What Does a Player Do In a Practice Round at The Open Championship?

What do tour players do in a practice round to help them adapt their games for The Open Championship? Jack Backhouse comments on what he’s seen this week at Royal Liverpool.


The tournament may start on a Thursday, but most players arrive at the course three or four days earlier to get tuned in to the environment and golf course. So how do professional golfers prepare for The Open Championship? Read on to find out.

Lots and Lots of Tee Shots

Getting your tee shot strategy and game plan organised is a huge part of any tournament prep for a player, but with the bunkers at Royal Liverpool being so punishing, they must get it right here (remember the Tiger Woods masterclass in 2006).

It is fairly common practice when playing a practice round to hit a variety of different clubs from the tee boxes on par 4s and par 5s. This is because even though players’ caddies have yardage books and spend ages studying the course until you get out there in the wind, you don’t really know how far the ball is going to go.

tee shot practice round

5 yards could be the difference between finishing short of the bunker or going in it, or hitting it out of bounds on three or not. It’s worth having a plan A, B and C for every tee so they can always make the best decision in the moment.

Putting to Nowhere

Players don’t know where the R&A are going to put the pins on the putting greens during the golf tournament. So spending a lot of time on the greens is important putting to places where they think that the flags might be on different tournament days.

Players and caddies estimate where the pin positions will be by looking at where the flags were when The Open was here in 2014 and 2006, and by generally surveying the green to see where suitable flattish spots may be.

putting to different pin positions

When preparing for the golf competition days, players will drop balls in the spots on the greens that they think are reasonable targets from the fairways and then putt to all the different pin spots to get a feel for how the ball will move on the surface.

Practicing Worse-Case scenarios

Tour players never want to be faced with a shot in a competition that they have never practiced before. Golf is a random game at the best of times, but having a good idea of how to play all the different shots you may get faced with in a round gives you the confidence that you are well prepared ahead of that Thursday morning tee time.

A great example of this is a player this week at The Open putting seven balls into one bunker to hit all different kinds of shots.

bunker practice

The bunkers are going to play a real part of this year’s event at Royal Liverpool, and even the player with the best approach shots will find themselves in sand so its good to get this kind of short game practice under their belt.

The idea here is you do not know how the ball will finish when it goes in a bunker, so it’s good to have practice shots right under the lip, in the middle, at the back, one leg out, and any other variation of shot you can think of.

Playing Competitive Games

It’s not unusual for golfers to go out with their pals and play matches for money in practice rounds. This may just seem like a bit of fun between mates, but I think it goes deeper than that.

Playing a game for money or a forfeit is a great way to stay sharp and focused during a practice round, giving meaning to every pre-shot routine when playing golf.

rory mcilroy practice round

It also helps play the course with different strategies under pressure, as sometimes a 2 iron feels like the right play but under the gun a bigger head gives more confidence under pressure. Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy were seen out on the course having a tight game between themselves during the Tuesday practice round.

What have you seen tour players doing in practice rounds? Let me know with a  tweet.  

Need more tips?

We will have new tips videos every week in association with Callaway, so make sure you’re subscribed to the Hannah Holden NCG YouTube channel to get them direct to your phone, or you can find them on the NCG website.

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