Anyone who is truly serious about their golf game has the desire to improve. The fact that this game can never be mastered, is one of the many reasons why we love it, and why many find it addicting.
Whether you are a beginner or a professional, improvement doesn’t happen by accident. It requires setting goals and then working tirelessly to achieve them. The problem however; is that many of us struggle to achieve the goals we set for ourselves. It’s not that we can’t set goals, it’s that we don’t understand how to effectively pursue them in a way which will allow them to be realized.
Below are guidelines that golfers of every caliber should be implementing when pursuing the goals necessary for game improvement.
Have a Plan - There is the famous saying, “A goal is just a dream until you write it down”. There is a tremendous amount of truth to this. When you set a goal, make sure you write it down somewhere, and then refer to it often. It will keep you accountable and focused, ensuring that you don’t lose track of that which you have set out to accomplish. Too often golfers set a goal, only to allow it to slip to the back of their minds. They work on it when they are reminded, but this is never an equation which will lead to success.
Get Advice - The process of improvement can be accelerated up by simply finding other people who have been successful, and then copying their game plan. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Find what has worked for others and make their plan your own. This provides added confidence for the reason that you know you are following a plan that works.
One Step at a Time - It is very important to be smart when setting goals. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big, and expecting a lot of yourself, but it is important to make sure that you don’t try and bite off more than you can chew. Setting grandiose goals that promise a significant period of time to accomplish sets you up for failure. Not only can you get sidetracked and lose interest, you can also become stagnant in your effort. Setting small goals which will lead to bigger ones allows you to maintain focus and intensity.
Make a Schedule - Just like it is important to write your goals down, it is also important to set a specific schedule for how you will carry out the improvement plan that will allow you to achieve those goals. You could write down some very meaningful goals, with a detailed plan for how you are going to get there, but if you don’t set a practice schedule, then your plan is meaningless. It is amazing how often people set goals, without any planned schedule for working toward them. Nothing happens if we don’t schedule time to work toward them.
Know your Limitations - When creating goals it is important to keep them realistic. As you read this your mind likely goes right to thoughts of personal athleticism, but the limitations which affect your personal pursuits are much more than simply physical. It is important to examine your life as a whole in order to determine what is, and is not realistic for you. For instance, if you are working sixty-hour work weeks, it is unlikely that you will be able to practice a couple hours every evening. Know what is manageable for you at this current time period in your life. Just because you can’t improve as quickly as you would have liked to, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t improve at all.
Keep Your Priorities Straight - As one sets out to improve their games, it can be very easy to get consumed with the process. In doing so, golf becomes a priority over aspects of our lives which golf should not be competing with. It can be very easy to fall into this trap. We can even justify it by thinking that we are displaying our “strong work ethic”, but really we are just making excuses. There is such thing as working hard in the wrong way, and when we do this we sabotage our efforts due to the fact that when our priorities get out of balance, so do our lives, making it very difficult to be successful in anything - including our golf game.
Practice Smart - Any plan for improvement is going to have to involve practice. When creating your improvement plan, it is important to make sure that you take into consideration “smart practice”. Going to the range and hitting balls for an hour in hopes of improving your game is wishful thinking. Set a specific goal and make sure you know how to practice it effectively. For instance, if you are working on getting the clubface in a position that is square at the top of the backswing, twenty minutes of work in front of a mirror is much more meaningful than an hour of hitting balls on the range.
Make them Measurable - Goals must be measurable. If they aren’t then tracking your progress is subjective and therefore ineffective. Set goals such as, “Hit 50% of my fairways” or “Average less than 33 putts per round”. Once you have set these measurable goals, remember to make sure that you create a specific plan for how you will reach them. For instance, if you want to improve your game by beginning to hit 50% of your fairways, you may choose to work on your grip, stance, posture and alignment so that you can set yourself up in a more consistent manner which will lead to an improved swing that is easy to repeat. What is being described are performance goals vs process goals. If we want to meet our performance goals, we must make sure to set process goals which compliment them.
Don’t be Double Minded - Tom Katz, the creator of the Mental Edge Golf training series teaches that when working toward meeting goals, it is imperative that you don’t doubt yourself, or your plan. Doing so will sabotage your efforts. This doesn’t mean that your plan should never change, but if you are constantly doubting yourself and your improvement plan you will inhibit your ability to improve. Believe that good things are going to happen, expect them, and don’t be surprised when they happen.
Enjoy the Journey - Golf is not easy, but it should always be fun. Make sure you take the time to enjoy the improvement process. Maintain a positive attitude and don’t just find satisfaction in the end result, but the journey as well. Doing so will lead to greater efficiency and even provide you with a competitive edge.
About the Author
This article was written by Jonathan Carr (@jonathanwcarr) as part of our weekly 'Top 10' series. As a scratch golfer himself, Jonathan has a keen eye for what it takes to be successful on and off the golf course. His passion for golf is surpassed only by his passion for his faith and his family.
Read some of Jonathan's other articles here.