Going to the RBC Heritage? Consider some differences and suggestions regarding attending a live golf tournament versus watching it on TV:
- Get in shape. Golf is rare in that even the spectators get exercise. Be ready to walk, stand, stretch and climb (bleachers) each day you attend.
- Go early. Televised golf has its viewing climax on the back nine on Sunday. But for live golf, go on Thursday and Friday, when the crowds are smaller and ALL the contestants are playing before the 36-hole cut.
- Work backwards. Start at the 18th green and walk the course backwards. You will see more, different players this way, as they play their rounds toward you. You will also tend to beat the forward-walking spectators to the best vantage points.
- Skip the putting. Putting is great to watch from aerial camera shots on TV, but from ground level at a tournament, it is often difficult to see the hole. Also the crowds are greater around the greens, making the action harder to view. So, focus on shots that get airborne, with the flag in the hole and the results more visible.
- Position yourself wisely. Smart viewing wins out over following the crowd and chasing nothing but the thrills and excitement. When observing tee shots, the best place to stand is at a point along the ropes about 5 yards in front of the tee markers. Here, you are not likely to be blocked by caddies and scorers. You’ll be standing at a reasonable angle to the golfer, allowing you to view the mechanics of the swing, and you can still get a nice view of the flight of the ball.
Another option is to position yourself at a point down the fairway near the landing area of the drives that will afford a close-up of the golfers’ approach shots to the green. Remember to take cover behind a tree until all the balls have landed, lest you become an unintended backboard for an errant shot.
- Follow players similar to you and your style of playing golf. Observe technique and course management from players of your own body type, players you can identify with. Additionally, if you are a right-hander, occasionally face off with a left-hander. It’s like looking in a mirror, as you try to internalize the flow of an expert golf swing.
- Pros take dead aim, but note their struggle. The pros don’t just hit the ball on the green; they get it closer to the pin than amateurs do.But, when the pros misfire and find themselves with 50-foot putts, putts through the fringe or wicked downhill chips from greenside rough, they struggle like everyone else.
However, pros are also better strugglers than us, too – that is, more determined scramblers and quite proficient with the 5-foot putt.
- Observe the pace. Pros play a methodical, rhythmic game, never rushing a shot, always on balance and religiously following their routines. They systematically focus on the task over the ball, while letting the result take care of itself.
- Appreciate the silent, slow motion. Silence is a hallmark of live golf, along with a strange sense of slow motion as both players and spectators glide quietly together from hole to hole. Combine this peaceful flow with the reverent solitude and natural beauty that pervade the surroundings, and you have captured the unparalleled feeling of live golf.
Dr. Tom Dorsel, a new resident on Hilton Head Island, is a clinical-sport psychologist and author of “GOLF: The Mental Game.” Dorsel.com.