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Golfers are like football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey players; they look forward to the new season with all the hope and excitement of children anticipating Christmas. Yet with us amateur golfers, we’re mostly on our own, without a bevy of coaches and teammates to help make the new season the best.
If you’re not especially pleased with your performance and results from the past 12 months, you now get a chance to start over again with a fresh, blank slate. One of your first tasks should be to establish a set of goals for yourself and your golf game. Maybe, you haven’t done this for any of your sport activities, but you probably have done goal setting at work with budgets, sales targets, personal earnings and other important milestones. Please realize that hardly any everyday golfers set rigorous, specific, detailed goals, let alone action plans, sub-goals, timelines and progress measurements. Heck, when I was helping coach a Division I college golf team, those student-athletes knew practically nothing about goals until I provided a workable framework and guidelines for them to work with. Setting personal goals is all about self-direction, desire for achievement and commitment.
Your personal major golf goals should number no more than three; otherwise you won’t be able to focus or keep tract. Your goals need to be highly specific, written in brief form and realistic – meaning challenging but reasonably doable. Goals also need an actual timeline. As one expert has rightly stated, a goal is a “dream with a deadline.” Here are a couple of examples of goal statements that are probably not going to work: (1) my plan this year is to lower my handicap by 15 points, to an 8 from a 23, where it’s been for the past 10 years; (2) I’m never going 3-putt. Your goals should also contain benchmarks so that you can track your progress. Success expert Denis Waitley says, “Goals must be specific and vivid in order to (have) real pulling power.”
Let’s say you are a 15-handicapper who plays weekly and view yourself as an achiever. You might consider what I call a “taking my game to the next level” goals such as the following: “I will ramp up my game to score four personal best rounds in the coming 12 months.” In order to put together an action play that is required to reach your goal you will need to brutally dissect and analyze your entire game, from playing stats, meltdowns, attitudes, strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, highlights, occasional choking, lapses and so on. Don’t fool yourself. What do you do best, and worst? If you rarely hit a green in regulation, improving that should be part of your action play. You may need to play a different tee, get different clubs, use more club (distance) per shot and take more lessons to hit more greens. If you are taking 39 putts per round, when you ought to be taking 29. Make that part of your action plan. You might need to dedicate yourself to practicing your short game around the green, and maybe having a professional look at your method and technique. It boils down to goals, plans, action, tracking data, progress and finally success. I can’t emphasize enough the value of organizing a detailed work schedule for your golf game; plan your work and work your plan. You need a “road map” to arrive at your number one goal, but make it more than a paper game. Keep in mind that, in order to get where you want to go you will require support from a mentor, teachers and loved ones; you won’t do it alone. Write everything down and make your goals measurable. Why? That way you can answer one critical question: “How will I know then I have achieved my goal this year?” Then raise the bar.
Two of the certain advantages of setting your golf goals and making a specific game plan are (1) your practice will be more focused and efficient, and (2) you’re now on a proven measurable path to improvement. Achievement goals have a magical power that works on a subliminal level, which is why writing down and reviewing your goals is very important.