You may have heard the quote “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. Your journey to better golf begins here. The first step is understanding where your game is now and where you would like to see it go. You would like to know the end result, your destination. If you were going to take a road trip, a vacation, you wouldn’t likely just get in the car and drive without having some idea as to where you want to end up. When planning our trip, we would choose where we want to end up before doing anything else. We would then determine the best route whether by car, train or plane. Our trip would have a timeline and would be planned out in detail. I see many golfers practicing without knowing where they are going, without a plan. They head to the practice tee and just hit ball after ball with no plan or often without even hitting to a target. This form of practice may be good exercise but it doesn’t really lead to better golf. Zig Ziglar said “If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.” I want you to aim at something. I want you to have a logical, organized plan in place to improve your golf game.
I have been coaching a young man named Ryan for about 6 months. Ryan is a good athlete but had not had much instruction or coaching prior to working with me. We worked on Ryan’s swing with some lessons and supervised practices and his swing improved. One day, in my office, we were chatting about his game. His full swing had improved but his short game had not. Ryan is a financial planner. I asked Ryan “what do you do on a daily basis?” He replied that he works with his clients to manage their portfolios. Then I asked him about the process that he goes through with each client and the light went on. Ryan spends time with each client to determine their financial goals and then makes a plan. I asked him if he had considered doing the same thing with his golf game. We established some goals to improve his short game, put a plan in place and he went to work. Ryan had a handicap index of 10.4 when we began working on his game six months ago. His index is now a 6.1 and he sits near the top of our clubs most improved handicap list.
If you really want to improve your golf game, it is imperative to establish your goals. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there? Studies have shown that by establishing and writing down your goals increase your chances of accomplishing those goals. Many golfers have dreams and aspirations but most don’t know how to achieve them. Goal setting can be a powerful tool to help you turn those dreams into reality. Goals can be valuable in directing your efforts toward a specific outcome. If you had a goal of making more putts inside of 10 feet, you might spend more time practicing this part of your game. Goals can be motivating by narrowing your focus and working on the steps necessary to accomplish that goal or goals. And when you accomplish that goal, you have a tremendous sense of accomplishment. The bottom line is that setting goals is a logical, organized approach to improving your game.
Start by thinking about your ultimate goals. Maybe you would like to earn a college scholarship, win a state championship or qualify for a USGA event. Depending on where your game is, those could be long term goals or goals for this year. Maybe you want to qualify and compete on your high school golf team or maybe you want to break a scoring barrier. Dream a little. If you could wave a magic wand over your golf game, what would it look like? You have to be able to dream it before you can do it.
There are two types of goals, outcome goals and process goals. An example of an outcome goal would be winning the state championship. Outcome goals can be somewhat out of your control. What if you shoot 71-70 in your big event? Someone could shoot 70-70 and beat you by one shot. This is what I mean by out of your control. Outcome goals are important but the process goals can help you get there. Process goals are basically smaller steps than can help you to achieve the outcome goals. For example, to win the club championship, I need to improve my up and down percentage to 50% or better and hit two more greens in regulation per round.
Take an inventory of your game now. Assess your current game versus where it needs to be to accomplish your goals. Be honest with yourself. If you have kept stats in the past, take a look at the stats and see what your strengths and weaknesses are currently. Compare where you are now to where you need to be to accomplish your goals. What could you improve to make the biggest impact on your game? What is your biggest miss? Do you have a miss happens frequently and causes higher scores?
Goals need to be specific and measurable. Becoming the best golfer at your club or in your conference would be examples of outcome goals. The goals you set should be specific and directed toward preparing your game to give yourself the best chance of accomplishing the outcome goals. To break 90 for the first time, you might need to lower or eliminate 3-putts from your game and reduce penalty shots. To win your conference, maybe you would need to average hitting 12 greens in regulation per round, average 30 putts per round or less and average 72 or better. Compare your game now to where it needs to be to accomplish your outcome goals then establish your process goals. Let’s say that you are averaging 11 greens per round but your up and down percentage is only 42% and your putts per round average is 32. You then set goals to improve your up and down percentage from 42% to 55% and decrease your average putts from 32 to 30 or better. Be specific. The more specific you are, the better.
The next step is to breakdown your goals into specific steps. To improve distance control in my putting, I’m going to practice distance putting for three hours per week. To improve my up and down percentage, I need to work on getting chips and pitches closer to the hole. I’m going to work three hours per week on chipping and pitching. You can even get more specific by planning the exact games, activities and drills. Put your goals in writing. Write down what you want to accomplish and by when. Putting a deadline on your goals can give you a sense of urgency.
Make a practice plan. Each week, depending on your personal schedule, plan your practice time then follow your plan. After you have determined which parts of your game you are going to work on, figure out how much time each week that you have to practice. If you have two hours per week to practice, split the time between the two parts of your game where you want to improve. If you plan on eliminating 3-putts and improving your up-and-down percentage, spend an hour working on distance control on the putting green and an hour on short game shots. Plan your lessons with your coach based on accomplishing your goals. What can be measured can be improved. Keep your stats. Stats can give you and your coach some insight as to where your game is and can also help you to measure your progress.
After you have been practicing for a while, evaluate your game. Is your practice paying off? Are you improving on the course? Take a look at your stats to see if you have improved. Look at your last 6-8 rounds and see where you are. If you’re not improving, change something. If you’ve improved, re-evaluate and change your goals. The emphasis should always be on the weakest two parts of your game. Work on the weakest parts first. Don’t forget about the strengths of your game but emphasize improving the weakest parts.
Determine your goals, break them down into small steps, plan your practice and measure your progress. Take these steps to making your golf game better.