If you ever compete in match play events, you need to know how to approach them to get good results. If you think that match play is the same as stroke play in golf, read on as I will tell you what you need to do to be successful.
Match play pits one golfer (or team) against another. Unlike stroke play, where the total score counts, golfers compete for each hole. Whoever throws the lowest score on a hole wins the hole. If the two players (or teams) finish with the same score, the hole is “split in half.” Whoever wins the most holes wins the game. If the players (or teams) finish with the same score, the match is divided in half. Match play does not usually affect your golf handicap. These are the basics.
This head-to-head comparison, as golf instruction manuals tell you, fundamentally changes the way you play. Some golf tips urge you to be more aggressive in match play than in stroke play. Other golf tips push you to play your regular game. What determines how you play is where you are in the hole, where your opponent is in the hole, and where you are in the game.
Most golf lessons will tell you that match play is a balancing act. You are always evaluating the need to pressure your opponent versus the need to win the hole. The player who plays best under pressure, regardless of where his golf handicap is, generally wins the game. Managing pressure is not something golf lessons prepare you for. It is something that you need to experience for yourself.
On the tee it is more important than ever to hit the fairway with your guide. If you are the first off the tee, hitting a good drive increases the pressure on your opponent to do so as well. And vice versa. If you hit a bad puck, this takes the pressure off your opponent. And vice versa. The goal is to apply as much pressure as possible during the match.
On the fairway you must know where your opponent is and what his score is on the hole at all times. Consider those golf lessons that tell you to stay focused. You can make a bad shot and not miss the hole if your opponent also makes a bad shot. In fact, you can roll an 8 on a hole and win the hole if your opponent rolls a 9. The key to winning a hole in match play is knowing where your opponent is in the hole and not panicking if he hits it. Good shot. The next shot could be out of bounds.
On the green, how aggressive you are on each putt depends on where your opponent is, where you are, and where you are on the hole. Typically, if you have a difficult downhill putt, you will play the shot conservatively, so as not to slip ten feet on the hole and cost you extra shots. This is what most golf tips emphasize. In match play, your opponent’s position and his score determine your throwing strategy.
If your opponent poses 3 and is five inches from the total, he is likely to sink the putt for a 4. If you are playing 3, you need to sink the putt to tie your opponent to the hole, so you could also be aggressive on him. .
On the other hand, if your opponent poses 3 and is twenty feet from the hole, you could also play that putt downhill more conservatively if you also pose 3. You don’t want to pass the ball 10 feet beyond the hole. It could cost you an extra hit or two and most likely the hole. Always know where your opponent is on the green and what he is throwing before deciding on your throwing strategy.
Giving putts is a problem in match play. You do not have to concede a putt, even if your opponent has conceded one. But most golfers do this if he is short (less than 2 feet) and it will not cost him the hole. Some players allow short putts until the critical moment, then force their opponent to take it all out just to put more pressure on him.
It is also useful to know if your opponent is a good or bad putter. If he’s a poor putter, you could make him take it all out. Most likely, your opponent can get 3 putts or even 4 putts on the hole, giving you the hole if you make 2 putts.