Plan the Day – 72-holes in a day needs to be ideally done when the golf course is as quiet as possible. Hence major competition days at your chosen venue should be avoided. While other players are unquestionably supportive of the challenge being undertaken, it does take time to play through groups and will slow down the round times. Ideally you need to take no more than 3 and a half hours per round on average. Commonwealth General Manager Peter Parks has been brilliantly supportive in planning the Longest Day Challenge at my club both in terms of nominating the best day to do it from a course traffic perspective and also nominal starting tees/time schedule for each of the rounds. It minimised the disruption to other players on the course as well as ensured we completed all of the rounds as quickly as possible. I’d encourage all other participants to closely liaise with their Club Manager/Captain (as applicable) to plan the day as thoroughly as possible.
Play with a Purpose - I’d also suggest to play with a purpose. For example, I played stableford for each of the four rounds in 2016 to make me concentrate on each shot during the day. While my mind naturally wandered over the time on-course, playing stableford was undoubtedly better than just treating each round as a social hit. Trying to score on each hole made me try on each shot and gave me focus.
While the challenge can be done playing solo, it’s more fun to do it with at least one other player. In 2016, I couldn’t find another person who wanted to play all 72-holes, so four good friends and clubmates each volunteered to play one round each with me. Hence the wonderful social benefit of golf in interacting with other people, sharing stories and experiences as well as having a few laughs was achieved throughout the day.
Get Golf Fit – you don’t need to be a great athlete to undertake 72-holes in a day. However whether you choose to walk, have a caddie or take a cart (or combination thereof), you will be making a lot of swings and bending down to tee up balls, remove loose impediments, mark balls on the greens etc along the way. Hence in the 2-3 months leading up to December, you need to be playing and/or practicing regularly and doing some other regular exercise – walking, light gym work, swimming and the like. The Longest Day Challenge isn’t the day to decide to play golf for the first time in months. In addition, the day will pass more quickly if you’re playing reasonable golf, regardless of your handicap. Practicing in the lead-up will help that.
Must have Comfortable Golf Shoes & trust your equipment – 72 holes is a long time to be swinging and walking. It’s essential that you have a couple of pairs of your most comfortable golf shoes to wear. The Longest Day isn’t the time to bringing a new pair of shoes out of the box or using new clubs for that matter.
Trust your regular set of clubs and putter. It isn’t the day to be trialling a different driver or putter, especially if the new addition proves to be unwelcome.
Have a Mental Strategy for the Day – There’s no doubt that 72 holes is a long time to be on course and there’s never a guarantee that you’ll play at your best, especially as fatigue sets in during the latter rounds. To cope, I firstly made up my mind in the lead-up that no matter how I played and scored, I was going to enjoy the experience. I was going to keep swing thoughts to a minimum – it isn’t really the time to experiment with new swing theories - and just play the game like I did as a kid growing up.
Given I was playing with four different people, I also set a goal of asking each of them five things that I didn’t know about them (or had forgotten). The questions were:
- As a child, what occupation did you want to do when you grew up?
- Either golf or personally, what is the number one item on your bucket list?
- When & where did you first play golf & who taught you how to play?
- What is either your greatest golfing achievement or the best thing you've seen on a golf course?
- Outside of Commonwealth, what is your favourite course and why?
The questions ended up stimulating lots of interesting conversations with each of my companions, made the experience really more enjoyable as I got to know my friends even better and took my mind off whatever playing challenges that arose during the rounds. The day seemed to go past in an instant as well.