Think back to a time where you were tearing up the front nine. You were striping it down the fairway effortlessly, hitting greens, and making putts.
Golf was feeling easy. Life seemed to make sense.
But as you know, golf happens. And sometimes the back nine is very different than the front nine. A lot of times that happens because you’re so fatigued, mentally and physically, that your game crumbles.
And it’s not just you, it happens to some of the best amateur and pros in the world. Golf is an exhausting game that takes 4-6 hours. This is a lot of physical wear on your body and on your mind.
But if you can learn how to overcome late round fatigue, you can start taking advantage of those hot front nines and carry the momentum until you putt out on 18.
Here are the best tips to avoid late round golf fatigue, both physically and mentally so you can shoot your best rounds yet.
Simply put, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And that goes for anything in life. If you’re trying to lose weight or make more money track it daily.
The same goes for lowering your golf score. Here’s how to get started:
Before you start evaluating your fatigue levels, it’s important to understand how the historical average of your game has been. Start by keeping your scorecards from all rounds and make some notes in yardage books or in a separate notebook for how you’re feeling, both physically and mentally.
Begin to tally the front nine vs. the back nine once you have at least five different rounds from your records. Then ask yourself:
- Which nine do you score the best?
- Why do you think that is? Are you nervous on the front nine or not warmed up enough?
- On the back nine do you find your mind going crazy thinking about your future score or find your body getting tired on the final few holes?
Once you start tracking your rounds then you can figure out what’s really going on in your game and start making the necessary changes to improve your weaknesses.
Let’s face it, golf is taxing on your mind. There are so many decisions to make during the course of a round it’s easy to feel mentally spent when you get home, especially if it’s a tournament, you’re betting on golf, or there’s other added pressure.
Here are a few mental tips to help you during the round:
- Focus on thinking of stuff other than golf. Thinking of your round, shots, a lot of swing thoughts and everything else for a full 4-6 hours is taxing on your mind (more on this upcoming).
- Don’t get angry when things go wrong. Remember, not even Tiger and Phil hit every shot perfect (I’m sure you remember from “The Match”). Don’t let the little things tick you off and ruin your game with negative self-talk and instill limited beliefs on your ability to play great golf.
Sometimes your mental game might be strong but it’s your body that starts to wear down as the round progresses. And usually, it’s even worse if you’re playing in blustery cold conditions or super hot temperatures as well.
When reviewing your past rounds, look back to see if your feet were tired (try some new golf shoes), if your back ached or you had another nagging injury. The more you can determine what went wrong, mentally or physically, the easier you can make adjustments.
Here are some of the best tips to avoid late round fatigue, a lot of which happen way before you even think about getting tired.
What’s your pre-round routine look like right now? Is it setting you up for success or for failure?
The first thing to do is getting adequate nutrition before you head out to the course. Whole foods are much better for you than grabbing a drive-through egg sandwich, hash browns, and soda on the way to the links.
Try to eat a healthy meal with a good mix of carbs, healthy fats and protein to keep you satiated and full of energy. Here are a few favorites:
- Eggs, bacon, and fruit
- Oatmeal, blueberries, and peanut butter
- Deli sandwich made with whole wheat bread
- Chicken or steak salad with healthy fats like egg or avocados
Try to avoid a ton of sugar and refined carbs as you’re more likely to crash mid-round and lose some of your momentum.
Most people are chronically dehydrated at all times. The second your brain feels dehydrated it goes into survival mode and tries to limit your mental output to save energy. Don’t let your brain feel threatened by being too lazy to drink water before, during, and after your round.
If it’s really hot add some electrolytes, sea salt or bring a low carb or zero-cal sports drink as well.
Prior to Tiger, most golfers had never seen a gym. Now if you look at Rory or Brooks Koepka, they’re all gym rats. In fact, before winning the US Open championship in 2018 Brooks even said he was doing heavy bench press prior to teeing off.
To golfers from older generations, this seems insane but clearly, it works. Before you head out, try to do some exercise (no need for heavy bench unless you’re already very active) and focus on core workouts. Just doing light exercise will definitely help get you loose and ready for the round.
Also, stretching before, during, and after your workout will help you feel limber on the range and not take until hole seven to finally feel loose.
Once you get to the range, don’t go crazy and hit a large bucket of balls. In fact, 5 or 10 balls is better than a huge bucket. Remember, golf is a marathon, not a sprint.
Try to only hit 20-30 golf balls max before you hit the first tee and find your tempo.
Your goal isn’t to fix your swing before the round, it’s to get your muscles loose, establish a tempo and get ready for the first tee.
Once you get started it’s important to remember these mid-round tips to help you overcome late round fatigue.
Keep drinking water and Gatorade throughout your round. While a cold beer goes down smooth as well, it’s actually defeating the purpose of hydrating entirely. I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself but make sure you drink plenty of water and stay sober in competitive matches to use your full abilities.
One of the things I mentioned at the beginning is that so many players get mentally tired during the end of the round as much as physically. A way to help avoid this is to have both a wide and narrow focus during your round.
What does that mean?
It means to get hyper-focused when you’re coming up to your shot (roughly 30 yards away) and then go wide when you’ve hit the shot. Don’t walk or ride from shot to shot thinking about your round. Talk about your life, weather, or anything non-golf related to give your mind a break.
If the course is relatively flat and you like walking then it’s a great idea to walk instead of ride. Sometimes walking helps keep you loose and in the zone during the round. If you get tired carrying a bag, grab a push cart or only walk nine holes.
Like this Snickers commercials, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” It’s hard to rip a 300-yard drive or make a clutch putt if your stomach is growling. I know because I’ve actually had my stomach growl during both those moments in tournaments. Yikes!
Eating a healthy beforehand will help but make sure you pack snacks as well. Like before, avoid high sugar and processed foods. Instead, try to pack:
- Peanut butter and banana sandwiches (these are Tiger’s favorites)
- Nuts or trail mix
- Protein bars
Sometimes it gets really slow on the course and unfortunately 5 and 6 hour rounds are way too common. If you’re playing slow golf, make sure you are stretching and staying loose throughout the round.
Another way to overcome late round fatigue is to be mindful of the course you’re playing and manage your expectation. If you’re playing a brand new course you can’t expect to shoot a lights out round. You don’t know the greens, tee shots or where trouble is yet.
Set some expectations before and during your round to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for defeat later in the round. Take into consideration the weather and the overall slope of the course as well.
One of the biggest mistakes I see so many amateur golfers make is thinking too far in the future. This almost always happens when someone adds up scores after nine. Regardless of how well or how poorly you shot on the front nine, don’t let it affect your back nine.
Stay focused on the shot at hand. Thinking too far in the future is taxing on your mind and requires a lot of mental output.
Remember, one shot at a time.
If you’re playing multiple days in a row what you do after your round is super important as well. Once your round is complete, don’t grab 6-pack and reminisce on your shots. Start getting ready for tomorrow so you can keep good golf going or reset and have a comeback round.
Make sure you stretch, foam roll or even get a chiropractic adjustment if needed before your next round. The more limber you can stay between rounds the better you’ll play and less fatigued you’ll feel the following day.
I know I’ve said it three times in this post but it’s that important to hydrate before, during, and after your round. Afterward, you should switch to a full calorie Gatorade for electrolyte packs to help you get ready for the next day.
Lastly, you want to make sure you continue to track your rounds as soon they’re over when your feelings and memory are still fresh. Track your front and back nine to see what went well and where you can improve the next round.
Hopefully, you can instantly use these tips to start playing better golf later in the round and avoid that dreaded fatigue. Remember, mental fatigue is as crippling as physical so make sure you train your mind as much as you do your body.
Pre-round nutrition and hydration throughout the round are so simple but can make a huge difference. During the round make sure you stay in the moment, keep stretching, and avoid hunger to stay laser sharp and finish strong. I hope these tips help you finish strong and maybe end the last 4 holes like a champion.