Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden frequently told his players: “If you fail to plan … you are just planning to fail.” Nowhere is this better illustrated than a golfer who is simply going through the motions and hoping for good things to happen. They swing with no plan or intent of what they should be doing. No matter how hard they try, their results fall short of what they wanted.
Great golf simply doesn’t happen by chance. Great golf shots and golf rounds are formulated by a creative, single-shot focus that requires planning and foresight.
Creating a plan for an entire season is even more difficult. We often talk of setting goals when the year begins, but goals sometimes lose their luster or we fail to comply. What you need is an action plan to keep you on track to your personal and daily golf agenda. Below are a few mental tips to help you plan your 2018.
For starters, take inventory of your game. As any manager of a large warehouse will tell you, it is important to take stock of what you have on hand and what you might need in the future. As a golfer, you need to take stock of what went well during the past season and also reflect on areas needing improvement in terms of equipment, clubs, practice time and competition.
Above all else, the one thing you have to be is totally honest in your self assessment. Get ready to write down your thoughts:
Clubs and equipment
For a majority of golfers, there simply isn’t any logical reason to play clubs that are ill-fitted for you. In this day of club-fitting and advanced technology, no one should use clubs of vintage age or performance. It is ludicrous for anyone to play clubs that do not fit them, or to play clubs just because a favorite Tour players uses that model. The days of thin, forged blades and long irons have gone the way of the eight-track tape and audio cassette.
Take the time to go to a reputable club-fitter and hit a variety of clubs with different head shapes, weights and shafts. You will be amazed at how much difference a proper change in equipment can make.
Physical training and increased flexibility/strength
While clubs and technology can increase your overall ball speed and distance, nothing can make a more dramatic change in your overall performance than being physically fit.
No matter your age or talent level, the value of being able to turn your body, shoulders and hips with greater ease via stretching and yoga exercises is vital to adding a few yards to your game. It also reduces the risk of injury. If you haven’t worked out before, check with your doctor to see if you are able to participate.
Working with a certified instructor or fitness professional trained in golf can produce feelings of power, strength, flexibility and wellness. Being physically fit also helps create a focused mind and promotes a more efficient, dynamic swing. The top Tour players all know the importance of being athletically fit. You should adopt a “fitness” mindset for 2018, as well.
Focus on your weak areas
Aside from seeing your PGA or LPGA teacher for regular checkups or creating lesson schedules, a major focus before the new season is to sit down and make a report card that grades each club and area of your game. Start with your driver, fairway woods, hybrids, long irons and so forth until you have completed all areas through putting. By giving yourself an honest grade in each area, you will know right away which areas need more deliberate practice.
It is human nature to work only on the areas where we feel comfortable and confident, but we need to force ourselves to improve our weaknesses as well. Shying away from our trouble clubs or areas because we are feeling insecure is no answer to creating lasting and real improvement.
For example, if your wedge game from 50-80 yards is weak, you need to budget time to strengthen that area. Failure to address a weak segment in your game is like the weakest link in a chain – it will always feel stressed and come apart under pressure. In tournaments, those weak areas tend to be most exposed.
Take the time to practice smarter. Hit clubs and shots that provide confidence, but also practice on those areas that create stress and trepidation. Do not keep clubs
in your bag if you are afraid to hit them – either
develop competence with them or replace them.
Create a mission statement
This is a personal playing philosophy that is based on what you want to accomplish, not only during the course of the season, but how you want to play each day. A powerful statement about your process is a good place to start.
For example, if you feel that you are focusing too much on results or score, your mission statement should be: “This year, I am going to focus on playing one shot at a time and everything will take care of itself.” Providing yourself with a mission statement will help you stay on task and ultimately provide you with purposeful intent on every shot.
But remember, your mission statement is about you and what you want to achieve. It should be personal, inspirational and informational. Direct your mind to how you want to play and stick to your golf action plan throughout the year. You soon will be rewarded.
Dr. Bob Winters is an internationally renowned sport psychologist who works with champion golfers around the world. Contact him at www.drbobwinters.com.
(Note: This story appears in the January 2018 issue of Golfweek.)