Expectations are a big part of everything we do, and it’s important that your golf expectations align with how well you’re preparing to play the game. Are your practice and warm-up activities giving you the best opportunity to play great, or are you taking this part of your game for granted?
Your golf preparation regimen should ideally include investing time and energy in five specific performance areas — your technique, your physical condition, your course management, your emotional management, and strengthening your mental game. And your planning should include attaining long-term goals, as well as achieving consistent pre-round readiness. Let’s look at both.
When working with golfers of all levels I like to center some of our time around mapping out specific milestones they’d like to reach on a quarterly basis. If you desire to make lasting improvements in your game you should consider how you might level up each of these 5 performance areas in your own game.
Start by asking yourself questions like ~
- Do I have any gaps in my technical game that are costing me strokes?
- Is my energy level staying steady throughout an 18 hole round?
- Are there any holes on my home course (or another course I play often or would like to play better) that consistently cause me some trouble or stress?
- Are there shots I hope to avoid?
- Am I regularly finishing a round stronger than I started?
- Are there situations on the course (or with people) that really frustrate, distract, or rattle me?
- Are my general statistics improving, flat-lining, or degrading (driving distance, fairways hit, greens in regulation, sand saves, up and downs, putts per round)?
- Do I approach every round like I’m playing a competitive round?
- Are my good shots on the range showing up on the course?
- Am I consistently playing with 100% confidence and trust in my game?
Hopefully, you get the idea. Goal mapping begins with some investigative work so that you can make a list of target areas, prioritize the list, and then start with the first item on the list. It’s a good idea to select a target area where you can get a solid return on your investment of time, and is the easiest part of your game to improve right now.
Setting your improvement strategy might include seeking out an expert for training (nutritionist, swing coach, strength and conditioning coach, or sports psychologist), having a consultation, and carving out the time and resources to begin developing your game in priority area number one.
Establish incremental improvement goals you can measure to know that your investment is moving your game in the desired direction and set realistic deadlines for improvement. If you are fortunate enough to play golf year round you can spread target goals and milestones out over an entire calendar year and work on one after the other. If your golf season is shorter, then set out a plan to achieve specific smaller goals in the time you have to work on them. This is a long-term and systematic approach to improvement so commit to the process on an extended timeline.
While it’s important to create a plan and commit to making long-term improvements in your game, it’s equally important to fully leverage what you already possess. To maximize your strengths in the five performance areas on a daily basis you must prepare yourself to unlock them during every round. Just like your long-term planning, success on a daily basis is achievable with a pre-round checklist.
This is as essential to your daily success as is making sure your clubs are in the car before you leave for the course. Think about the necessity of pre-action checklists that are used by surgeons, the military, pilots and other professionals. The purpose of a pre-round checklist is to increase your success rate when it comes to the things you can control. I have provided a short checklist as a guideline for you to begin using below ~
Step 1 – Choose the right mindset
Nothing will work well if you aren’t leading with the right mindset. Make the decision to strive for excellence in every aspect of your approach to golf rather than settling for average. To achieve excellence, you must actually believe it’s possible for you to play with excellence. And bear in mind that this is not the same thing as striving for perfection which is unattainable. You need to know what excellence is like, that you have what you need to play with excellence, and that you possess the discipline to not give any less than your best. Believe that you will be successful to the best or your ability and strive to achieve it shot by shot no matter what.
Step 2 – Commit to good self-care habits
To play at your best you must take care of yourself every day too. This means making a point to be well-rested, well-fed, on time, and warmed up so you are in your best physical state when the round begins. This is no less important to do in advance of a friendly round than it is in advance of a competitive round.
Step 3 – Give yourself permission to be present
Think about the distractions that can wreak havoc on a shot during a round when you allow your thoughts to be stuck in the past (thinking about a poor shot you just hit) or too far ahead in the future (thinking about your score), or both places at the same time. If you don’t have 100% of your focus on the task at hand you won’t be ready to infuse 100% quality into your next shot. The same thing happens when you allow yourself to be distracted by things off the course while you’re on the course. To play with excellence you must be fully present. So give yourself permission to leave life at home and commit all your attention to your round from start to finish.
Step 4 – Follow a trust-building warm-up routine
A lot of golfers will use their warm-up to practice, to work out swing glitches, and to focus on their mechanics. In order to be ready to play with excellence, you must get your mind, not just your body, into play mode. Your pre-round warm-up should be the time when you are warming up your pre- and post-shot routines, getting a sense of the “A” game you have in the bag for the day, and simulating aspects of live play. For more information on developing an effective pre-round warm-up routine, I invite you to download a free copy of my Guide to a Great Warm-Up when you CLICK HERE
Carve out some time this week to consider some long-term goals for your game, as well as a pre-round readiness checklist. Leave me a comment below and let me know what your biggest obstacle to getting more out of your game is.