tactics and personal heckling helps to turn up the heat (which is the goal) and can make it more fun.
Strategy as you approach 21 points is important and it’s interesting to see which players try to go for the throat by sinking lots of short putts and which ones prefer to kill with a thousand cuts, lagging all game from long distance.
The bottom line is that games like Twenty-One help your mental game and confidence immensely. Win or lose, you’ll be simulating the exact pressure you’ll feel over a putt on the golf course. As you get better and better with the game on the line in Twenty-One, so too will you get better when faced with an important putt or shot on the golf course.
Good luck! Hope you enjoy the game and please share any of your own ideas for practicing under pressure.
And please let us know if there are any other areas of your game that you're struggling with. We have a great network of experts in the TT community who can help get your game back on track!