The lament of golfers who “played well on the front nine then blew up on the back” is all too familiar to teaching pro and consultant David Lawrence. Lawrence’s first piece of advice for players whose opening nine routinely seems sharper and lower-scoring than their back is to assess the fatigue factor. Did you rush more shots? Lose concentration? Hit without knowing the hazards ahead of you? Fail to read each putt, even when you had plenty of time?
“One question I always ask,” says Lawrence, “is whether they got angry or visibly upset on that back nine. That’s a sign of fatigue, because you need energy to keep your emotions together. When somebody throws a club, for example, that’s usually a sign of extreme fatigue,” he says. Keep the weary-golf blues away by following Lawrence’s five basic steps.
1) Stretch before you play. “The average golfer’s minute or two stretching is totally insufficient,” says Lawrence. “It works for about three swings. Staying sharp requires full blood flow, and to get that you need a half-hour of stretching. Do it at home, watching the sports highlights, and stretch the entire body.”
2) Eat the right foods. “Fruits, juices and a light breakfast or lunch will keep your energy from being diverted from golf and spent on digestion,” he says. An apple should be your quick energy food, a banana gives you extended energy. Keep them in your golf bag and don’t worry if they get a little warm.
3) Hydrate constantly. “If you actually feel thirsty, it’s too late–you’ve already stressed your body. Drink water as a habit, not a response to thirst.”
4) Practice thinking. “Much of your energy in a round of golf goes to analyzing and preparing. Whenever you practice or warm up, short game or long game,” he advises, “make sure you’re thinking about targets, yardage, putt speed… all the considerations you’ll need to make during the round.”
5) Manage expectations. “I’ve seen golfers go from playing their home course, which might have a Slope rating of 130 and where their normal round is 85 or 88, to a resort course that might have a Slope of 120,” says Lawrence. “They head to the tee thinking ‘I’m going to break 80 today.’ That’s a mistake, and a real recipe for mental fatigue.” Play solid golf in those situations, is Lawrence’s advice, and let the score happen.