18557088_10208950266142492_6872292373191102997_n.jpgWomen’s Pennant enjoys a rich history within Victorian golf, with competition dating back over 100 years.  Seven player women’s Pennant teams represent each participating club across an eight week season.  Players from each club are matched and play match play against each other. Today, as has always been the way, women’s pennant matches are fiercely contested, with all players representing their Club with passion and pride.

So what’s your preparation for Pennant ?  Many of us also play a weekly competition along with club board events.  This all accounts for a lot of golf in a short period of time.  It’s very difficult to play your best when your preparation is minimal.  An occasional early night isn’t going to cut it.  

I have to admit my least favourite comp in golf is Stroke !!  For some reason I focus on the overall score as an impossible feat to keep low.  So before I’ve even started I’m in the red mentally.  28554723_10214064892669650_922182659_o.jpg



I find it so much easier to concentrate when I have an opponent, my competitive juices start flowing and I only focus on where I need to play my ball.  Which encourages good choices and more importantly I stop thinking technically which I am known for.  Argh…

My opponent is right next to me. I get to see exactly how well or how poorly she is playing and she gets to watch my game as well.

That makes match play a different ballgame, literally and figuratively. And, in many ways large and small, it changes the way golfers approach the match.

I don’t believe there is only one way to play matchplay, it’s a very strategic game full of tactic’s from both players.  Your strategy may change many times throughout the match and you must be ready for it.  Don’t let it catch you by surprise.  


Teeing up next to your opponent can increase nerves and most certainly add gamesmanship no matter who you’re playing, whether in a pennant match or one of your teammates in a club comp.

Taking the lead in the match we are likely to feel more relaxed.  Fall a hole or two behind and the pressure starts messing with you, this is when you control your demeanor and breathing patterns from within.   

Don’t give any signals away that you are feeling frustrated or disappointed in yourself, talk to your caddy and if your caddy knows you well she will be able to help on an emotional level.  

You want to put the pressure on your opponent early, then keep it there.

After nine years of playing golf I have met quite a few experienced teaching professionals and have learnt from many stories.  

When your game isn’t on song and you are trying your best to find something to work with, it’s understandable that you can become a little hot under the collar.  A great tip shared with me was to reward yourself after you have hit a great shot.  Build your confidence from within, when you make good contact you should congratulate yourself in some way, have your own reaction for example, tap your foot or drop your club to the side, twirl your club, anything to get your confidence up.  Don’t over react with “now that’s what I should have done on the last hole” or “where the hell has that been” !!  You only have a few sec’s to reward yourself so make the most of it.

Many long time golfers will understand me when I say I have a memorable or not so memorable golf moment burnt into my memory and cannot get rid of it even if I tried and believe me I have.  I had only been a member of our club for a few years and I managed to make it through to the final of the Secretary’s Cup, a matchplay board event.  

I’d been up most of the match and we were coming down the seventeenth hole and I was 1UP, I hit a great drive straight down the middle, my opponent didn’t have the same length as me but she had been playing golf a lot longer than I and had a pocket full of matchplay experience.  I’d been hitting my 4 rescue well all day and I had a clear direct shot towards the green, I doubted myself even though my caddy instilled her belief in me.  I went to the right, away from the bunkers and rolled into the rough causing a skinned shot across the green, I lost the hole and when the match was even I crumbled because of the lack of trust and belief in my own ability.   Number one lesson, trust your game !! (I always think of that shot when I walk the 17th, hoping soon to forget it.)


But there are certainly times when its best to be conservative, and some golfers believe the best initial strategy is to play your normal game until someone wins a hole.  That approach is akin to giving your opponent a chance to make a mistake. Most believe, however, that falling behind early is too big a risk, and so aggression is called for from the first tee.

A player with a lead will generally play more conservatively; a player trailing will usually become more aggressive.  Either way, match play requires that you react to your opponent’s successes and failures.


All the girls talk about gimme putts & many assume that they will be given, you should go into your match expecting to have to make every putt.  Don’t expect your opponent to concede anything – be prepared to hole out everything.  Your opponent may, in fact, offer gimmes (concede the putt and save you from hitting it) at various points, but you must be mentally prepared if she doesn’t.
Pick a distance – say, two feet – and, at least early in the match – concede any putts within that distance.

Some experts at matchplay believe you should concede every short putt early in the match.  If it meets your length criteria, concede it. Why?   So you can stop conceding later in the match at a critical juncture. Say the match is all squared on the 17th hole, and your opponent faces a 2-footer with a little break.  You’ve conceded every 2-footer today, but this one you’re going to make her putt.  The fact she hasn’t had to make any of these in the match to this point increases the odds she’ll miss this one.

Of course, at no point do you want to concede a putt when you believe there’s a realistic chance that your opponent will miss it to give you a win or a half and only rarely would you concede a putt that gives your opponent the hole (if the putt is 3 inches, yes; 2 feet for the win, no).


Matchplay is all about building experience and now that I’ve been playing & caddying for a few years I have many matches that I can look back on and learn from.

Kingston Heath vs Heidelberg at Eastwood Golf Club.  I was 1st to tee off at number 7 in the team, Bureau of Meteorology had set us up a triad of weather conditions for the day, 30 km winds, rain at right angles I couldn’t help feeling sorry for my wonderful caddy Annmaree.

There are so many gorgeous women who volunteer their time to be part of a Pennant  team and caddying is just one of them.  Annmaree and I have built up a wonderful friendship over the seasons and she has seen everything good & bad from me.  Her placid demeanor has kept me settled over many nerve wracking moments, this day at Eastwood is one match that we will never forget.

The rain gods had opened the gates, we had constant rain for 4 hours straight.  Both drenched from head to toe, gloves, towels, hair, shoes and swinging in a suit of layers, walking down the 13th fairway I was 5 down and feeling a little dejected.

Let’s be honest here, no matter how many times you are told from professionals that its about staying in the moment and focusing one shot at a time, the feeling of hopelessness and loss can be somewhat overwhelming.

The power of pressure when you’re down in a match can be just as intense when you are up, I won the 13th sinking a 30ft putt with a trail of water flying up behind the ball as it rolled in the cup.  A fist pump from Annmaree and a sweet smile, off to the 14th.  

We felt calm and almost unconscious with exhaustion, ready to be hung out over the clothes horse in the drying room.  I had almost given up and had forgiven myself for the disappointing result, unaware of my relaxed state I went on to win the next 4 holes.  

Standing on the 18th tee I could obviously see the distress and disbelief in my opponent’s body language, we went on to both par the 18th and square the match.  

We felt like we had just kicked the winning goal in the 2008 AFL grand final Hawthorn vs Geelong, now that was the sweetest win, stole it from right under them but I won’t bore you all with details ! 🙂

Number 2 Lesson :  Beware of the underdog …

Match play is a balancing act.  You must balance the need to be aggressive enough to win individual holes against the situations at hand and don’t panic if you fall behind early. You’ll need to make something happen, but that doesn’t mean trying every low-percentage shot that presents itself.


It’s easy to see why match play is the type of golf that many prefer to play.  
Three tips to establish your rhythm

  • Establish a rhythm – begin your day by slowing everything down a notch. From brushing your teeth to drinking your coffee. Move a bit slower. When you arrive at the course remove your clubs from the trunk a little slower and walk slower to the practice green.
  • This is an excellent strategy that sets a personal rhythm well in advance of your important match/tournament and makes it easier to establish/maintain a good personal rhythm early in the round.
  • Remember, it’s likely you’ll be a tad nervous prior to a pennant match so your breathing will unconsciously accelerate and your pace will quicken. Make a conscious effort, as you walk down the first fairway after your tee shot, to set a nice pace. This will offset any tendencies to speed up.



There are three major factors for good performance Sleep, Hydration & Nutrition.  

See my article on “Looking for a better Performance”, Work on Sleep, Hydration & Nutrition.

I wish all our Fairway Birdies the best of luck for the 2018 Pennant Season.

Nikki xx

  1. Great article, Nikki. Best wishes for your Pennant season.
    Fi Bunting


    1. Thanks Fi, Green Acres was gorgeous today we absolutely loved it xx Good luck to you too !!


  2. Such great advice as we enter the Pennant season. Can’t wait.


    1. Looking forward to being in your team xx


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