How do you prepare for a big competition?

The right preparation and planning for a professional golfer going into a major is crucial to their performance and success. On tour, the majority of players competing at the majors will have prepared for weeks, if not months. So here’s how to prepare for a big golf tournament, and what we can learn from the stars…

How to prepare for a big golf tournament: Arrive early

Many tour players will enter a tournament the week before to get match fit, or before a major they will take a week off to get to the course early and practise there. This is particularly prominent ahead of the Open, where players from all corners of the globe will come to hone their skills on the links courses.

For those travelling from different time zones, this one- or two-week prep also allows them the time to adjust their bodies.

Jet lag is one of the biggest physical demands that can impact performance for golfers predominantly playing on the PGA Tour. This time allows their natural circadian rhythms to adapt so they get enough rest and recovery to allow optimum focus and performance. 

Instead they may have tried the Tiger Woods method of sleep deprivation for several weeks!

How to prepare for a big golf tournament: Periodised planning

Tour players’ physical preparation in the gym will of course be no different. Peaking strategies are used across all sports to ensure athletes are at their physical best leading into a major sporting event.

The British cycling team use four-year cycles – very successfully – with the aim of winning as many Olympic gold medals as possible, track athletes will peak for World Championships, and golfers will no doubt aim to peak for the four majors.

Winning a major is the Holy Grail of golf. Periodic plans and programmes will have been developed by their coaches to ensure that they are at their peak physical fitness so that they can perform at their very best.

How to prepare for a big golf tournament: What can you learn from the pros?

Peaking programmes generally look to reduce the amount of work performed in the gym so there is less energy depletion and fatigue brought on by the sessions. This keeps the body fresher and able to recover quicker. However, to ensure that the body continues to perform optimally, intensity must remain high. 

The golf swing is very fast and takes less than a second to complete in full. The last thing a golfer wants to be is slow and sluggish – so their training has to help develop this skill coming into the major tournaments.

When I prepare my golfers for optimum performance, I want them to be able to generate as much force and speed as they can whilst maintaining stability.

Leading into competition I keep the reps low but the intensity and speed high. This helps to reduce fatigue and allow recovery, there is more energy for practice, prep and competition. It also primes the brain and muscles to produce the speed required in the golf swing.

Although it can sound and get very technical, peaking and tapering doesn’t just have to be for the pros.

If you regularly strength train and want to use that to improve specific physical qualities that will improve your golf performance, then pick ‘your major’ and work backwards.

As you move towards competition, reduce the load, if relatively heavy, reduce the reps to two or three per set and focus on shifting the load as quickly as possible.

Use longer resting periods and fill those with mobility exercises for specific areas such as shoulders, hips and the upper back. It’s important that you get lots of movement through these areas.

Ideally this phase would last around two to three weeks leading up to the competition.

Sessions will be shorter and may feel less physically demanding. Don’t worry you are still working hard!

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