I’ve always been very goal-oriented. I remember as a kid writing down what scores I wanted to achieve and by when, as well as how far I thought I would hit each club as I got to certain ages and became stronger and better.
As an adult, I have become better at the goal-setting process and more aware of what works. Over the last three years, I have used these processes to;
- Write three books, including The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide For Golfers
- Create a video series (The Strike Plan), which took over 600 man-hours
- Create a membership program (Next Level Golf) which has over 30 hours of content, taking over 1000 man hours to create)
- Write 100 blog posts (over 200,000 words total)
- Build four websites for my online businesses (which required learning how to build websites)
- Secure a visa for my dream job in California (which, anyone going through the process knows how laborious and difficult it is)
All of this while managing my online business, working 40 hours a week teaching golf, creating online lessons and practice plans for golfers around the world, and trying to hit the gym 3-4 times a week to stay healthy.
Yes, of course I’m saying this to impress you – I’m a narcissist who just wants your adoration. But, I’m also trying to convince you of this process I use in almost every area of my life, so YOU can use it to increase your chances of goal attainment.
Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot that I want that I haven’t achieved. In fact, I see a strong trend – when I used these processes I am about to define, I achieve X goal. The less I use these processes, the less likely I achieve X – it’s a clear correlation for me.
Golfer’s, I find, are some of the worst at goal setting/achievement. Many of them are stuck in the instant gratification cycle – constantly in ‘fixing mode’ as opposed to working on things which will have a lasting effect on their games. That’s why I’m sharing my goal-setting processes with you, and putting them in a golf-related scenario.
Don’t get stuck here again this year (like every other golfer)
Write It Down
What is your goal? You want to be better at golf? Well, I’m sorry to tell you but that is a pathetic goal and you are probably not going to achieve it – go and slap yourself and sit down in the corner contemplating your lack of clarity.
Make it more specific
Give yourself a deadline – even if golf improvement is not 100% in our control, a specific date makes it more “real”
Give yourself a goal that inspires you, just make sure it’s realistic. Trying to cut your handicap and get into single figures is doable for almost everyone – but playing on tour next year??? Think again buddy.
Figure out why you want to achieve this goal – this is often a part that is lacking in most people’s goal-setting, but is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle. Most people never lose weight until their wedding date is coming up, or their doctor tells them they must or they might have a heart attack next week.
I want to cut my handicap from 15 to 9 by September so I can play in the club championship low-division and have the pride of having reached a single-figure handicap”
Is far more specific, inspiring, time-based and reason-filled.
I want to add 25 yards to my drive in 10 months so I will be the longest hitter in my weekend fourball and have more fun”
Also possesses all of these elements.
Write that goal down –
Print it on your coffee mug so you get to see it every morning
Put it on a poster and hang it on your wall
Change your phone and desktop wallpaper so it reads this goal
Tattoo it to your child’s forehead so you see it every time you kiss them goodbye each morning and night. (please note, unless your goal is to go to a psychiatric ward, perhaps skip the last step).
Break It Down (Planning)
Now you know what you want and have written it down in places you will be constantly reminded, we now have to work out HOW to do it.
This is my favorite part.
In a nutshell, you are going to break that big-ass goal down into smaller pieces until the goal basically achieves itself.
Nothing like a cheesy quote to motivate
When I wrote The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers, I first started out with the big idea – to create the ultimate book for golfers on the what, why and how to practice to get better at this game. I then
- Broke down and wrote out what topics I would like to cover as chapters
- Wrote subheadings under those chapters which stated the main points
- Expanded those main points with further bullet points
- Started writing around those bullet points
I set myself the target of writing 2,000 words per day, making sure I wrote at least 1,000 words by 7am. I knew that in 2 months I would have a book. The big goal (write a book) was broken down into much smaller and more mentally manageable bite-sizes. I then bit those off 1000 words at a time.
So you want to get your handicap down to 9 by September? Well, you could
- Add 20 yards to your drives
- Improve distance control with irons to hit more greens and less chunked/thin shots
- Improve short game up and down % from 40% to 60%
Among other things. A combination of the above goals should greatly increase your chances of hitting single figures. But don’t stop there and revel in your mastery of goal-setting just yet! We still have more breaking down to do.
If we take just one of those points (improving distance control with irons), we can break that into smaller and more clearly defined chunks, such as;
- Improve my ability to contact the ground in the right place
- Improve my ability to strike the sweet spot
- Improve my swing-speed control
- Play with the strategy of hitting 10 yards past the pin, so it gives me a buffer for a slight mis-strike
But don’t stop there – break it down further. Let’s look at the goal “improve my ability to contact the ground in the right place”, we can start to look at some of the processes we can use to do this, such as;
- Getting the low point of my swing in a functional place
- Improving my ability to control my swing arc height
- Using task-led constraint drills, such as hitting from a fairway bunker which demands a more crisp ball-turf strike
- Practicing with different divot depths while maintaining ball-turf strike (variability practice)
- Practicing hitting different parts of the clubface (high/low) to get a feel for changing swing arc height (differential practice)
Note – The above topics are all included in The Strike Plan video series.
Create A Program
Now that you have the bigger goal broken into chunks that are clearer than ever, start to put those into a plan.
In The Practice Manual, I describe 5 phases of training that we can use to improve and perform our best. As a simple example plan, we might see our golfer practice 1/5th of their time in each of the following phases;
Technique – Work on weight shift and hand path to improve low-point position (ideally, improve your technique under the guidance of a qualified professional).
Experimentation – use a mix of variability and differential practice drills to explore hitting different heights on the clubface, or different divot depths.
Calibration – use the feel gained in your experimental phase to calibrate (perfect) your ideal strike – using feedback such as Dr Scholls foot spray.
Performance – work out what thought process gives you your best/desired results. Is it a focus on strike? A specific set-up focus? Changing your focus of attention can have dramatic effects on performance – I outline how to do this in The Practice Manual.
Transference – play games on the range which challenge your striking ability with an increased focus on results. For example,
- Your target is to hit the ball between 120 and 160 yards
- Hit 10 shots
- If you get 7/10 or more, move to a smaller target (130-160)
- Keep making the target smaller until it is only 10 yards deep
This game puts pressure on you to achieve a good quality strike, as this is what will affect the distance control. If you can achieve 7/10 shots to a 20-yard-deep target, this should be more than good enough to play single-figure golf. If not, you have to work out where you made mistakes (was it ground strike or face strike, for example) and improve that skill.
Transference games like this help us to transfer our golf from the range to the course better
How do you know if you are on track?
Feedback is hugely important. I believe even more-so for golf, as often one positive change may create a small negative change in another area. As we are dealing with fine lines in golf, this might create a poor shot even though we have made a positive change.
For example, when I gained 55 yards with my driver by changing my angle of attack, I initially saw some poor results. My angle of attack improved, but I started striking a little lower on the clubface as a result (increasing spin and lowering launch).
However, due to using Trackman, I could see that my angle of attack was heading in the right direction, even if the result was not yet showing. Also, through the use of Dr Scholls foot-spray, I was able to identify the strike which was too low. When this strike was rectified, I picked up the incredible yardage I discussed in my blog post.
using foot spray is one of my favourite forms of feedback
Without the feedback, I might have given up early because I wasn’t seeing the immediate improvement in distance. However, using feedback allowed me to see that certain areas were improving, and that other areas (strike location) had to catch up.
Don’t just get feedback – track it.
When I initially assess a player, I might look at where they strike the ground relative to the golf ball. I might collect 20 shots worth of data, and from this I may be able to say something such as “On average, your divot is starting 2.6 inches behind the ball”.
We may then use feedback, such as Trackman, to see that the lowest point of their swing arc is level with the ball (tour players have it in front of the ball with irons). Now, through whatever adjustments we make, we will be able to track both the low point position and, more importantly, the first point of contact with the ground.
If you want to know the difference between low-point and first contact, check out The Strike Plan
Make a game of it
We then turn this feedback into a game. I might give the player 10 shots and they have to use whatever interventions we have made to get their average low point or ground strike farther forwards.
This is highly motivating for the player as they can now see what they are trying to achieve, and have specific feedback as to whether they are achieving it or not.
In most cases, I turn a lot of this feedback into a system of levels that the player has to pass. This breaks down the process of improvement further and turns it into something as addictive as a video game.
I can also use this level system to explain to players that they need to be around a ‘level 12’ in ground strike if they want to be a single figure handicap.
If you know where you are currently, where you want to be (the goal) and you know where you need to be to achieve that goal (as well as having a plan in place for how to get there), you are pretty much set-up for success.
(Re)Evaluate (Remind Yourself)
This is an ongoing process, but you should set up some time – perhaps once a month – to evaluate how you are doing. Perhaps re-test yourself and see if you are making your way in the right direction.
If not, you have to work out what the obstacles were which prevented you from getting better. From there, we can
- Change the goal/extend the time-line
- Figure out work-arounds
For example, perhaps you were unable to commit to the 3 hours a week of practice you were going to do. We could always figure out some at-home drills you could complete which might take 5-10 minutes a day instead.
Get Yourself A Coach
While you could do a lot of this yourself, most amateurs get themselves in a pickle by going down the wrong routes. I have seen many players
- Waste too much time on areas of the game which don’t impact their goals
- Work on things which don’t relate or even inhibit their goal achievement
For example, I had a recent player wanting to get to single figures by the end of the year. He hits the ball around about 260 yards with the driver, and was convinced he needs to hit it farther.
While it wouldn’t hurt to hit it longer, his iron play was poor. He was consistently hitting the ground before the ball, and this manifested itself in erratic distance control, as well as directional inconsistency.
This player needed far more work on strike quality.
Not only that, but this player was doing things in their technique which were negatively affecting both their strike quality and their ability to produce speed. They had picked up a tip from a single figure playing partner which was actively destroying their game. Remember – pick your coaches wisely. Just because a player is better than you doesn’t mean they are qualified to teach.
A coach will also be a good sounding board and be the best form of feedback for you. They can see the direction you need to head, can guide you there, and they have experience with getting people from A to B.
If you want to achieve your best golf ever, or simply want to achieve a goal, do the following;
- Define that goal – clearly. Give it a deadline, make it inspiring. Have a reason for achieving that goal – focus on the reason
- Write it down
- Break it down into ‘what you need to do to achieve that goal’
- Break it down further
- Create a training program/schedule based on what you need to do
- Get feedback
- Track/measure that feedback
- Make a game out of that feedback
- Get a coach to help you with the whole process
In The Practice Manual, I discuss many different forms of feedback you can use, as well as how to structure your practice and what to practice in order to have lifelong improvement in this game.
In The Strike Plan, I also detail many of the concepts, techniques and skill drills you can use to improve your strike quality. Many of these drills can be done at home with just a club and a whiffle ball – so you can get ahead of the pack and start improving before spring time comes around. Click the image below to find out more.
And if you really want to take your game to the next level, diving into everything from training, goal-setting, psychology, technique, strategy and more, check out my membership program with advance information for real golf-junkies. Click the image below to learn more about Next Level Golf.