Golfers have match play strategy backward.
I always get asked, “What should I change?” This is not the way to think about it!
Here is the mindset that helped me win a club championship...
When golfers think they need to change something or do something special, they are already putting themselves in a difficult position.
Golf rewards consistency:
- Thought process before shots
- How you select targets
- Don’t go into matches thinking it’s different.
Match play tricks you into thinking you need to react to your opponent.
This is mentally exhausting.
It’s enough to worry about your own game, but now reacting to each of your opponent’s shots adds more burden.
I think the most damaging part is making decisions based on incomplete information.
You have no clue what score your opponent will post on a hole based on one shot. Let me give you a few examples…
Let’s say your opponent hits their tee shot in the trees.
You were planning on hitting driver, but now you reach for a shorter club.
This takes you out of your gameplan. Worse, it might end up being a horrible strategic decision.
Or your opponent knocks an approach shot stiff to a tucked pin. You all of a sudden think you need to go pin hunting.
You have no clue if they will make that putt.
Now, you might short side yourself and remove any possibility of making a birdie or two-putt par.
Putting in match play also creates unique situations. When you know you need to make a putt to match your opponent, a lot of golfers think they need to hit the putt harder.
You are just making the hole smaller with the “capture speed”
Study this chart:
So what should you do in match play? First off, I don’t want to make it seem like you can completely put the horse blinders on. It’s very natural to react emotionally to the shots your opponent hits.
But you have to do your best to stay in your “mental cocoon."
The big problem is when you think you need to adjust your decisions based on those outcomes constantly.
It’s hard to perform at your best level when you aren’t playing your own game but rather just reacting to someone else’s.
Control what you can and realize you can’t control the shots your opponent hits.
Make your game plan strategically - stick with it. If you need help with that, The Four Foundations of Golf has you covered.
Do everything the exact same way you would in any other round. The more you think you have to do something differently, the more you struggle.