Finish Strong: How to Avoid Late Round Golf Fatigue

Dan Gold
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Assess Your Game

The first step is understanding what happened. Take an honest appraisal of your performance in the tournament. Were there things you wish you’d done differently? If you can’t come up with any, sometimes that’s just as telling. Was it all about course and weather conditions? If so, what you’re dealing with is likely golf course management.

Track Your Rounds

If you’re like the vast majority of recreational golfers, you are out on the golf course less than 3 hours a week, play largely with family and friends, and only keep a record of a few numbers like putting average and total shots.

Yet, according to a study by Golf Digest Magazine, those 18-handicappers and better consistently shoot lower scores when they track their rounds.

Whether you're playing to break 90 or to break 80, you can benefit from playing more. And to do so consistently, you need to spend more time playing and less time sucking wind at the tail end of the round.

One way to avoid golf fatigue and ensuing poor play late in the round is to not only track your round, but also the pace of your round.

Golf is a game that takes about 3 hours; the actual duration your score will reflect. Cutting an hour off your round makes each hole 3 percent easier.

Moreover, down the stretch is a lot easier when you’ve played the same number of holes as your playing partners.

If your playing partners are tracking their rounds, you can figure this out quickly with a series of math queries or you can ask, especially at the 18th hole or ninth hole, which are when you want to know the most.

Is it Mental?

Late game golf fatigue can haunt even the most experienced golfer and ruin an otherwise good round. It can occur for a number of reasons, most commonly spikes in stress, poor fitness, muscle imbalances and dehydration.

As we’ll cover in more detail below, a spike in stress and anxiety caused by the pressure of the round can create a chain reaction in the golfer’s body. It can manifest as physical discomfort, leading to poor form, which can lead to a collapse in confidence. That’s why one of the biggest ways to avoid late round fatigue is to manage stress and anxiety.

In most cases, the tendency to feel and act in a state can be broken with a little mental game coaching. This is because most mental game coaching programs teach mindful observation. This means being aware of your actions, and even your thoughts, in order to be able overcome old habits.

The awareness that a spike in stress can lead to poor golf requires self-monitoring during your round. So when stress levels are rising, you can make a mental note to relax and try to avoid taking action on that shot.

Is it Physical?

In his book, the Right-Brain golf expert and practicing therapist, Brian Manzella, points to the fact that it is often a mental rather than a physical process that gives golfers problems with stamina. He said, “It is a mental endurance issue, but it’s not mental fatigue. It is mental avoidance of the task itself.”

As he points out, “Hitting a golf ball is one of the most difficult physical tasks that there is.” Science backs him up on this point. A typical golf swing places a tremendous amount of stress on the spine, shoulders, hips, and legs. Also, the average golfer takes almost 70,000 swings in a career. Imagine how good you’d have to be to be good at such a physically difficult task, and how physically demanding that would be.

You may prepare yourself the best, try the best equipment, strategize as best as you can, but some holes sloth you into a bad place.

Round after round, your body will feel the physical effects of those many swings.

How to Overcome Late Round Fatigue

It’s a natural part of the game. ìFatiguein the late round can play havoc with your game.

It’s one thing to be tired when you play in the afternoon, but when you hit the course in the wee hours of the morning, it can be a different story.

The body functions differently at night. ìIt’s impossible to change that fact.

ÌYour body will find it difficult to get in its normal rhythm during the early morning hours.

ÌYou need to psychologically deal with the fact that your body feels different at night and adjust your game to accomodate the change.

ÌìIt’s not easy, but it can be done.

Here are three things you can do to adapt to early morning golf:

Ìì 1)ì Drinks plenty of water and drinks with electrolytes during your pre-round warm up. ìIt’s really hot during those early morning hours and easily dehydrating.

Ìì 2)ì Warm up in the pre-dawn hours. ìMake sure you warm up on the course before your tee time.

Pre-Round

As you should expect, pre-round strategies will vary based on the conditions of the course. Even if you are familiar with your local courses, golf can be a tricky game to play winningly sometimes.

You should always review your scores on prior courses — this is especially useful if they are very similar to each other. If you have been consistently shooting over and over again in the ball park of 80 on a particular hole, you have a good idea of what you need to do on that hole, and you can make some educated guesses on what you should do before you tee off that hole.

If you are playing a new course for the first time, it is advisable to look up online topographical maps of the holes beforehand so you can come up with a game plan. A good example would be to memorize the areas where there are water hazards on the holes with water.

It’s best to pick a hole that comes up early in your golf game so you don’t spend too much time waiting around, which might tire you out and depress you, not allowing you to play your best game on the course.

Lastly, always confirm with your group if they are okay with you going first or last. If you go last, you have the option to watch the play of everyone else, which can help you anticipate what you need to do on your own hole.

During the Round

Golf is a long, tiring sport, but when you’re playing well you don’t notice the tiring nature of the game. However, when you’re not playing well, it’s difficult to not notice your exhaustion.

Your level of intensity drops and you’re fatigued. The course isn’t as enjoyable, you’re struggling to hit solid shots and you’re not having fun.

The solution is to spend your energy wisely.

Here are some things you can do to increase your level of intensity in the round and prevent late round fatigue.

Stay in the Moment

As a golfer, you will experience fatigue at different times. And staying mentally focused and upbeat can make the difference between a tight finish and a slow deterioration of your golf game.

One of the best ways to stay mentally focused and upbeat deep into a round is to focus on your full swing as it is happening and into your next shot.

In the heat of battle, both beginner and veteran golfers can often lose focus of what they are doing in the present. They concentrate on the result, on what they just did on the previous shot or even how they are feeling. These thoughts can lead to thousands of different negative thoughts and emotions, many of which are detrimental to your golf game.

By staying focused on the process of your swing and then associated thoughts and emotions, you keep your emotions in check. Note, for example, how you are feeling as you finish your swing and then continue to maintain that feeling as you begin the next one.

Other ways to stay positive and to stay in the moment could be to envision your shot as it occurs. Imagining the ball coming off the club in the perfect way will reinforce a positive emotional response and physical action.

Imagine the shot as it goes from the tee box to the fairway and visualize the birdie putt rolling into the pin.

I have found that doing this during the game has a dramatic effect. I can keep my emotions positive and finish my round strong.

Post Round

After the final putt drops for the round, it is incredibly tempting to go back to the hotel room, get in the shower, and head out to the bar to celebrate the day’s success.

While these activities are legitimate ways to celebrate a great round, they also contain a great deal of potential for injury.

Muscles and joints that are lubricated with electrolytes from sweat are a perfect breeding ground for spasms and injuries.

The first thing you should do after a round of golf is replenish your fluids and electrolytes.

Remember….

The most important tip I can give you for post round recovery is this:

Even if you feel very tired, you should still take the time to replenish your fluids and your electrolytes.

The other very important factor to your post round recovery is proper nutrition.

As you are sitting in the clubhouse or having a beverage after your round, you are burning valuable muscles.

This muscle burn is most noticeable in the legs and back. You need to replenish these muscles and you need to do it quickly!

One of the fastest ways to replenish your muscles after a round is to eat a handful of raw almonds.

Final Thoughts on Playing Great Late in the Round

‹If you play a lot of competitive golf then tapering for your most important rounds is absolutely essential. You must, at the very least, try to cut back a bit on the amount of golf you play during the week leading up to the big event.

‹Focus on sleep and diet. Your body recovers from a taxing round mostly while you sleep and during the other times you are resting. You should plan on additional rest, whether it be extra sleep, naps, or relaxing on the sofa with your feet up. As well, shoot for eating nutritious and filling foods to help your body stay strong and energetic.

‹Don’t psych yourself out. You’ve probably heard the phrase “lower expectations” before. It’s absolutely true when it comes to competitive golf. While it is important to have a goal in mind, it is also good to remember that playing your best is just that, and not a reflection of your entire self-worth. Sure, we can all mull over a bad shot or other mistake that cost us a tournament. But at the end of the day, be happy with your complete performance and move on.