What Is a Pro Golfer's "A-Game"?

When a pro golfer (or any golfer, for that matter) refers to his "A-game," he or she simply means "playing the best I can play." In other words, the golfer is saying that on the A-B-C-D-F grading scale used in many schools, his or her game, that day, deserved an A.

References to one's A-game are quite common in the world of professional golf, and in recreational golf, as well as in most other sports. Sometimes we pat ourselves on the back a little by referring to "having my A-game."

Or we use the expression when criticizing our play: "I just didn't have my A-game today" is a common explanation for a disappointing score.

And golfers do sometimes use the other letter grades, too. A tour pro might say, "I was playing with my B-game out there today." That way of putting it, or referring to not having one's A-game, often carries the implication that the golfer was fighting and scrambling the whole round to hold it together and post a decent score despite not being at his best that day.

As Gary McCord explained in one of his books, "Sometimes you can shoot a good score with your B- or even C-game, but you always hope to bring your A-game to the first tee."

Pro tour golfers can be very hard on themselves. Once, early in his career, Tiger Woods said he didn't have his A-game — after winning a tournament. Some of his fellow pros were offended — "he just said he can beat us even when he's not playing his best." The problem is that it was true (Woods could, sometimes, beat everyone else not playing his A-game). Also, every great golfer in history has said the same thing, although not necessarily with the same words Woods used. As we said, pro golfers can denigrate their own games ("only had my C-game out there") when shooting 68.

Jon Rahm once said that Woods told him Woods had his A-game for only three of Woods' (then) 82 wins. We should all be so off-our-games.

But, to sum up: When a golfer refers to "having my A-game," it means playing her best golf.

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