Junior Golf Tournament Stroke Saving Tips

These simple tournament stroke saving tips will help the junior golfer from losing easy strokes due to unnecessary penalties or not taking advantage of some basic golf rules.

Tournament players must know the rules or run the risk of penalties. These are 5 areas in which Juniors will lose strokes if you do not know the rules.
junior golf, tournament tips

Know Your Yardages

golf yardage card

Juniors should not have to guess which club to use. They should always know the carry distances of each club in their bag - and for advanced juniors also how far a 3/4 and 1/2 shot will carry. The use the above printable yardage card to note carry distances during a practice or lesson session, preferably based on Trackman data or similar type of distance measuring equipment.

Some tips for recording club yardages:

  • If you are measuring distances using range balls you will need to adjust distances since range balls typically do not carry as far as regular or premium golf balls. Trackman has a setting can be switched on to adjust for range balls. 
  • During course practice or even tournaments, note the actual carry distances of clubs and adjust the card accordingly.
  • Print the card and laminate it. Then use permanent marker for the distances. To "erase" permanent marker you can simply color over it with "dry erase" marker and rub it off with a paper cloth or towel. 

Lost Balls

The penalty for a lost ball is harsh : stroke + distance (you go back to where you hit to drop).

Mentally, golfers will try to avoid double penalties at all costs which often leaves players and caddies hunting for a ball deeper and deeper into brush, bush and thicket – where they logistically could never play out of. 

it is advisable to pay attention to the area you are searching in.  You do not want to find a ball in an area where it is completely unplayable.  This is where we have seen lots of juniors get into trouble and many a caddy become unhinged.  They find a ball where they have almost no chance of playing it out but with 'stroke and distance' hanging over their heads they try to chop it out anyway.  A decision along these lines is where even top junior golfers can end up with a really big hole, basically ruining their whole round, and likely the whole tournament and mental game.

The majority of the time it is best to take the risk out and let 1 shot be 1 shot (or if stroke/distance – 2 strokes be 2 strokes). Practical experience has shown that Juniors can easily (and often do) take up to 5 or 6 shots getting out of deep trouble when they elect to try play out of unplayable areas.

The trouble is that once a player hits the first shot in this type of terrain (bushes, thickets etc.), they lose the option of going back to the tee or fairway – wherever the wayward shot was hit from – and therefore are limited to trying to continue to hack out of very bad lies (often an unplayable relief cannot get the player out of trouble) – or going back the last “unplayable” lie.

Pace of Play

Most tournaments you have an allotted time to finish your round. The time will be stated on the first tee box and finishing times for each hole are often printed on the score cards. Generally if you finish around within 17 minutes of the people in front of you there is no penalty and/or within 12 minutes of your scheduled finish time. Marshals will often be out on the course to tell you if you are on time but not always.  It is up to the Caddies and Players to be on top of this!

Tournament Stroke Saving Tips. Pace of play penalty

If the group in front of you has been slow, what often happens is that they will be given a “red card” (pending penalty for the group unless they make up time) with a few holes to go. In this event they will pick up their pace (yes, sometimes running..!) to try get back on time and regain their “green card” by the end of the round – and thus avoid a penalty on their group. You need to be aware of their pace and keep up with them. If you see them running make sure your group knows that everyone needs to play ready golf and pick up the pace!

In Junior Golf everyone in your group gets penalized if your group is slow. An advisable thing, if one of the players in your group is particularly slow, is to play “ready golf” and make sure all parties in the group know if you are behind pace.

If you are close to getting a red card for being over time, the last few holes are imperative – make sure everyone is playing “ready golf”. When you get on to the last green and the players are putting out – the general courtesy is that everyone takes off their hats and shakes hands – but time is measured when the pin goes back into the hole / the flag is replaced. Make sure you put that pin in immediately and move off the green to shake hands – so the following group can play up.

Bunker Stroke Saving

Especially on fairway bunkers – if there is a rake close to the lip of the bunker : remove it! The ball can hit it and bounce in. Shots from fairway bunkers often just clear clear the lip and hit the rake. We learned that the hard way !

Tournament Stroke Saving Tips bunker penalties

Whenever you enter a bunker don’t kick up sand, don’t make unnecessary deep imprints in the sand (e.g. jump in), and DO enter from the back. Bunker shots occasionally stay in the bunker,so if you enter from the front of the bunker and hit the lip the ball may fall back into one of your footprints. We learned that the hard way too !

Everyone knows you don’t ground your club in a bunker. If you hit a bunker shot and it stays in the bunker and you hit the ground in annoyance = 1 Penalty Stroke.

Caddy Positioning

If the Junior hits a shot with his/her Caddy standing directly behind him/her this will result in a Penalty. The Caddy must move to the side before the player hits the shot, regardless of driver, irons, wedge or putter.


Green Tips

If the Caddy points to the putting line and touches the green = 2 Penalty Strokes. You can point in the air to a line but cannot touch the green with a finger / flag stick / tee.

junior golfer, tournament tips

Removing natural obstacles (stones, sand, leaves etc.) and fixing pitch marks is fine but if you are fixing a pitch mark make sure your playing partner confirms it is a pitch mark. Spike marks and other uneven surfaces cannot be smoothed out and doing so will result in a 2 shot penalty.

If you move your ball marker (e.g. at the request of a playing partner to get out of their line) and do not replace it to the original position, you will incur a 2 shot penalty. A good tip to avoid this is to get a marker with nothing (or different color) on the other side. If you have to move the marker put it upside down to remind you to put it back in the correct place. Some markers even have a reminder on the back to replace it.

If the Caddy puts the marker down and picks the ball up, he/she must put it back down. The same person who picks the ball up must replace it. The Caddy cannot pick it up and Player put it back down = penalty shot.

If the Player is putting from on the green and it hits the pin = 2 shot penalty.

You can tend the pin at any time, no matter how far off the green the player is. If the player is hitting from off the green the Caddy has 3 options with the pin: tend / leave in / take it out. The pin must, however, be out if it is being tended before the ball arrives at the hole – so keep it loose and easy to remove – i.e. if the player is off the green and chips/putts the ball very fast and the pin is being tended, the Caddy cannot elect to leave the pin in, once being tended it must be removed if the ball is headed for the hole. If the Player’s ball hits the pin that the Caddy is tending = 2 shot penalty.

If a Player is putting from off the green and asks for the pin to stay in place (no-one should be touching it in this case) and the ball hits the pin, no penalty is incurred in this event.

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