Why You Should Track Your Golf Practice

Am I Getting Better?

Every golfer has, at one time or another, wondered if they’ll be stuck forever at their current level of play.  Golf can be particularly cruel in this regard.  Improvement can be hard to come by, and the final score is not always a good indication of the quality of your play.

If you’re looking for a way to both improve faster and see your development in clear, certain terms, I have the solution.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You aren’t sure if you’re improving

You’re practicing but not getting better

You feel like your range game doesn’t match your on course game

Why You Should Track Your Practice

I know that tracking your practice doesn’t sound like fun, but let me give you six reasons why it’s something every serious golfer should be doing.

#1 Creating Correct Expectations

My favorite reason for tracking is that it helps you to create realistic expectations for your game.  You won’t go to the course expecting to split every fairway if your practice log shows that half your drives are sliced into the next county.  This will lead to more enjoyable rounds of golf and…

#2 Improving Your On-Course Strategy

With this newfound wealth of data, you’ll be able to make better decisions on the course.  You may realize that you tend to pull most of your iron shots.  With this knowledge, you can aim a little further right and hit more greens in regulation.  You can learn what your typical driver dispersion is and aim appropriately.  You might also learn that certain clubs need to stay out of the gamer bag until you can wield them more effectively.

#3 Boosting Stakes & Accountability

One of the biggest problems with hitting balls on the range is that there are no stakes: you can always rake another ball and forget about the bad shot.  However, if you’re tracking every shot, each swing matters.  No one wants to write, “I laid the sod over it” in their practice log, so you focus harder and feel a little pressure.  This will make your practice more game-like.

#4 Maintaining Focus

How many times have you gone to the range to work on one thing only to abandon it when a new swing thought comes across your mind?  How many times have you skipped out on fixing your 3W when the first three swings went badly?

If you’re tracking your practice, you’re more likely to go into the session with a clear goal and stick to it.

#5 Slowing You Down

We all know that there’s no prize for emptying your bucket of range balls first, but the majority of golfers that I see are hitting multiple shots per minute.  By tracking the result of each shot, you’re forced to stop and consider the result before hitting the next ball.  This makes your practice more game-like which means it will translate better to the course.

#6 Tracking Long Term Improvement

Every golfer has had the thought, “I’m just not getting any better.”  If you keep track of your practice sessions over several weeks or more, you’ll have a way to get out of that rut.  You can look back and see your improvement in black and white.

Alternately, your practice log will act as a reality check.  When you’re feeling lousy about your game, a look at your log will help you realize, “Wow, I haven’t had a focused practice session in two weeks…I should temper my expectations.”  Or, if you’ve been practicing but not improving, it might be time to get a lesson.

Track What Matters to You

For any given golf swing, you could track a multitude of different things, particularly if you have a launch monitor.  Off the top of my head, I would list swing feel/thought, ground contact, face contact, swing path, club face, ball flight, distance, dispersion, and trajectory.

Don’t try to track everything.  Think about the things that matter the most to you and that you want to work on.

For the beginner, it is sufficient to track something about contact, a swing thought, and a simple note on the result.  At the beginner/high handicap stage, you don’t need to worry about the difference between a cut and a push-cut, but you might note whether the shot was good, bad, or in the middle.  Those terms are, of course, subjective, but each player knows what shots will make them happy on the course.

For the mid or low handicap player, limiting your focus can be almost as valuable as the tracking itself.  To pick the right data points, you need to understand specifically what you’re trying to improve.  In my own game, the focus is on keeping the driver on the planet, so I’m tracking swing thought, contact quality, ball flight, and accuracy result.  If you’re in the middle of a swing change, you might be more process-oriented and track swing path or club face.  A very skilled player might track how well they can control shot shapes and trajectory.

How to Track Your Practice

Tracking your practice can take any number of forms.  My advice is to try different things and then use whatever method you find sustainable.  Here are three options:

Pen & Paper

Whether you print out a template, use a small notepad, or write on an old receipt, this is a foolproof method.  If you want a template, there’s a Google Sheet linked below.

Smart Phone

This is the approach that I’ve found most useful.  I use the Google Keep app and make a quick note after each shot.  I’ve developed a shorthand where I can track the quality of contact, ball flight, and result in less than 20 characters.

Launch Monitor

A lot of consumer-grade launch monitors will keep a record of your shots for you.  I particularly like the Voice Caddie SC300i [review HERE] and its app for this purpose.

IMPORTANT: While it does add another step, I would strongly recommend compiling the results of your range sessions in one place so you can see the long term trends in your game.  I’ve created a Google Sheet that you’re welcome to use HERE.  Ignore the “View Only” message, open the sheet, and click File -> Make a Copy to have your own version.

You Don’t Always Need to Track

Hopefully I’m stating the obvious by saying this, but here it goes: you don’t need to track every single practice session. 

As I’ve written about HERE, there are different types of practice sessions.  I think tracking your practice makes the most sense in a General Improvement setting, which should be the majority of your sessions if you’re trying to get better.  Tracking might also make sense in an Emergency Intervention session as it can help you find out what is and isn’t working.  However, if you’re looking to build a little confidence and knock the rust off, you can leave tracking for another day.

What elements of your practice do you track?  Tell us in the comments section!

Matt Saternus
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  1. Nathan Belcher

    Matt — great article!

    I use a 5′ x 7′ notecard to track several items:
    – Club
    – Balance: Did I finish the swing in a balanced position? (Options are “check” or “X.”)
    – Intended Shot: Did I hit the intended shot? If not, which direction did I miss? (Options for the intended shot are “straight,” “cut,” or “draw;” options for the miss are “left,” “straight,” or “right.”)

    As an example, let’s say I’m hitting a medium-height cut 6-iron. I hit the shot with a full and balanced finish, but the ball goes straight instead of cutting. My tracking would be a checkmark for finishing on balance, writing “cut” for the intended shot and scratching through the word “cut” and writing “straight.”

    After finishing a session, I compile the data in a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet allows me to quickly see which clubs I need to use in practice and gauge whether or not I’m improving my intended shot percentage.

    All the best!

  2. Thanks – I use a basic sheet on the course, it does become consuming when attempting to play and record prev shot – I will persist and know that is an essential tool to lower scores

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