As another year comes to a close it’s natural to reflect on the progress you’ve made in your game over the past 12 months. I’m sure there were specific areas of improvement you worked hard to develop in an effort to lower your handicap. If you didn’t hit all your milestone goals there may have been flaws in your practice plan. To help you accelerate your progress here are five steps to help you unlock your best game in the New Year.
Step 1 – Be Clear About Your Desired End Goal
The first key to achieving your goals in golf is to be specific about what you want. That means framing your goal in measurable terms. For example, a desire to lower your handicap is great but it lacks a specific and measurable improvement goal. Reducing your putting average by 5 shots per round is a clear goal.
Don’t be afraid to set a big end goal. If your goals typically aren’t a bit lofty then you aren’t setting the bar quite high enough. Go after something meaningful that you can reasonably work toward. Ideally it should push you outside your comfort zone.
Step 2 – Break Your Big Goal Into Incremental Milestones
One of the biggest reasons golfers don’t achieve the goals they set is because they don’t break them into attainable bite-sized pieces. Oftentimes the finish line can appear to be so far out of reach or nebulous that you don’t know where to start or how to actually get there.
Simplify your attack plan by considering all the individual steps you might have to take to get from where you are to where you want to be within a specific time frame. Let’s say you want to hit more greens in regulation in the next 3 months. Make a list of everything you think could contribute to you hitting more greens in regulation, like…
• Improving your driving accuracy or distance to be in a better position for your approach to the green
• Building more trust in your long iron shots or wedges
• Being more specific with your target on the green
• Learning how to put more spin on the ball
Having a conversation with your swing coach or mental game coach (or both) might help bring some clarity to where you have opportunities for improvement. Breaking your big goal into small chunks will make it easier to establish a reasonable timeline and set realistic expectations for improvement.
Step 3 – Schedule Your Training Time and Set Deadlines
Making improvements doesn’t always mean spending more time beating balls on the range. It definitely requires a higher degree of quality and consistency to your practice. Look at how much time you’re currently devoting to practice. Are you carving out a decent amount of time each week to maintain your fundamentals? Is there some extra time you could allocate to your goal area?
Create a schedule so you know exactly how you will organize your time before heading to the range. Make a commitment to invest a specific amount of time weekly to work on a specific milestone. And constantly measure your progress so you know if you need to make adjustments to your approach to hit the deadlines you’ve set.
Step 4 – Approach Practice Like Live Play
While working on your technique is important, you must also set aside a significant amount of your practice to build trust. And the best way to build trust is to use drills that simulate live play scenarios.
Trust-building drills are designed to help you prepare to play not just be really good at practicing. They reinforce the mindset you need to free your talent consistently on the course. One simple way to make your practice more like play is to precede every shot with a consistent mental pre-shot routine, and to change up your clubs and targets regularly.
Step 5 – Track and Evaluate Your Success
When you take the time to set measurable goals for every practice you will be able to track your progress and make adjustments to your approach when needed. The goal is to be purpose-driven every moment you’re hitting balls and not just going through the motions.
Track your success at all times. This means keeping record of your well-hit shots and the lessons you learn from the ones that don’t hit your target. Avoid the bad habit of just forgetting about a shot you didn’t like and quickly raking over another ball to hit again.
Make every shot count by owning the good shots and learning from the poor ones. The fastest route to improvement is being intentional enough to gain insight from your mistakes.
Make the New Year Your Best Golf Year Yet
Goal mapping is a great way to make big strides in your game in the New Year. And taking a more strategic approach to your practice to reach your goals is a great start. But if you’ve been neglecting your mental game that may be what’s really holding you back and costing you strokes.