We’ve all been there on the range or putting green, repetitively hitting balls at the yardage signs or putting toward the hole. All along thinking we're taking steps to improve our game, but are we really learning the skills that will shave strokes off our score? Or, are we simply going through the motions to make ourselves feel better and hope that all this "practice" starts to pay off? Face it, golf is hard!
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail!” – Benjamin Franklin
While any effort to improve is commended and is (in most cases) better than nothing, the goals we set are more attainable with a precise plan of action. And as with any goal, a well thought out plan helps streamline the process and aid in accomplishing measurable results.
Detect Your Data-Driven Weaknesses
We all have to start somewhere! If you are anything like me, those bad days on the golf course can leave you too frustrated and overwhelmed to even want to think about a plan to improve. Some days it may seem that so much of your game needs help that you can’t choose just one area to work on. Or, perhaps you just picked up a golf club for the first time today and have no clue where to start polishing your skills.
A great starting point is to track your game. Shot tracking is the perfect foundation for making a plan for improvement that is specific to the needs of your golf game.
By keeping track of certain statistics, you can see patterns of weaknesses as well as patterns of strengths. Both the strengths and weaknesses that you notice play a tremendous role in figuring out how to improve your game. While the strengths tracked in your game will help boost your confidence and assist with your mental game, the weaknesses are going to be the target for your improvement plan. These key areas that you identify (through shot tracking) will shed a lot of light on your golf game that may surprise you. Click here to read more about shot tracking and how to incorporate shot tracking effectively into your game.
Now that we have an idea of the most important area of improvement, it is time to set up a plan. You may have heard the term “plan backwards.” It is a common phrase in the business and education worlds that has proven to be an effective way of reaching goals. Think about it, if there are no specific steps in place to reach your goal, it is unlikely your goal will be reached. More importantly, if those steps are not in line with the end goal, it is also not likely that the goal will be reached. By planning backwards, one can set small goals toward the larger goal. Below is an example of working backwards to achieve the goal of becoming a better putter. Coincidently, putting is my biggest area of weakness, and this plan is what I am currently working on!
Goals for your Game
Here are a few ideas of specific and measurable goals, you only need to decide which one is most attainable for you at the moment. Every golfer is unique. Customize these goals, or create your own for the area of your game you are focused on. Remember golf is hard, but once you reach one goal, pick out another and keep moving.
- Hole 10 three-foot putts in a row on the practice green (increase this number each time you achieve)
- Reduce the average number of puts per round from 50 to 40
- Putt only 5 three-putts per round (lower this number as you improve)
- Finish a round with no three-putts
- Miss 0 putts within 2 feet
- Make at least 90% of your putts from 3 feet
- Make at least 80% of your putts from 5 feet
- Make at least 70% of your putts from 7 feet
- Make at least 60% of your putts from 10 feet
- Make 10 out of 10 chips within 3 feet of the hole
- Hit 25 chip shots and stop them within 3 feet of the hole
- Hit 25 bump and run shots within 3 feet
- Hit 10 chips shots over a bunker and land them within 10 feet
- Get up and down from 15 yards 90% of the time
- Get up and down from 30 yards 80% of the time
- Get up and down from 50 yards 70% of the time
- Hit 90% of your shots on target during a round
- Play a round without chunking a shot or hitting it thin/ topping it
- Learn your yardages for every golf club in your bag
- Play a full round with the same ball
- Get up and down from 75 yards twice in a round
- Break your next scoring milestone (shoot under 100, or under 90)
- Par 9 holes in a round
- Make 5 Birdies over 2 rounds
- Play in a tournament or open competition
Set a Schedule
Creating a schedule will help you stay on track in achieving the goals you set for yourself. Here is an example of a practice schedule for someone working on improving their putting (this is my own personal schedule).
Monday - Practice at home on the carpet or putting mat- putt from 3 feet, 6 feet, 8 feet, and 12 feet to a sticky note or piece of tape on the floor - Make 5 at each distance
Tuesday - Make a game of "par two" holes on the practice green
Wednesday - Practice at home using alignment sticks, books, or a putting mirror to work on consistency in bringing the putter back and forward straight
Thursday - Work on lag putts on the practice green- putt from 30-25 feet out and choose a target that is makeable on the second putt.
Friday - Putt to a golf tee placed upside down and try to knock the tee over. When you have dialed in that distance, back up and do the drill again to work on accuracy
Saturday - Hit 50 Putts from 3 feet, 50 putts from 5 feet and 50 putts from 8 feet.
Sunday - Play a round of golf or take the day off
Reflect and Reset
On top of tracking your goals while on the course, think about your game off the course. No, I’m not talking about your pickup lines at the clubhouse. I’m talking about researching new ways to improve. It may be as simple as stretching while watching TV or completing a workout tailored for golfers. Embrace the goal as a part of your daily routine and it will show on the course.
As I said before, golf is hard and with any goal, it takes time and effort to achieve success. Stick with your scheduled practices, keep working on those smaller goals, and don’t throw in the towel on shot tracking. You’ll start to see improvements with time. Reflect on your game often and adjust your goals when needed, but most of all, have fun and never stop improving!