Last year we launched our first "What's Your Major?" contest, which challenged all amateurs to tell us about their single most important tournament and why they considered it to be their "major." Your submissions far exceeded our expectations, and proved that our readers' lives intersect with the game in so many interesting and different ways and places.
\nSo we're pleased to announce the 2011 "What's Your Major?" contest. The concept comes from the fact that the game's best players have four "major" competitions each year, and that preparation for these events is crucial to every pro's success. In much the same way, most amateurs have a tournament on their calendar that would make their year if they won it. To enter this year's contest, simply tell us (in 250 words or less) what your major is and what it would mean to you to win it. How to enter, contest rules and prizes. Our contest winner will be chosen by Golf Magazine readers, and he or she will receive a complete Callaway clubfitting, a $10,000 SYNLawn putting green installed in their backyard, and a free day of game-preparation time with me at their tournament site.
\nEven if you don't win the contest, you can still work with us and prepare for your major -- starting NOW! Grab a wall calendar and put a big red circle around your major date. Turn the calendar back one month and circle the date (to show 1 month until your major), and do the same for 2 months, 3 months and 4 months prior to the tournament. This establishes an awareness of the work you must do and your time frame to accomplish it. With four months to go until your major, the first step is to assess your gear and your game in 5 key areas:
\n1. Set Makeup Check
Keep a notebook in your bag and, for five rounds, track how often you use each club. If you're avoiding a club, we need to know that now and either resolve the issue or replace the club.
\n2. Putter Check
Your putter is crucial to scoring. Ask your pro to make sure it fits you and your stroke. Then change the grip -- or don't change anything -- depending on your pro's advice and how well you perform. You'll need to putt well to win your major.
\n3. Putting Practice
Develop a "Square Strike" putting stroke. Go to pelzgolf.com and click on the free O-Ball offer. If you're among the first 500, we'll send you a free Callaway Tour i(z) Pelz O-Ball. The ball is USGA legal and great for improving your stroke.
\n4. Find Your Weak Spots
Give your game a hard look and determine your biggest weakness -- driving, putting, bunkers, etc. -- and devote a practice session every week to improving it. Last year's winner, Gary Seal, had difficulty dealing with his major course's thick Bermuda rough. If Gary had identified this four months before his major, he would have had ample time to improve his play from it and save precious strokes during the event.
\n5. Get Into Tourney Mode
Start playing your tournament course and assess where it will attack your game. Find a buddy to help motivate you to practice this area consistently. Better yet, get him or her to enter the contest, too. Two great golf stories are better than one.