Have You Tried Playing in a Professionally Run Pro Am Event?
At the beginning of the year, I made playing in more pro-am events part of my golf objectives. Why? I have found that getting involved in these events has taught me a lot about my game and they are great fun as well. The prize tables are brilliant, often sponsored directly by manufacturers.
I was lucky enough last year to be invited to play in a Senior European Tour Pro-Am in Italy at the Villa Verde Resort. It was part of an organised press trip and was an incredible experience from start to finish. It was terrifying but also invigorating and we were incredibly lucky with the players our group got to partner with.
Thankfully given my role within Golfshake, I enjoy different experiences and challenging myself whenever possible. A bit of terror on the golf course never hurt anyone.
I recently received a call from a PGA Professional among my acquaintance who asked if I fancied joining him in a pro-am to be played the following day. He plays in both Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire PGA events so there are some fantastic golf courses to choose from.
The events involve teams of four players, all requiring CONGU handicaps. The professional plays a medal competition within the team event. Occasionally we play off blended tees between white and blue so you get to experience the course at its most challenging. All the courses are also well prepared given the status they achieve by being involved in this type of event.
Strangely, I find that there is a lot less individual pressure when playing in these events as a mid range handicap golfer is not expected to score on every hole. The best ball format ensures the two best scores count for the team. I have found that it allows me to play a much freer game and attempt shots that I normally wouldn’t consider taking on in a competition format. Best piece of advice I can give is don’t be afraid to pick up your ball if you are not in contention. Keeping the pace of play going is an important part of this style of golf.
From a learning point of view most of the great lessons I have absorbed have been around preparation for the round. How many times do you rock up, swing a club twice near the putting green and then launch into a drive only to be surprised that it didn’t do as you wanted?
These professional players always warm up properly using the range and also they stretch the main muscles to ensure they are ready to perform. I like watching the warm up routines at these events and have copied a number of things I have spotted. One player took out all the even number clubs and starting with his wedges hit three shots per club to a defined target. This routine only takes 10 minutes but has had real benefits to my early round scoring since I copied it.
I have noticed that most professionals ensure that the last shot they hit before walking to the tee is an exact replica of that they wish to play that day. A lot of work is about rhythm and tempo and it is a delight to watch them on the putting green.
Another thing I have copied is not getting too target focussed concentrating on green pace and roll. I saw one pro drop three balls on the green and play them away from any holes. His goal was imply to ensure that they were all evenly paced and they all ended up in the same place. Ideally they need to be touching.
I have also seen pros aiming at tee pegs instead of the hole itself. Many of the better courses have half size holes on the practice green. These are also very popular as when playing on the course the hole looks twice the size.
Another major learning point for me has been the emphasis on proper hydration and nutrition. All the pros carry a lot of drinks and food. I am amazed at the amount they consume during the round but this is to avoid the sugar spikes that I am used to experiencing having sneaked a chocolate bar at the halfway house. The energy spike and subsequent drop in energy has been really harmful to my overall score tracking so I now carry a banana and a protein bar as this allows a much steadier energy release.
I have realised after playing these events that it is important to have a decent relationship with the professional golfer. Most are playing for their living and they are under pressure. These are not playing lessons but if you watch and observe there are massive lessons to be had. On the course in the team format the professional can give help on reading greens and strategic thoughts on shot etc.
These are invaluable and provide real gold dust for someone like myself who is absent of any strategic thinking on a golf course. Hit it, find it, hit it again does not work on the quality of courses these events are played on.
You need to be wary of ensuring your etiquette but most professionals help in this regard anyway.
If you have doubts about a rule, ask. These guys also know the rules inside out. It is their living after all so they are able to ensure that rules work for them as well as against them. I love the way the events are run and played. Pace of play is always maintained properly, other players are always given the proper courtesies and it is a joy when rules are strictly and properly applied.
These events can be accessed easily by viewing the PGA website and checking out the regional areas where you wish to play. Most organisers will maintain a list of interested players so ring them if there is an event you wish to play in. Many of the younger professionals are less than organised and having a list of willing players helps them and can get you to play with new partners.
Speak to your club professional or his assistants if this type of activity appeals. It is a great way to build relationships on both sides.
The cost of these events is reasonable given the quality of courses on offer. For example, to play the brilliant Hollinwell (Notts Golf Club) for £55 is excellent value in my opinion. The courses are always in the best condition and many maximise on the extra traffic by offering special menus for the players.
Many events have sponsorship and advertising boards just like the main tour events you watch on TV. Please don’t do as I did at one event where I saw two beautiful Maserati displayed by the first tee box and mistakenly thought that they were a hole in one prize. It was gently explained to me that they are there to be bought not to be won.
I genuinely cannot think of a downside to getting involved in these type of events. It is great fun and when everyone plays well it is a fantastic feeling to be in contention at a serious golf event. The buzz is brilliant.
My last event was played at Coxmoor. Our professional played seven under gross to card a 66. We had four twos in the team and our combined score was 20 under par. We came fourth! Minus 10 under won the professional event. Congratulations Lee Clarke from Beeston Fields. A brilliant performance. How many times can you say that you played in an event when such a score was recorded?
It is a challenge to first try this format of golf as an average amateur golfer but since dipping my toe in the water I can’t get enough of it.
Give it a go, what have you got to lose?
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