October 25, 2011

My Golfing Goals For This Year

Every year between Christmas and New Years I spend some time looking at what I did last year and how I can improve for the next.  I set goals in all aspects of my life from business to personal relationships to fitness and everything in between.  Most of the time the goals are a stretch and sometimes a bit out of reach.  But I can say by and large my goal setting helps foster self improvement.

I begin by reviewing my yearly goals. If it’s a good year I see progress in many areas.  There may be areas I did not quite hit where I wanted to hit.  I take some time to see if the goal was realistic or needs some adjustments for the next year.  Finally I end up figuring what I want to accomplish this next year.

In my golfing goals, for many years I was able to trim strokes off each year.  Most of those strokes were easy to pick up by concentrating extra efforts on the short game.  For example, by reducing three putts in a round down from an average of 4 a round to an average of one per round automatically picks up 3 strokes on the handicap.

Unfortunately, the lower your handicap the tougher it becomes to shave a stroke, and that has been my challenge the last couple of years.  I have a goal of getting to scratch golf, but I need a different plan than the one that got me from teens to single digits.

It was this very topic I got advice from golf teaching professional and one of our expert panelists, Dick Drager.  We were talking about moving a player’s game to the next level.  He told me how he approached his students of all handicaps who have a desire to get better through a consistent improvement plan.  His advice was awesome, and I thought you would enjoy learning the three components for long term, consistent improvement of your golf game.

1.       Prioritize Your Greatest Area of Improvement

Dick recommended that a player take a look at where they see their game at right now.  Not just the handicap, but the whole game.  He likes to work from the green backward.  How is your putting, chipping, iron play, woods and recovery shots.

Pay attention to the greens hit in regulation, the fairways hit off the drive, the sand saves made, and three putts in a round.  Interestingly enough, I do keep all those stats in the prime of the season so the information is there for me.  Dick indicated that this will identify some areas a player will want to prioritize because the weaknesses are identified.

2.       Determine How Much Time You Are Going to Use to Work On Your Game

After you determine the areas you believe need improvement, you have to make a commitment for improvement —  that requires time practicing.  Be realistic about how much time you really think you will commit to practice.  I know guys who are out beating balls every day rain or shine and others who walk out of their car and to the first tee once a week or month.

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Once you know how much time you realistically can commit to practice, then you have to look at your game where you can have greatest area of improvement.  Allocate your practice time accordingly.  For example, if you generally hit 90% of the fairways off the tee, then don’t spend 50% of your time with a driver on the practice tee.  On the contrary, if your short game is terrible or you leave everything in the sand, then look to spend a majority of the your practice time around the green.

Spend a majority of your practice time on the area of the game that needs the most improvement.  Be realistic about how much time you have to practice and allocate it accordingly.

For me personally, this is probably the one big “Ah Ha” on my current handicap.  As I got busier at work, my practice time declined.  I need to change my allocation of time spent practicing in areas that will yield the highest amount of golf game and handicap improvement.

3.       Give a Target Handicap or Score

Compare where you realistically believe your handicap can get to for the year versus where it is currently.  Then figure out in each round what wasted strokes you need to eliminate to get to your goal.  So for example, if you are a 12 handicap and you want to become a single digit player, that means you need to trim an average of three or more strokes a round.  Can you take three fewer putts in a round, get up and down three more times, or hit three more greens in regulation?

It will probably be a combination of all this and more.  But the point is each one of these circumstances doesn’t seem like much at the time but over the course of the round they add up to what is your handicap.  Eliminating these wasted shots will help lower your handicap.

In my case as I would suspect in most golfers cases, the strokes are around the green.  Whether it be improvement in getting up and down due to improved chipping and sand play, or making more putts by honing in on the right distance, speed and accuracy on the green.  There are so many wasted strokes in most amateur’s game around the greens.

My New Outlook for 2012

In the past years when I set my annual golf goals, I really dug no deeper than to say I want to be a 4 handicap or a scratch handicap or whatever.  I never determined what I had to specifically do to get to that number.  By paying attention to where I am losing strokes out on the course, spending practice time on those areas that truly will yield the biggest payoff in scoring, and then taking it back out to the course focusing on bringing the key wasted strokes down, I will be able to also bring down my handicap.

And for those of us who are in the cold weather states with limited playing time for the next several months, this is a perfect time to work on areas that need improvement.  Every winter I work with a teaching pro to groove my swing.  We make minor adjustments and practice with repetition.  It’s much better to make these swing changes in the winter because I don’t get near as frustrated.  When I hit into a net, I can’t tell how really bad it is.  My objective is to groove the new swing over the winter and be ready for my best golf in the 2012 season.

Set your goals now and let’s see how low we can go in 2012!!!

This article was written by Mike Root in collaboration with Dick Drager.

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