2021 has already proven to be a challenging year for anyone who plays on an international stage. Travel is more difficult than ever, the threat of catching the virus in transit is always a risk, and of course the ever changing tournament schedule no matter what tour you play on!
These challenges are for the most part totally out of our control, and as a result the first part of dealing with these challenges is accepting that fact and rolling with the punches as they come up. However in doing so, we must also prepare ourselves for tournament play to the best of our ability.
It's a very fine balance in order to be fully ready for a run of "Potential" events. The situation is made particularly difficult because of ever changing government guidelines and tournament schedules that are far from guaranteed. That balance involves trying to make sure a player finds some sort of middle ground between being too flat or stagnant in their practice, and simply working too hard for too long and burning out before the tournament even begins.
"3 Week Peaks"
One strategy that I have employed with players is the idea of "3 Week Peaks" . This essentially is a 3 week build up to some sort of tournament , whether there actually is one or not. A three week peak would look something along the lines of the following:
Day 1 - Day 5
We begin our 3 week peak by ensuring that we are happy with some of the technical pieces of our swing. If there is something within our technique that we wish to work on, this is our window to do so. Two questions to as yourself:
1) Are my fundamentals in good shape (Set up, Ball position & Alignment)?
2) Are you happy with the technical aspects that you may be working on?
This does not solely apply to the swing, this covers each and every part of your game, but generally speaking this period is built around the cornerstones of your technique being in place before we kick on to the next step.
Day off - Reflect & Relax
Day 7 - 12
In our second phase we begin to significantly reduce the priority on technique, and move more into prioritising skills & shots. Skills can include hitting various different shapes & flights in the long game, trying a variety of different lies and shots around the greens, and practicing the balance of green reading & speed control in putting. Overall the goal here is to be creative and prioritise trial and error with various different situations.
Day off - Reflect & Relax
Day 14 - Day 18
Now we begin to enter the Performance Phase of the 3 week Peak. This is our final run up and preparation before we compete. The goal here is to begin to get in the mental state to enter competition. We do this by changing how we practice, and evolving into games and drills whereby every shot counts. Ideally these games will mainly be done with one ball, while also mixing up shots, areas of the game and even the lie of the ball. During this phase we also recommend getting onto the golf course as much as possible to play!
Day 19 - 21
We have finally arrived at our Peak, this is where we will put all of the practice to good use and test the process we have gone through over the last 18 days. Obviously if we do not have a tournament on this date we must create something that replicates an event. This could simply be playing 3 stroke play rounds in a row and marking a card. If you have some friends that play at a similar level i would suggest getting them involved and competing for some sort of forfeit.
While playing these 3 rounds you want to make it feel like as much like a serious tournament as possible. You can do this in simple ways such as mixing up tee times (Early day 1 & Late day 2), going through your full tournament warm up regardless of tee times and even making sure you don't mark your own card for each day.
Day 22 - 24
Day 22 marks the end of the cycle, and the beginning of a new one. These 2 days should be used to rest, re-energise and get your hunger back to begin the cycle again! For most players this is the hardest part! Use it as an opportunity to reflect on your three weeks, and answer 3 simple questions:
1) What did I do well over the last 3 weeks?
2) What could I have done better over the last 3 weeks?
3) How will I do it better in the coming 3 weeks
Use these questions to assess your performance and improve things going forward