Get your mind around MATCHPLAY !!!

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This is why I love Golf so much, it can take us on many journeys…  I was introduced to the game of match play when I joined Kingston Heath Golf Club.  The women members were so encouraging and eager to teach me everything I needed to know about the game of matchplay.  

After a few years around the club and with my handicap dropping slowly, I put my name down with a group of fellow members and joined the interclub squad.  

I think my competitive drive had gone dormant over the years of childbearing, let me tell you my competitive juices are flowing now and I can’t get enough of it.  

Interclub is a Women’s Match play competition played for 7 consecutive weeks against other golf clubs affiliated with Golf Victoria.  There’s nothing I love better than competing for my Club, as a team, with my fellow friends who are members.:)

Over my journey of playing match play I’ve learned everything there is to know… NO WAIT, WHAT AM I TALKING ABOUT, THERE’S HEAPS MORE !!!!!

Let me help you with some tips I’ve learnt along the way…

Being prepared…

Don’t take it for granted that your golf bag is prepared, I found checking my bag the day before was a great way to start, charge battery for electric buggy, no more than 14 clubs, new tee’s ( short & long), new balls, pencils, pencil sharpener, pitch repairer, flat markers, a spare glove, umbrella, a couple of small hand towels, all of your wet weather gear, small bag of tissues, rule book, GPS or laser rangefinder, sunscreen, bandaids, panadol, food & fluids.  This is where our overnight oats recipe will be handy, having breakfast all sorted and a guarantee that you’ll be able to play out 18 holes to win your match. I also recommend google maps the night before if you are heading to a foreign course in a suburb miles away, then send the directions to your caddy , you need to avoid the scenario – “Getting Lost” it’s not good for the nerves !!

(Good chance you’ll give the team manager reason for freaking out too !)

Having a Plan…

Whether you’re playing in a club match at home or competition match for your club away, before you hit your first practice ball you should know which holes you’ll hit driver on, which pins you will and won’t go after and the trouble spots to avoid. The better your plan for the course — and the better you stick to it — the more competitive and less distracted you’ll be. Play your game. Talk to someone who knows the course or check out the course description on their website to get some information.

Limit the Chit-Chat…

Hmmm…

I’m not sure how to say this and I don’t want to offend anyone because a lot of my friends will be reading this BUT NEVER GET DISTRACTED BY FRIENDSHIPS IN MATCH PLAY !!!

EVERYBODY has a mental strategy when they are playing, whoever your opponent is they will be trying to outthink and outplay you to win.

You’ll tend to chat during a friendly round but match play isn’t the time for constant talking to your opponents.   Keep your lips sealed, don’t annoy them or distract yourself, and focus on each shot one at a time. When I first started out I thought I needed to be friendly and show respect by chatting to my opponent, I found it only distracted me and took my mind off my plan.  It goes without saying that small talk is polite and courteous and showing good sportsmanship is also important.

“When it comes down to it, it’s all about making friends & having fun” … Nikki Wilson


Gimme Putts… when & when not to give them

In the days before your match, anticipate the situations when you’ll concede putts and when you won’t.  Concede anything inside 40 cm early in the match, then force your opponent to putt out from similar distances down the stretch. This keeps her from gaining confidence on short putts early on and your sudden lack of generosity may affect her nerves enough to make her miss a gimme.  Let’s not forget these tactics have been in the game of golf for centuries and their not coming from me, a very experienced pennant player told me to make your opponent mark her ball no matter how long the putt, there is a certain amount of confidence one gets from picking up a gimme.  She said to always hand over the marker or ball when you’ve lost or squared a hole so they don’t reap the reward. I’m getting scary now !!!!!

Out of the blocks…

Some golfers tend to get careless due to nerves on the first few holes of a match. Hey, I get it. There’s lots of golf to play, clever golfers understand that the value of winning the first two holes is exactly the same as winning the last two. This doesn’t give you the green light to blast driver off the deck in the first fairway in order to play well out of the gate.   I played in a foursomes semi-final match against two very very experienced pennant/match play golfers and when they beat us on the 14th Lynne kindly talked me through the game of grinding out scores. She said girls who grind out scores are tough to beat in Match Play. Put, simply you need to drain putts at the right time and make good shots at key moments. Think that your opponent is going to win every hole with a par or birdie.  If you have a high handicap, it’ll be pars and bogies. But the mindset is the same. You need to at least square the hole in match play.

Simply execute your plan and don’t wait for the seventh hole to do it.

Put on a happy face…

Stay positive. It keeps you focused on your plan and sends the message that you’re the one controlling the match. Do it with body language: Stand tall, keep your head up, add some pep to your step and a tune to your lips. Positive self talk . Stand out shots expecting to make them. It’s not just feel-good mumbo-jumbo. Other studies show that the simple act of smiling creates chemical reactions in the brain similar to those connected with feelings of enjoyment, which helps you shrug off doubt and heighten confidence. And a confident golfer is a dangerous golfer.

Mark the card…

If you get strokes in your match, note where they fall on the card. If they come early in the round, you can play cautiously at the outset — a few solid pars will help you build a quick lead. Knowing where your opponent will get strokes is just as critical to your success. If she gets strokes early on, consider a more aggressive approach (hit driver on tight holes, go after sucker pins, go for that par 5 in two). You want to avoid having to play catch up early in your match. Remember Match play index is different to regular Stroke index.

Don’t be the sucker…

Some days you’ll get an opponent who’s more talented than you. She’ll split fairways and hit greens, tempting you into shots beyond your skill set. If you play her game, you’ll lose.

As an underdog, it’s even more important to play the course, not the opponent. “If your opponent beats you, fine,” “But don’t make it easy for her.” Play your own game as dictated by your own handicap.You may not need to make the green in the same amount of strokes.

Nail it from short range…

When forced to putt from a few feet out, you’ve got to nail it. Not only does missing short putts gift-wrap holes for the other side, it eats away at your confidence to the point where even tap-ins make your knees knock. On the practice green I’m always practicing 4 ft putts but I recommend hammering in putts from one, two and three feet rattling the back of the cup. Seeing the ball go in is a huge confidence boost. You’ll need that swagger when it counts for real.

Watch the course…

Since the golf course is your first opponent, you should make a point of knowing what sort of condition it’s in. Some practice putting before the round will help you with the speed of the greens. As you walk through the holes of the match you should pay attention to flag positions on the upcoming holes. Most important, watch the way your ball and your opponent’s ball behave on landing — this will give you an idea of the hardness and consequential ball rolling distance of the fairways and greens, a factor that affects club selection both off the tee and into the green.  Workout which side of the fairway is the best side to approach the green & pin from. Observe the green and look for small swails or hills to use as a backstop for your approach shots

Check out the scorecard to know if the markings from the sprinkler heads are to the front or to the centre of the greens as you will have to use a longer club for the latter if the pin is up the back.

Although this can be a very competitive experience don’t forget it’s just golf and have fun.

Nikki xx

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