After the drive take your cleek and play the balls back, taking them just as they lie. Make a point of never improving the lie; rather go to the other extreme and place them in an indifferent one. Do this with all clubs, excepting the tee shots. If you can succeed in negotiating them fairly well out of a poor lie you may rest assured you can do better with a good lie.
Then take a turn at short approaches before trying your brassey, regulating the use of the clubs in such a way as not to run any risk of fatiguing yourself.
Practice of this kind now and then will effect a very marked improvement in the game of the comparative beginner, and will also tend to strengthen the game of the more advanced player, far more than any amount of match play. If you are working up for any important match or tournament it is well to commence practising a few weeks beforehand, devoting a couple of hours a day twice a week to a thorough acquaintance with your clubs. Do not, however, continue such practice up to the day; stop two or three days before the competition. In the mean time play a few rounds, if possible, against a slightly stronger opponent. If a man could always play against a somewhat better player a very sensible improvement would assert itself in his game, while the contrary is very apt to be the case if he should keep on playing with a weaker man. If you feel that you have any advantage at all always concede such odds as will compel you to play your best game to win.
Outside of the above, I do not recommend any special training for any important event. Let your habits of life, if temperate, remain unchanged throughout.
All of the important tournaments in this country have as their basis a preliminary stroke competition of eighteen or thirty - six holes, as the case may be, those making either the sixteen or thirty-two lowest scores being eligible to continue at match play. This has proved to be an admirable system. No one can be considered a finished golfer who does not combine in himself the qualities needed for both successful stroke play and match play. The good medal player is not necessarily a good match player, nor is the good match player always strong at stroke competition. It is somewhat rare to find the player who is really first-class in both departments.
In the preliminary round it is the more common practice to first classify the competitors on their known form before making the drawings. There is a good deal to be said in favor of such procedure, as it obviates the possibility of a good player having a poor player as his running mate, when justice is done to neither as a general thing. The better player is unconsciously affected usually by the comparatively poor showing made by his competitor, and he is apt to play sympathetically, while the weaker player is striving so hard to play his very best to keep up that in the majority of cases he fails to come within several strokes of his normal game.
The best course to pursue in stroke competition is to make up your mind to play each hole on schedule, arranging a mental bogey according to the length of the hole and your known ability to reach the green in a certain number of strokes, approximated as closely as possible to par play, disregarding entirely the work of your competitor. Never mind what he does, play your own game. Let each shot be made with especial reference to the next one, not with reference to the immediate one of your present competitor. And don't try to beat yourself. Put aside entirely any thought of what your ultimate score may be; play each hole for all it is worth. Don't allow yourself to be discouraged by a poor shot or a series of poor plays. Blot out all remembrance of such, and concentrate your mind upon each individual stroke. Nor must you permit yourself to be unduly "set up" over having possibly a very good score back of you.
Now all this applies very largely to match play, but not wholly, for you have now to regulate your game very frequently by what your opponent does, especially when he plays any particular hole unusually well. When he gets into trouble, pursue the even» tenor of your way, taking no chances. But if, for instance, he is on the green and absolutely certain to go down in two more, and you are off the green and playing the odd, you must make up your mind that either the approach must be dead or you must somehow hole out on the next, particularly if you are playing two more on the green. If, in such or like circumstances, the loss of the hole seems assured, you must play boldly in an effort to steal a half. It is in such cases that the general character of your play must differ from stroke competition methods. If you fail to halve the hole you might just as well be still playing in yonder bunker - whether you are one or six strokes more matters little if the hole be lost. So also must your general play be governed if you are, say, four down with six to play. Then, if ever, must you endeavor to get inside your opponent, and keep him playing the odd. You are playing a very up-hill game and are bound to take chances somewhat out of the ordinary if you desire to win.
Over-confidence in your ability to beat an opponent has lost many a match. "Thrice armed is he who hath his quarrel just, but four times he who gets his blow in fust." You are pitted against a man whom you can beat with comparative ease, and you embark on the round with a feeling that it does not matter much if you lose the first few holes - you can easily make them up later on. Now this is all wrong. Almost before you know it the game has advanced sufficiently far to make the result anything but the sure thing you anticipated, and a slight feeling of irritation is engendered that you should be "down" to a weaker player. This in itself is not conducive, as a general thing, to bringing out your best game, and when is allied to this feeling one of some anxiety as to your being able to pull up, the chances grow more remote of your being able to do so. Your opponent meanwhile, encouraged by his unexpected success, is brimful of confidence and is in just the right vein to play the best game of which he is capable. The best way, therefore, is to endeavor to win the first few holes, and not hold your opponent too cheaply until the match is virtually assured.