When Chris Haack was named as head coach of the Georgia men’s golf team in 1996, he implemented a drill to the players’ weekly practice routine. Every Thursday, golfers compete against each other in a friendly competition the team calls the “gauntlet.”
The gauntlet is an “up and down drill,” meaning each player attempts to hit the ball on the green and then finish with a putt. The drill consists of nine holes with each hole containing a different approach shot. For example, one shot will be from a bunker and another from just off the green.
“I think it's a great form of competition,” senior Spencer Ralston said. “We play in a group and have some fun while trying to get a good competitive mindset.”
Each player is under pressure as they must shoot at least 2-over-par 18. If a player goes three or four over par, they must re-try the entire gauntlet. If a player goes five over par or worse, they are forced to complete a drill the golf team calls “40s,” which are 40 putts from three feet. If all the putts are made, they are allowed to compete in the gauntlet once more.
“I was never really a fan of dropping a bag and hitting chip after chip," Haack said. "We wanted to get the guys into a more competitive environment where they are actually trying to get used to the pressure of getting up and down in a tournament.”
The competitive environment implemented by Haack has paid dividends. During his tenure as head coach, the Bulldogs have won two national championships, eight SEC championships and 65 team tournament titles. Golfers can see and feel the results of competing every week in the gauntlet during tournaments.
“The biggest thing about the gauntlet is that it helps you mentally,” Will Chandler said. “It helps you on the course when you see a shot where you have to get up and down and you think ‘Oh, I've seen this shot in practice.’ To me that is the biggest thing. It gives you confidence, definitely the best short game practice you can do.”
The team enjoys the gauntlet not only because of the results on the course, but also because they get to spend time with their teammates as they compete in some pressure situations.
“Sometimes you just like to come out and spend time with your teammates and play a game and to be honest, the more serious you take it the better you get,” senior Trevor Phillips said. “Last year I remember I really started to see the shots that I wasn’t good at really start to improve because of the gauntlet.”
Coming off a win at the Crooked Stick Invitational, the Bulldogs prepare for their last tournament of the fall golf season on Nov. 1, the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic in Maui, Hawaii.