Following on from my last article (2020 Review – Rookie Golfer Blog) where I reviewed my golf in 2020, it’s time to now focus on keeping the momentum I had at the end of the year.
It’s that time of the year where we all set personal goals, it’s a little cheesy I know and it’s a little tougher due to the situation we are all in.
So my golf goal is simply to play in the 80’s, I’m not going to set a handicap goal.
Before we jump to far into the article, this article is going to cover the why and the how. Something we all need to make sure is done when we are setting any type of goal…
Again, my goal is simple, its not exhaustive and not complicated.
To repeat it, I want to play sub 90 rounds of golf as an average for 2021. Why? Again it’s simple I just want to play better golf, I want my handicap to drop and with the new WHS at my home course I play off of 18 in competitions. If I play in the 80’s the likelihood of my handicap reducing is high.
So why set a goal, no it’s a not a trend for me. I say that as we approach New Years (as I’m writing this) I see a lot of people talking about their golf goals.. It’s the annual social media post we all expect, the thing that bugs me the most though is when I see list of things like the below for example:
Greens in Reg – 35%
Fairways in Reg – 65%
Make “X” pars/bridies
Play “X” Amount of rounds
When I see this, I generally believe that this is being done for the sake of it, because it’s the thing to do especially on social media. Take the list above, why is it being done? What is the purpose of hitting that goal? Does it have a bigger impact on your golf? Do they understand how to do it? I’m not saying this because I know how to do it, what you will see later on is how I will attempt to do it specially for me.
I could simply ask every person who posts a goal like that above the question why to every single point…. What I would hope the answer is, would be the actual goal that should be set, but in some cases there wont be a reason to why or one that’s so fluffy it might as well be a cloud. In simple terms its a “nice to have”
Q: Why do you want to have 100 pars this year?
A: Because it would be nice to say i have had 100 pars.
Example A – of course it’s a goal, but does it serve a purpose? What does it actually mean is there a long term benefit. Or is it just a status symbol? I’d also challenge the how of it… how are you going to achieve 100 pars? By playing better golf right? but how are you going to play better golf? See where im going with this, the goal lacks a little bit of substance, but it’s still a goal and for some having a 100 pars is a nice to have, i get that but it lacks a few elements that’s all I’m saying.
You might be able to guess I’m a big fan of setting goals and objectives correctly.
For example B;
Q: Why do you want to achieve all from the list above?
A: Because it will bring my handicap down to “x”.
BINGO!! There is the goal, what needs to be focused on next is the how, which leads me perfectly to my next section. How I’m going to prepare and plan best to achieve my goal.
I personally have broken this down into 4 areas, nothing is rocket science, and nothing is new but i have a plan on how to give myself the best chance of braking 90.
They have been so important for me this year. Yes they cost money and can take time away from playing. However, for me they are a solid golf investment, having lessons every month to month and half as check in is the initial plan. I find this gives me enough time to work on what we went through in the previous lesson but also a good amount of time for a bad habit to creep in to.
If I’m struggling with something in particular, I might go back to look at that, but fingers crossed that’s not needed.
So that means I will be getting between 9 to 12 lessons in over the course of the year. A mix between practice ground training and when the weather breaks a few of them will be on course lessons.
It’s a solid start and knowing I have this as a foundation to work around based on the progress I feel I’ve made puts me in good stead to start the year.
This serves two purpose, firstly because I just love playing golf.
Secondly, it’s the situational pressure and the variety of shots needing to be made in each round that just can not be replicated anywhere else. How else can you start to understand your game if you are not out on the course pressure testing yourself.
Finally I want to play in more competitions and/or with lower handicap golfers. I find I can learn more from this. Seeing how single digit handicappers navigate the course and the club sections they make i get a good level of benefit from.
Practice – and with a purpose
To coincide with this blog, i am posting 4 videos on the practice element of my plan. The Shot Game video is now up on YouTube ( Rooke Golfer on YouTube) – if you head over there could i ask you all a favour to like and subscribe.. If they go down well I’ll be looking to post more videos thought the year.
Back to practice, take most sports, more aimed at the professional aspect of it but it’s still relatable to us as amateurs. Most sports people spend more time practicing compared to doing or competing. Take football as an example, the team and players will train through out the week for multiple hours per day just to play 90mins. The practice and preparation takes more time than that actually doing. Why? Because they are trained and prepared fully for the 90mins that counts.
Generally, us golfers do a “Winter Grind”, and as soon as the weather breaks its golf course only. I fully understand and I am also fully tempted to do the same, but I need to work on things to make the most of my time on the course. I’m also not saying that we should be at the range more than the course, but we do need to put some work in to improve.
This may sound like a contradiction to my previous point of I want to play more golf. In reality even in the summer one round a week is probably going to be it for me. I might be able to squeeze in the odd mid round game in the summer but not consistently. So, I’ll be using my midweek time to practice and more importantly do it with a purpose.
What is he on about some of you may be asking? When I say practice with a purpose, it simple is making sure that when I practice it’s as effective as it can be. It has taken me the best part of 3 years to understand that it’s not all about hitting driver down the range. Each practice session needs to have a purpose, you must be working on something that you can judge or get instant results back from. There is not point in every session trying something different, I’ll be looking to add either a drill or a practice plan based on what I’ve been doing in my lessons. Finally the practice has to be tangible; I’ve broken my practice down into the below areas that are personalised to me (but can be used by anyone, they may just need some tweaks) .
Short Game (putting, chipping)
One of the easiest things for me to practice as I have a lot of what I need to practice this in my back garden. Plus, the ranges and golf courses are still shut here in Wales.
Chipping has become a bit of a strength for me towards the end of the year. Following a lesson i was given a repeatable technique and how to achieve a few different shots depending on the situation I’m in.
For my chipping I try to focus on landing areas, club selection will help with how much release I want but I still need to hit the right spot. I have my own home made landing spots (version 2 in the making). This focuses all my attention towards landing on these small landing pads. I can vary the length of shot which helps. Having that single spot to land on focuses both my eyes, mind and technique to execute. I’ll be measuring the distance as well, just to try and embed the feeling of what a 20 yard chip feels like for when I’m on the course I can hopefully visualise this as if I’m in the garden.
Overall the result I’m looking for is to give myself an increased opportunity to get up and down for par or bogey and reduce the amount of doubles from leaving myself to far from the hole from my initial chip.
Putting – my home green is fast and has a few breaks. Having a drill to work on currently alludes me. I want to focus on pace putting and making sure i can hit a start line or target. In the interim i will be doing a little challenge with 4 balls. All in the centre for the green and 1 putt toward each hole. How many can i hole. I will be setting up to these as if i was on the course.
100 Yards & In
An area that when it’s off it’s off. Even my best rounds at the end of the year I was hitting these heavy and coming up short. It was my short game that saved me. I do not want to be overly reliant on my short game, if I lean on it too much it runs the risk of me putting to much pressure on it and it failing when I need it to work the most.
To practice this, I really need the range or the practice area of Derllys Court. Something that isn’t available yet. When it does, the drills I will be working are based on my last lesson. Get my set up correct and then start hitting targets within 100 yards with multiple clubs. Working on controlling my swing and using different clubs to give me multiple options for taking the shot on the course. For example a 90 yard shot with a 52 degree wedge and pitching wedge.
What I would really like to have is a launch monitor to help me with target practice but that’s not a reality just yet and its not the end of the world.
The outcome here is to give myself options for different shots, but hit more greens when I’m inside scoring zone.
Generally, I’m really happy with my iron play, nothing majorly wrong with it but there are always improvements to search for. My swing and control is now greatly improved and because of this it allows me to practice better and experiment.
Practice element needs a range, going through my bag from 9-5 irons I’m looking for consistently.
Block Practice – I will be taking 10 shots with each club at the same target, giving myself a dispersion range either side. I’m looking for 5 of the 10 shots to be on target and work up from there as the year progresses.
Varying Practice – 3 shots with each club at 3 different targets. Can I hit varying targets. This will pressure test my set up. I’m looking for 2 of the 3 to be on target.
Experimenting – this may sound fancier than it is. I naturally fade the ball not my much but it’s a fade. I want to spend a little time working on shot shapes. I want to test myself can I hit a draw and understand how I can hit a bigger fade (not slice!) if needed. I understand the basis for doing both, but what I want to really get to is a shot and shot shape I can 100% rely on if I’m having a hard time.
Off The Tee
I’m really happy with the progress I made here in 2020. I do not carry a driver or 3 wood (something I’ll be looking into this year I think). I have recently added a Ping G410 3 hybrid to the bag, which serves me really well off the tee. Due to the length I can hit it, it can cause me problems if I don’t hit my mark thought based on my carry distances.
I have a fall back to my 5 iron which is a fairway finder from me, a 4 iron is on the cards as well.
The hybrid gives me distance leaving me less in on my second shots, which is something i want to be doing more of in 2021. Having shorter shots into the green. So I need to work on my confidence and turn this into a fairway finder as well. Especially if I’m looking to add a driver into the bag, the 3 hybrid needs to be my fall back.
It’s all about my swing tempo with longer clubs. So my practice with the hybrid will be predominantly block practice to start. Same target with at least 10 balls working on getting it online and understanding my shot shape with it. Imbedding the right tempo and understanding my limitations, if I swing to fast I tend to pull or hook it.
What does a rookie range session look like?
My aim is not to work on 100 yards and in, iron play and off the tee in every range session. However, I will be trying to put two areas into each range session as I have to be realistic about the amount of time I can practice with a family at home and work commitments.
1 range session, 1 short game and a round of golf a week I believe is achievable and will be greatly improved on what I’ve been doing.
Last but not least, and believe it or not I felt as if it was only December that I realised the importance of mindset for golf. I’ve not read any books so don’t worry I’m not going to ram some reverberated knowledge that I don’t have but have read about at you. Just a few points that really had an impact for me.
One shot at a time – sounds simple but I would usually have part of my thought process on my next shot. Thinking what shot I wanted or was going to hit into the green… Wrong!!
Play each shot as it comes and only play/think of that shot. Each shot serves a purpose and I have been giving that shot my full attention. As I write this it sounds stupid that I would even write that, but in reality for me at least that’s not where my head as been at in most rounds. Trusting my swing to the point where I’m not thinking about my swing just making the shot.
I’ve also found myself switching off between shots, to then focus fully when I’m eyeing up the next shot. This really helped me with the bad shots, I’d take a little time before walking off the tee or away from the divot to understand what caused that bad shot. Acknowledge it then walk on and play the next shot and not let the negative shot creep back into my mind. It’s hard to focus for 3 or 4 hours straight, so I’m working on focusing when needed.
I can’t impact a past or future shot.. Sounds easy and obvious but for me I was never fully there with each shot. How about you? Do you find the mental side of the game tough?
Control – For me control starts with my mindset, its a big element to my swing but control at this point for me is all in my head. I’ve said it a few times of late, I have more control over my swing than I did this time last year. Not hitting a shot full out is now my norm, also taking the ego out of it is helping. Just because I can hit my pitching wedge 120/125 doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t hit a 9iron the same distance, if that’s what the shot calls for then that’s what I should be doing. I’ve moved away from trying to muscle a club because that distance I think I should be hitting a wedge. Having the ability to control my swing and hit different clubs roughly the same distance reinforces that control should be part of every shot and every round. Ultimately given me a better chance of playing to a higher standard of golf.
So that being said it’s time to get out in the garden! Hopefully this has given you a bit of an insight into my golf goal for 2021 and how I’m going to achieve it.
For any of you thinking or those that have already set a goal, ask yourself why you’ve set it and have you got a plan on how your going to do it? Remember saying you need to hit 50% of fairways is not a how… If you are not hitting that already you need to work on how you are going to do that…
Feel free to drop me a comment or ask me any questions on my goals or if you want to chat about yours.
Until Next Time, Stay Safe, Happy New Year and Happy Golfing