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By Rob Green

Your first tournament is always an exciting event. So far, you’ve played largely to gain experience and enjoy some time to yourself, but now you’ve taken the plunge and you’re entered into an actual, real tournament, in which you actively compete against other players.

It can be nerve-wracking the first time, even if it’s a minor local tournament, but remember: the main purpose is to enjoy yourself. You may be playing in a competitive situation, but you’re still you, playing your game.

We thought we’d help you with a few tips on how to enjoy and approach your first tournament, so, let’s have a look.

1: Pay Attention to Etiquette – you’ve played plenty rounds of golf, so you know the basic rules of etiquette. They apply equally in tournaments as they do when you enjoy a round at your own club. As does the dress code, which you should pay attention to if you want to be welcomed into the wider golfing fraternity.

The simple rules remain – keep quiet when others are playing a shot, stay out of their line of sight, don’t cross another’s path on the green, make sure you all play in the right order – so you really have no excuse for not adhering to these and other rules of etiquette. Remember, doing well in the tournament is as important to others as it is to you.

2: Bring the Right Kit – you are about to play a tournament, so you need to make sure you are comfortable with the kit you are using. For example, you will by now own a set of golf clubs you can perform with, that you are settled with and like using.

These are the clubs you should use. It’s all too tempting to go and spend a lot of money on a new set of expensive clubs, fearful that people will see the set you use as a novice and ridicule you. They won’t; everyone started this way, and your clubs are perfectly good for your first tournament, and will remain so for many more until you feel the need to trade up.

3: Remember to Read the Rules – the rules for the tournament may differ in some ways to those for your usual weekend round at the club. For example, there are certain pieces of equipment you will not be allowed to use in competition, that may be acceptable in club games. Before you decide on the clubs you are taking, for example, make sure your choice is within the rules – it’s an easy mistake to take some that are not permitted.

Primary among these is the popular rangefinder; used widely in games for leisure, they will not be permitted in even the most minor of tournaments. Check the rules thoroughly and make sure you ask someone in authority if you don’t understand – everyone is there to help!

4: Bring Your Best Game – this may sound like an obvious suggestion, but some players will try and up their game for a tournament; this is a bad move, as it means you are instantly playing out of your comfort zone. You know better than anyone where your strengths and weaknesses are; you also know where you struggle, and are liable to overplay or make mistakes.

There is no doubt you are going to feel under pressure playing a tournament for the first time, but there’s no reason to change your game where you know it works. Also, try and remember the areas where everyone makes mistakes: hit the ball low out of trees, for example, and concentrate  on your swing, not in the people around you. You might want to take some relaxation tome before the tournament to get into the groove!

5: Be Courteous – and On Time! – this goes without saying. Holding up your leisurely game by being late you may get away with once or twice, but a tournament needs you to tee off at a specific time, and on time. There is no excuse for being late, so plan well ahead and make sure you are able to get to the course in good time! And remember, courtesy is respected on the golf course, whether you win or lose!

The best way to approach a tournament is to try and relax, look forward to it, and think about your game in advance. But most of all, enjoy yourself because, when it comes down to it, you can only do your best!

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