Golf isn’t like other sports. Even though players and teams are competing against other players and teams—like every other sport—not many other sports have to compete against their playing surface. During a match, a golfer’s toughest matchup may not be the player next to him, but the course itself. Because there is no opponent across from you that you can directly impact, preparation for a golf match is significantly different to game preparation in most other sports.
“[Course preparation] is a huge thing we have been working on recently,” said Lewis Dellinger ’25. “The new technology that we just got has completely changed our focus towards a much more process-based practice and playing style rather than an outcome-focused playing style. This means that when you are on the course, you’re not even wondering what the other guys in the group are shooting or what you are shooting. Instead, you are focusing on optimizing each shot you have and how much error to take into account when hitting your golf ball.”
Typically, practice rounds are the primary way that the Wabash golf team prepares, but their practice course, the Crawfordsville Country Club (CCC), is different from the courses that they compete on. The CCC is 6,188 yards long. For comparison, the last course that the golf team competed on was 6,559 yards, almost a 400 yard difference. This difference puts players in alternative situations, situations that they would not have when practicing, such as hitting a driver on a par four and following that with a longer iron. At CCC, it’s likely that players will hit a driver off the tee on a par four and follow that with a wedge or short iron.
“If we know that a course is longer, we’ll make the CCC longer,” said Head Coach Justin Kopp ’21. “So the way we do that is taking iron off the tee and then you have a long iron in or we’ll just work on drivers and wedges on the course so we can manipulate the course a little bit to make it play like different courses.”
There are advantages to playing at CCC, according to Kopp, one of which being the tightness of the course.
“It’s an older course and the trees are big; the guys are used to practicing there. So,[when] they get out to a bigger course [they find] more room to hit [their] driver.”
Although the CCC is a smaller course, being able to practice where there is less room for failure is an advantage for the team. The harder practice conditions may be frustrating, but it benefits the team during tournaments with open courses. A new addition to the team’s preparation is a device called “Decade Golf.” The system allows for players to recreate their round by entering in exactly where each shot went and how far the ball carried. Then, the system will analyze the player’s performance and give quantitative feedback to tell them what needs to be improved.
“Every player, after each round, puts in every single shot they took,” said Kopp. “For example, if I hit my drive from a 500-yard tee box in the right fairway, I then would have 220 yards to the pin. From there, if I have a 30 yard chip, maybe I left it to 10 feet on the green. Next, I missed my putt and had a two-footer coming back. At the end, you put in all those calculations and then this software analyzes it and tells you that you lost three strokes putting and you gained two strokes off the tee, but you lost a stroke from chipping. So based on that, I know I need to work on my chipping and putting. It’s really a good way of showing guys what they need to work on.”
After analyzing the number of shots lost on average for each player, Kopp said that if each player had, on average, gained two more shots during their round, they would have been a top-20 team in the country. The margin for error in golf is mini- mal, so every shot counts.
Outside of the post-match analysis, the program allows players to analyze the course prior to playing.
“When using ‘Decade,’ it also gives us knowledge on the course and tells us what the average shot outcome is for a normal Professional Golf Association (PGA) player to make from that spot on that course,” said Matthew Lesniak ’25. “It allows us to understand exactly where you want to miss on the golf course.”
Being able to strategically plan out each round is a valuable skill that takes preparation as well as on-course management.
“The day before the tournament, we usually play a practice round,” said Kopp. “Before that, we do a yardage book meeting, where we print out books with the course in them and go through each hole. We discuss what we see on the satellite images, what we see in the orange book and things to note during the practice round.”
Players are expected to understand the yardage book, the intricate details of the course and plan for each shot accordingly. Although Kopp is on the course throughout the round, he isn’t able to be with every player during every shot. This puts an extra emphasis on each player doing their research beforehand.
“I’m able to help get them out, but at the same time, I’m just one guy for five of them,” said Kopp. “ Usually I’m on a lot of par threes, helping with the arches. Then on greens, especially par five greens if they have birdie putts, I want to be there to help them read putts that they’re all able to make. If I’m not there, I know that they are all plenty capable. They know the game plan and they’ve put in the preparation.”
On the day of the match, the team will wake up, have breakfast together, head to the course and warm up for about an hour. Each player has invested significant time in mental preparation for the match. At that point, it’s time to execute.