First Tee Jitters – how to prepare for your first golf tournament

Year after year you’ve been saying you’ll do it. And, well, now you’ve gone and done it – you’ve signed up for your first event. You’ve cleared your calendar and the date is etched in your brain, and the countdown to your tee time has begun.

Gulp. Now what?

No matter what kind of event you’ve signed up for – a Scramble for a charity event, or your first match at your club, or your first WSGA state championship – here are a few things you can do to help with the first tournament jitters and net an enjoyable experience!

Rules Rule

If it’s your first Scramble, relax – it’s all about having fun at this level. Your job as a newbie or beginner is to just put the ball in play and have a good time. If the stakes are higher, say you’re playing for a sleeve of balls or a championship crystal – then chuck all the “rules” you have when you’re out with your buddies and stick with the USGA Official Rules of Golf. Everything counts during tournament play – there ain’t no gimmees, and ain’t no mulligans – so it pays to know the rules. And don’t forget that the USGA recently rolled out a new set of rules. Here are some key changes.

Rules Formats

Each format will have its own set of rules. Match Play, Stroke Play, Chapman, Stableford, Best-Ball. What matters in a charity scramble will matter not one iota in a state championship.

Local Rules

Read everything the Tournament Director sends you and listen to all the announcements from the course’s PGA Head Professional before you tee off.

Practice, Practice, and then Practice some more

‘Nuff said. The ball isn’t going into the hole on its own.

Get to know the course

It’s ideal if you can get a practice round on the course you’ll be competing on, but sometimes that’s just not practical – so, thank goodness for the Internet! Get on the course’s website and study its layout and yardages. Read other golfers’ online reviews for some insight on the course. You can also scope out Google Earth to get the lay of the land. With this information on hand you can start thinking ahead what clubs you might play on certain holes.

Listen to your mother
  • Prepare your equipment the night before
  • Arrive early to get mentally prepared and not feel rushed and get a proper warmup in. A good rule of thumb is to arrive one hour prior to your scheduled tee time.
  • Use the restroom before the round
  • Have a proper breakfast
  • Check the weather forecast and be prepared. Sunscreen? Umbrella? How many layers to wear?
  • Have fun and pat yourself on the back for taking this first step!
  • And remember: everyone else is just as nervous as you are.