Goal Time

Reach the next level of your game

If you want your game to reach the next level, you need to set strong goals. Setting goals does many things, including clarifying specifically what you want to accomplish and the type of actions you need to take to reach your goal.
At the beginning of each season, I encourage my students to create a goal that has a very specific end result, like lowering one’s handicap. Such so-called “outcome goals” need to be created with the following steps in mind:

• They need to be specific and measurable:

How will you know when you accomplished it?
• They should be time-sensitive:
When will you accomplish this goal by?
• They should be challenging:
It should be a goal that’s outside your current comfort zone.
• They should excite you:
It’s a goal that will make you want to practice.

When setting goals, remember to push yourself. They should be hard to accomplish and will therefore help you raise your standard of performance. Weak goals on the other hand only produce weak results.

Once you’ve set your goal (for example, “to be a scratch golfer”), the next step is to set a time frame in which you can accomplish it. Divide your goals into three ranges: long-term (three years or more) middle (one to three years) and short-term (under a year).

Start with your ultimate long-term goal, then break it down into a couple short-term goals. Once you’ve done that, you’ll know what steps you need to take to arrive at your end goal. Setting short-term goals will boost your confidence because you’ve formulated a realistic plan of action.

Consider this imaginary situation: A junior’s ultimate goal is to play on one of the pro Tours. From there, she must move backwards on a timeline, to take her ultimate goal and break it down into bite-sized pieces. Here’s an example.

Ultimate Goal: to win a major championship
Granted, that’s a very high goal. But that’s okay. Remember, we want to set challenging goals. The next thing you should chart is your current level. Be honest. In my scenario, the golfer is a junior who’s a 5 handicap. She’s good, but not eliteyet.

From a 5-handicap golfer to a major winner
If your only goal as a 5-handicapper is to win a major championship, you’ll easily get frustrated and disillusioned. In fact, you’d be so far away from accomplishing it, that you’d soon lose motivation. The purpose of this timeline exercise is to know what you need to do now in order to reach your long-term goal. Filling in the timeline creates smaller, more realistic goals as you advance toward your ultimate goal. The rest of the timeline exercise is to fill in the measurable goals that will lead to the highest outcome goal. These are progressively more difficult accomplishments in the order that they would happen. I’ve filled in the rest of the timeline below to illustrate.

Timeline Exercise

5 handicap
Scratch handicap
College player
Top amateur
Win a professional mini-Tour event
Qualify for the PGA Tour
Contend in a PGA Tour event
Win a PGA Tour event
Contend in a major championship
And finally…win a major championship

A golfer could win a major without accomplishing all the other steps, but it’s highly unlikely. Sure, young players have skipped college to turn pro, but there are only a few who have accomplished the previous steps and are ready for the next level of professional golf. Even top amateurs have found the transition to the next level more challenging than they thought it would be. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and think we’re ready for the next level, so my advice is this:
Identify your ultimate goal and work backwards. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Accomplish your smaller goals and improve one step at a time.

There are two more steps to the goal setting process. Look for them in my book, Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game.

Rick Sessinghaus, PGA, teaches at Chevy Chase Country Club in Glendale, Calif., and is the author of Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game. For more information, visit ricksessinghaus.com.

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