Goal Setting for Better Golf

Let's makethis work.

Every golfer has goals, but very few golfers have good goals.  Why do good goals matter?  Because, to paraphrase the Cheshire Cat, “If you don’t know where you want to end up, it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Without good goals, your practice is purposeless and improvement is unlikely.  In this lesson, I’m going to explain what good goals are and how to create them.

This Lesson Is For You If:

Your game is stuck in a rut

You’re unsure how to improve

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Short Term Goals – Get SMART

Most golfers fail to set short term goals.  You need short term goals to get you from week to week, and those short term goals need to be SMART.  SMART is a popular acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Let’s think of an average golfer’s short term goal.

“I want to improve my putting.” – Golfer Who Isn’t Going to Get Better

This is the opposite of SMART, it’s dumb.  It’s not specific or measurable, so it can’t be achievable or realistic, and it’s not time-bound.

Let’s make this goal SMART.  “I’m currently 3-putting twice per round.  By the end of the month, I want that to be less than once per round.”  This goal is specific and measurable, and it’s probably achievable and realistic if this golfer is willing to practice.  It’s also time-bound.

Can we make that goal even better?  Yes.  “I’m currently 3-putting twice per round, and I know that it’s because my lag putting is poor.  By the end of the month, I want to go an entire round without a second putt longer than 3 feet.”  This checks all the SMART boxes, but it’s even more specific.

Practice Schedule

Make a Plan – Stay SMART

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Your game isn’t going to improve by hoping.  You need a plan to make it happen.  When making your plan, stay SMART.

Specific – “I’m going to go practice putting” is garbage.  How are you going to practice?  What drills are you going to do?  How do those drills relate to your goals?  “I’m going to do the Around the World drill with 4-footers until I make 50 putts,” is a specific plan.

Measurable – Chart your performance in practice to add pressure and to see if you’re improving.  The first day you may take 75 putts to make 50.  Try to beat that on day two.

Achievable & Realistic – “I’m going to practice for six hours every day!” is a recipe for failure and disappointment.  We have jobs, spouses, kids, houses…we are busy!  That doesn’t mean you can’t practice, it just means you need to set up a routine you can stick to.  Make it easy on yourself.  If you want to practice putting, get a little putting mat for the house so you can hit ten putts a day rather than skipping days where you can’t drive to the course.

Time-Bound – Figure out how much time you can and want to commit to practice, and do that.  “I’m going to practice four days a week for thirty minutes each time until the end of the month.”  At the end of the month, check on your goals and your progress, and make a new plan.

My Golfing Goals

Long Term Goals – Stretch

SMART goals drive improvement, but the big picture goals drive us.  This is where you can pick a big, audacious goal – just be specific.  “By the end of the season, I want my handicap to be under 10.”  “I want to crack 110 MPH of club head speed.”  “I want to shoot one round in the 60’s.”  These big picture goals will guide your SMART short term goals.

Make the Commitment

Write down your stretch goals, your SMART goals, and your plan.  Write them on a huge poster and put it up in your bedroom or your office so you see it every day.  Post them on social media or a forum.  Tell your friends and your golfing buddies.

Taking steps to commit yourself to your goals is a huge part of accomplishing them.  If they only exist in your head, they’re easy to forget or ignore.  If you make a real commitment to them, you’ve already taken the first step toward accomplishing them.

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Matt Saternus

Co-founder, Director of Instruction at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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2 Comments

  1. Very nice read. I try to break down my swing into what I do well and what I do not do so well. Right now my biggest problem seem to be staying in posture or standing up and flattening out my shoulder turn. Do you feel like it’s good to work on one element at a time in your swing? At the range I get so many thoughts going through my head. Hip rotation.wrist angles, what my left and right shoulder should be doing and on and on. There are so many different parts of the swing to get right sometimes I don’t know what to work on and what to just set aside until later. I wonder how I could break down swing goals?

    • Tom,

      My overriding thought when I read you comment is, “What are you trying to accomplish?” I see many golfers and teachers making changes for the sake of appearance and losing sight on the real goal: hitting the ball better and shooting lower scores.

      I would strongly recommend taking a look at Adam Young’s Strike Plan: http://pluggedingolf.com/the-strike-plan-review/

      Best,

      Matt