New Year, new goals. Steps to setting your golf goals?

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”

– Lewis Carrol

Just going for the walk.

There is this intangible that all great golfers share; commitment. Golf, for many, is a casual outing, a social event shared with like minded folk. It is a marvelous stage, one well set for making business deals or simply a form of therapy for another.  No matter the event compelling you to play, one often gets frustrated with their performance. Even if they play very little.

It’s critical to understand golf isn’t about maximizing the best shot, its about minimizing and limiting the bad shots. You improve by setting goals, to improve your weaknesses.

It is such a gripping sport because you know, emphatically, you can do better. This being the intrinsic factor to which compels you to come back again.

Golf can sway your emotions; as Mark Twain said:

“Golf is a good walk spoiled”

If you want to be social, stay social and don’t let score be an influencer. This is very difficult for many players. Alternatively, you can set goals to maximize your enjoyment. If you want to fulfill your golf potential then commit to committing.

Fulfilling your Potential

“Success in golf depends less on strength of body more on strength of mind and character.”

– Arnold Palmer

One way to improve your game is by setting goals in advance of the season. Now this can be as small as you want; or, as lofty. To feed your goals, you need to inform yourself first. After all, golf is a game of reflection.

1. Reflection

How did you feel about this past golf season? Can you identify your strengths and weakness. How often did you Play?  Did you break 100, 90, 80, 70; if so, how often (in general). What shots plagued your game? Did you struggle in any particular area, bunker, long rough, hitting in Play, greens in regulation (gir), etcetera.

It’s a good time to take a few mental notes and reflect on where you can get the best bang for the buck.

2. Broad goals before specific goals

For me, I play 1.5 rounds per week with limited opportunity to practice. A broad goal would be to add 1, one hour, practice session. Where I would focus on one or two of my weaknesses that I identified by reflecting on the previous season.

The easiest goal to set, is to break a threshold more often then the season past. For you, that could be breaking 90 more often.  Before you can achieve this goal, you need to understand what truly gets in your way. I assume its not your putter but most likely keeping it in play more often. Set the goal, if it is to keep it in play more often, then keep track of this.

Just thinking about your game can help improve your game.

“A goal properly set is halfway reached”

– Zig Ziglar

A blind squirrel will find a nut everyone once in awhile. The great thing about potential, is that it can be much more achievable then you realize.  Improve your mental approach or emotional responses to outcomes in a round of golf and remain focused on the goal at hand.

My goals, have goals.

It would be unachievable for me to believe I can go sub 70 on the regular. Given how much time I can dedicate to the cause.  Yet, that is the goal or the goal within the goal.

After reflecting on last season, I had learned that I probably only hit 9 greens per round. This puts pressure on the greenside up and downs, where I am successful approx. 5 out of 9 times. If I improve each category by 1,  one more green hit and one more up and in; then I would have achieved my over all goal and some. That incremental change will have a significant amortized effect to my average score.

3. Get Informed.

Ok, so you want to go beyond the broad goal. You are willing to focus some attention to playing better golf.

Lesson one: blind practice ingrains poor performance.

I once heard practice does not make perfect it makes permanent. Therefore, you need to inform your practice. The same would apply with goal setting, you need to inform your goals. Most goals are big; like, shooting for the moon, while hoping to land on a cloud. In golf, everything is incremental and acute.

You need to let your past performance inform the goal. Golf goals are like business goals, if SMART, they are much more successful. Set goals that are, specific, measurable, achievable and timely.

Over the past few years, I have struggled with Greens In Regulation (GIR) and with my up and down completion %. A specific goal that is measurable for me is to hit more greens. Then, hit the ball closer to the hole from around the green.

So how do I make that achievable?

Informed by my reflection I know I need to  hit it closer from 100-125yards and improve my performance from 30 yards and in. To set my goals, I need a benchmark, I used the PGA tour averages for proximity to the hole.

• The average tour player hits 11.7 greens.

• 100-125 yards approach: the PGA tour average, proximity to hole, is within 15-20 feet from 100-125yeards. Interesting enough, the best on tour (top 10 in category) average 10 feet to pin from 100-125.

• green side (20yard in) up and down 80% on tour vs. 77% for a scratch golfer.

This data then feeds my goal to hit the ball inside of 20 feet on average from 100yards and be inside 10 feet from 30-50 yards, but mainly for greenside up and downs improve by 10%. I can achieve that by focusing on getting it inside of 5 feet from 20yards in. The most important aspect of the goal is achievability. From 5 feet I will be about 50% in putts made, bringing the up and downs completion from 5 of 9, to a potential of 7 of 9.  I want a goal that is lofty yet achievable.

4. Executing your goal train

“Anyone that plays golf will tell you that you play against yourself”

– Martin Sheen.

While on the range, I see people practicing their strengths more often than their weaknesses. This may warm you up, but does nothing to help you be better than yesteryear.

Take a focused approach to warming up and practice. If you build confidence in your weaknesses than you free yourself of tension in your play.

This blind squirrel is getting closer to its nut.

What is this goal train? Its the ripple effect in golf. When we improve our weakness we set ourselves up for a greater improvement then intended. It will carryover into the rest of your game. By practicing the 100-125 yard shoot, the law of averages would suggest an improve chance of hitting it, within 10 feet jumps exponentially. Thus offering an opportunity to make more birdies and stress-less pars. Its the causal reaction.

Same theory applies to hitting the ball in Play more. If you hit the ball in between the trees more often, you’ve saved that recovery stroke. You’ve also set yourself up for greater odds of improving your dispersion on the next shot. By way of omitting the pressure on performance.  When you achieve the initial goal, that confidence and mindset rolls into the next shot.

Get your nut

If you have decided you want to just enjoy the walk, then enjoy the walk, do not set specific goals and do not put pressure on yourself.

If you decide you want to be a better than last year, then follow the process for setting and achieving your goals:

  • Reflect,
  • Set broad goals; before you,
  • Get detailed and SMART with specific goals; that frees you to,
  • Execute the goal train.

Good luck in the 2020 Golf Season. Its not always about the results but the journey, so enjoy the walk, regardless.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” 

– Ernest Hemingway






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