How to prepare for a golf tournament


Dr. Tom Kubistant, CSP

One of the neat things I observed from watching the recent Winter Olympics was how so many announcers, analysts, and even athletes referred to golf in describing performance situations. Golf is THE most complex of all sports. Not only does it involve a myriad of mechanical components, it also includes overlapping psychological, emotional, and playing issues. More athletes from other sports are not only recognizing the principles of golf, but adapting them to help in their own performances.

What all sports have in common is the necessity of preparation. In golf, it not only includes warming up, but being truly ready to play. This readiness applies to being able to quickly adapt to any situation encountered during the round. Concentration, consistency, mental toughness, as well as creativity and even intuition all depend on the quality of preround preparation

Although we wish every round would enfold smoothly with our performances being completely in control, they rarely do. We all hit bad shots and encounter rough patches. When you think about it, one of the fascinations with The Game is learning how to minimize and adapt to various adversities. Most great performances are grounded in successfully responding to early challenges.

Are you truly ready to play every round? C�mon, be honest with yourself. Rocky starts, disjointed swings, poorly thought-out decisions, dumb course management, and even emotional reactions all stem from not be properly prepared. How many times have you stood on the third tee wanting to go back to the clubhouse and play a “do over?” Even though many of us think we are ready to play a round, we could do much more.

All complete preround preparation includes: (1) stretching; (2) relaxing/centering; (3) warmup on the range, chipping, and putting greens; (4) mentally rehearsing how to play each hole, and (5) engaged playing scenarios. Rushing up to the first tee with shoe laces untied, arranging wagers, fumbling for a tee, taking a couple of abbreviated practice swings, and hoping for the best is not preparation. We can do…and be…so much more. Even though a four hour round of golf goes through different phases, very few of us can recover from an ill-prepared start.

An integral component of preparation occurs away from the course. It is mentally rehearsing various playing scenarios. Whenever I begin working with golfers, I ask them a series of questions to determine just how well they prepare for rounds. These questions often take the form of “What if…?” scenarios–both about ideal qualities as well as responding to challenges. There is nothing hypothetical about them. Even though most players believe they are prepared, few can completely answer these questions. You see, even though we all dream about playing well, few do much beyond this fantasizing.

Simply put, golfers who start off well, play consistently, successfully cope with adversity, finish well, and generally allow solid efforts to emerge have programmed themselves to do specific things. It is like their minds and bodies are complex biocomputers. Constructing answers to specific playing scenarios efficiently programs efforts. Now, this mental programming is not catastrophizing. Far from it. Mentally playing out different playing scenarios helps: (1) tap into good performances, (2) prevent or minimize bad stretches, (3) allow emotional reactions to more quickly run their courses, and (4) facilitate better and faster decisions.

If you have worked out possible playing situations you will be better able to respond (not react) to them when they emerge. Even if you encounter situations you haven�t programmed, you can more quickly create appropriate responses. You see, much of self-control actually occurs before the round. If you wait to figure something out when it actually happens, it is usually too late. You tend to get thrown for a loop, become confused, allow emotions to bubble up, and lose your way. Appropriate situational responses are programmed well before the round.

Below is an exercise to help you prepare better. What follows are seven key playing scenarios. Each one includes two separate parts: (1) what to optimally do and (2) “what if” this ideal doesn�t work. Here is the best way to benefit from this exercise. Spend one day contemplating each of these scenarios. Depending on your learning and remembering styles, you might want to write down each one and carry it around with you occasionally referring to it. Write down and/or repeatedly mentally rehearse your responses. Your goal is to create a clear and comprehensive plan for each one of these. Spend an entire day developing responses to each of these scenario pairs. Players who have done this report this has been one of the most productive weeks of their golfing lives. Have fun with these!

DAY 1. How best do I settle into deep and sustained concentration? What if I become distracted, too intense, or get in my own way?

DAY 2. How do I start off well? What if I don�t get off to a good start?

DAY 3. What are my optimal playing routines? What if the pace of play becomes very slow or erratic?

DAY 4. How do I feel my optimal swing rhythm? What if my rhythm goes out of synch?

DAY 5. How do I best relax and stay centered? What if I start feeling anxious or angry?

DAY 6. How do I best remain patient? What do I do if I encounter adversity, bad luck, or good shots that don�t end up well?

DAY 7. How do I best finish off a round? What if I get ahead of myself or become greedy?

Now, each of these scenario pairs may initially appear simple, but they are far from that. Each usually has multiple layers, much like that of an onion. Of course, seeds for the answers for each second part can be found in the first. This exercise requires a lot of energy. Take your time and completely explore these scenarios. Create a clear picture of your plans and responses. You will know when you have completed each scenario when it “clicks” into place in your mind. You have then programmed your great golfing biocomputer in that area.

If you are like other players who go through this week, you will probably encounter other spinoff issues as you explore these seven scenarios. When you do, just write these down and put them aside. You are actually developing scenarios for the second week!

One of the best feelings in golf is feeling well prepared. True confidence not only comes from belief in self and previous successes, but also from full preparedness. Smooth golf is prepared golf. It seems to be paradoxical, but in order to allow the best performances to flow, one must have first have created a structure for them. Program, rehearse, and then do.


Over the last year, many of you have inquired how you could obtain a copy of my venerable book. I wrote this in a practical notebook form exploring thirty key mental and playing areas. I have always been surprised how well this book stood the test of time. After ten printings, I thought it was time to let it go. From what I have heard, it has now become sort of a collectors� item. By the way, for you collectors, the first 100 copies of MIND LINKS were numbered, autographed, and contained both a special stamp and embossed three letters imprint on the title page.

Many of you loaned out this book never to see it again, wore through your copy, or wanted to give it as a present. Among those who contacted me, Craig Sigl persisted in wishing to resurrect MIND LINKS. I gave Craig permission to record this book onto CD. He did an outstanding job with its production. The electronic book, along with neat bonus features, is now available on Craig�s website of Truly, there are links of the mind to golf performances!

Over the last fifteen years, Dr. Tom Kubistant has been THE most prolific writer on the psychology of golf. Tom is a member of the TOUR INSTRUCTIONAL SERIES which offers seminars around North America on the mental, biomechanical, and playing dimensions of golf.


Dr. Tom Kubistant, sports psychologist has worked with world-class athletes since 1971. He is one of the most prolific writers and speakers on the mental game of golf on the planet. To take advantage of his decades of golf wizardry, visit Mind Links

golf psychologist

Author of “Performing Your Best, Links Golf, Mind Pump: The Psychology of Body Building, business and sales training audios, over 280 articles for magazines and now………Mind Links – The Psychology of Golf.

Way before the current crop of golf psychologists, 2 decades before anyone ever heard of the term “sports psychology,” Dr. Kubistant was working with Olympic Athletes, World-Class Tennis players, Baseball pitchers, Football Quarterbacks, Bowlers, Drag Racers, Body builders, Poker Players , Ballerinas, Gymnasts, Skaters, Rodeo Barrel Racers, Business Sales and Corporate Professionals and of course, Golfers.

In 1971, after working in private psychotherapy practice he dove headfirst into Human Performance and Achievement and became one of the pioneers of modern sports psychology. His own athletic prowess as a tennis pro and accomplished golfer spurred him on. If that isn’t enough, he maintains the complete “Bibliography On The Psychology Of Golf;” everything ever written on the mental game of golf. And HE HAS READ EVERYTHING IN IT!


Copyright © 2006 Tom Kubistant
Posted by
June 29, 2010 in Misc
  • said farouk says:

    i want the book

    • Craig says:

      Hi Said,
      I wish I could help you out but I don’t have rights to the book and it’s long out of print.
      Greens and fairways,

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