No matter what format of golf, I will always play, however over the years I have found match play to be my favourite. One of the reasons is because I have found it more competitive and the match stays that way throughout the round. Whenever I play against anyone I always suggest match play, as this gives golfers of all levels a better chance to compete. I thought it would be a good idea to share a few pieces of advice I have found useful when it comes to match play over the years.
1. Know the situation
If you see your opponent in trouble maybe consider playing a safe shot which will position you very well for that hole. Say your opponent just hit it into the water trying to go for the green, consider switching clubs and laying up which could leave you with just a wedge into the green. Sometimes I just remind myself that in match play even a bogey can win you a hole, and if that’s the case then so be it.
2. Just play your game
You do you, simple. You know your game better than anyone else, strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, etc. You cannot control what your opponent does, sure you can maybe influence their shot in some way depending on the situation but stick to what you do best. There is no need to get worked up over your individual score, whether you win by a birdie or a double bogey, a win is a win and that is what makes match play so great. Try to also play at your normal pace, whether its how fast you walk or the amount of practice shots you take, try to stay in your normal routine. Since I am a fast-paced golfer I have found it difficult at times to play at my pace when I am matched with someone who plays at a slower one. This can be frustrating, but I use the extra time to focus on my next shot as well as run through scenarios of how the current hole may play out in my head.
3. Put the previous hole behind you
This obviously applies to all formats of golf; but I do feel as though this is one of the most important traits that separates great golfers from good ones. In match play, every golfer needs to always remember that whether you lost the last hole by five strokes or one stroke, its still a loss. This also applies to one who wins by five strokes or one, that does not carry over to the next hole. A great golfer is one who can forget about the last hole once they walk off that green and to re-group when they get to the next tee box.
4. Watch your opponent
This relates to the second tip above in a way, and that is to watch your opponent for any tendency changes. Maybe your opponent is walking faster, maybe they take less practice shots, whatever the case might be it is important to notice this as that could be a good indication to possibly put pressure on your opponent. Being able to identify when your opponent is cracking up could lead to an opening for you to take over the match.
5. Be patient
Patience is key, there is no need to come out of the gate playing aggressive and attempting to hit miraculous shots and try to be like Tiger Woods (although who doesn’t?). I have found through my own matches that there are specific holes I know I can take advantage of, which are the ones you should be trying to play aggressive on. If you are familiar with the course that means it will be easier for you to identify the holes you can take advantage of.
6. Don’t give up
The most important piece of advice I can give you, and this applies to all formats of golf, sports, and life in general…..and that is to never give up. Let’s stick with golf here, say your down by three with fives holes left and you start to feel as though it was just not your day, well change that mindset quickly as theoretically you still have a chance to win. Your opponent will also know if you start to have that attitude and body language of someone who is starting to give up, and if that’s the case it will be difficult to overcome once they start putting more pressure on you. I can remember my first match play round, I got destroyed and ended up losing by six. What I learned from that is it takes one hole at a time to get back into it, in that match I still had a chance to come back, and if I had that no quit mentality at the time I’m sure I could have done better than lose by six. Giving up while your still in the match makes no sense, if you want to give up just go over to your opponent and shake their hand midway through the round, it will save you a lot of time. Have that no quit mentality throughout the match, you would be surprised as to how the match can change in your favour.
7. Believe that your opponent will make every shot
If you are hoping for your opponent to miss a 3-footer or for them to hit it into the water, then you have the wrong mindset. Hoping for your opponent to mess up will only hurt you, and when they don’t this will only lower your confidence even more. Try to think as if your opponent is on their game and that every shot will be a good one, this will help you strengthen your mind as well as bring out the best in you!
8. Fairway. Green. Repeat.
I get it…easier said than done, if we could all do this we would be on tour, just try to keep your ball in play. Don’t worry about where your opponents ball lies, if you decide to play it safe and they end up out driving you by a ton of yards then so be it, that just means you will have the first opportunity to stick one in close onto the green and put some pressure on your opponent, which in match play goes a long way.
Let me know what you think, is there something that helps you during match play events? Hope you enjoyed and be sure to check back for a new post that will be coming out very soon!