Edit on 4/24: Was writing a second part then decided to combine it with the first for one big post. The timing of this is due to doing all this prep in anticipation of the first “real” tournament of the year this weekend.
Heading out for a tournament, I like to leave home believing I have everything I might need for the day. So in the interest of helping out those that are just starting to play tournaments, here’s the basic list of things I like to make sure I have at a tournament so I’m not left wanting at the course.
Discs and golf bag. Big ol’ duh on this one, right? Who goes to a tournament without their discs? It happens. The further I’m traveling from home, the more painful such a mistake would be. I’ve been witness to more than one player showing up with maybe not their whole bag gone, but at least a key disc or two (putters seem to be the biggest culprit). So I’m extra careful to make sure I’ve got all of my discs with me.
Back-ups discs. Ideally, I like to have at least one back-up for every disc in my regular bag, whether it’s an exact duplicate or something that can do the same job similarly. However, depending on where I’m playing and any space considerations I have to account for, sometimes I have to go with the bare essentials for back-ups. In that case, I try to at least have back-ups for anything I think I might throw near water or any other hazard from which retrieval of a disc could be difficult. And extra putters. Always extra putters.
Minimum two changes of clothes. That’s head-to-toe changes of clothes, not just an extra shirt or pair of shorts. I like to have a change of clothes for the afternoon and one to change into at the end of the day. This is key for a wet rainy day but also helpful on a hot summer day when sweat can make you just as damp as a rain shower will.
Extra pair(s) of shoes and socks. At least one change of shoes, if only to wear for the ride home. If conditions warrant, it’s handy to have a second pair of shoes to play in as well. For the socks, it’s the same thing…at least a dry clean pair to go home in and a fresh pair for round 2. But since socks don’t take up much space, I’ll usually carry double what I think I might need just to be sure. Dry comfortable feet are the key to the rest of the body feeling good.
Food and water. Since you never know what the food situation might be at the course, it’s good to have something with you so you know you’re covered. Many tournaments will provide lunch options, but some don’t. Sometimes there’s something close enough to run out during the lunch break, sometimes there’s not. Same concern goes for water (or gatorade or whatever your hydrating beverage of choice happens to be). You want to be sure you have enough to keep yourself fed and well hydrated all day.
To keep all these things organized and easy to access, I like to use one or two Sterlite containers like this one for a lot of the above items. Their dimensions allow for discs to be stored securely and the containers can also hold shoes, clothes, towels and any number of other things as well. Add in a small cooler for the food and water, and I’m good to go.
Once I have everything gathered and organized, it all goes in the car. The above photo is what my trunk usually looks like the night before a tournament. Everything but the food, if it’s perishable, goes in the night before. The way I look at it, anything I can do the night before is that much more time I can sleep in the morning.
Once the car’s packed up, the next item on the agenda is to get a good night’s sleep. By no means do I go to bed super early or anything like that, but I do try to avoid watching the all night kung-fu marathon on channel 39. If I am drinking before bed, it’s water. That strategy is two-fold. One, of course, is hydration. If I want to be well hydrated on the course, it always starts the day before. Two, let’s just call it a natural alarm clock. Drink enough water before bed and your bladder will let you know it’s time to get up in the morning.
My preference on tournament morning is to get to the course somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes before first tee time. Doing so gives me plenty of time to check-in with tournament staff, assess the conditions (weather and course), and warm up. So my whole morning schedule, from waking up to showering to eating breakfast to driving to the course, is based on getting there within that time frame.
If the tournament is on a course that I’ve either never played or haven’t played in a while, my 60-90 minutes early window changes to at least two hours before go time (and everything else is adjusted accordingly). I want to have time to walk as much of the course as I can (if I haven’t been there) or walk/play any holes that have changed or I can’t remember well since my last visit.
Upon arrival, the first thing I want to do is check in to the tournament. Let them know I’m there and pay my entry if it isn’t a pre-paid event. Once that’s out of the way, my focus goes to the course and warming up.
Assuming there aren’t any holes that I feel like I must see or play before the tournament round starts, my warm up routine is fairly simple. I find a secluded basket and I putt for at least 15-20 minutes.
The choice to seek a secluded basket is not so much an anti-social thing as it is a means to be more efficient with my warm up. Utilizing a popular basket, be it a practice basket or whatever is closest to the parking lot/tournament central, can get tedious when there’s more than a couple people putting at a time. I’d rather not spend too much time dodging other putts or waiting for everyone to throw all their putts in order to retrieve my discs.
If I don’t have a basket in mind for my warm up, I will usually play my way out into the course, pick a hole, and do my putting. When I’m done, I simply play my way back to the parking lot. This way, I get some full throws in during my warm up.
Once that’s done, I go back to the car, make sure my golf bag is in order (plenty of water, plenty of towels, etc), and then I sit down and relax. That is perhaps the best part of my morning. Just sitting and not worrying about having to be somewhere or do something for a few minutes. I look at it as the calm before the storm that is the tournament, because it’s a calm I want to try to carry into and right through that storm too.