Is The Goal Not Really The Hole?

Is The Goal Not Really The Hole?


How many of the goals you set at the beginning of the year have you met?

With four full months left to play, we’re just a bit past the halfway point in the golfing season. Did you really improve your game?

If not, a more important question would be, did you set the right goals for yourself?

In the years that I’ve been around golf, I’ve heard of many kinds of goals coming from recreational players all the way up to professional golfers. I can assure you that 95% of the time, the goals I’ve heard were all of the same nature.

I want to break 100 (or 90, or 80, or 70…)
I want to avoid 3-putts.
I want to lower my handicap by (insert the number of strokes here) strokes.
I want to hit my driver 250 yards.
I want to win Class B in my next tournament.
I want to make the cut.
I want a top-10 finish.

While the goals above seem quite varied, you will notice that they all focus on one thing: results.

In sport psychology, we call these outcome goals. The big problem with outcome goals is that you have no direct control over them.

Simply put, you just can’t predict winning championships. If this were the right way, then we all would be hoisting the Claret Jug by now. And if you think you can predict all these results, then you’re just setting yourself up for major disappointment (and probably a bad case of low self-esteem after your round).

Think about the nuances of golf for a moment– even if you hit the perfect shot, you can’t control which direction the ball kicks (or the direction that that low-hanging branch kicks it to). Think Ernie Els 6-putting at the 1st hole of this year’s Masters or Jordan Spieth shanking to the water of the 12th in that same event, and you’ll realize that golf is cruel that way, and that focusing on results will only rub the proverbial salt deeper into your wounds.

That’s why the right kind of goals to set are process goals, not outcome goals.

Let me be clear– golf is still a sport that you still want to win (we all do!). We also want to achieve all the usual good results that have defined success in this game. But the key to attaining these results is in the process.

In short, focus on the little steps you need to take, the specific actions and behaviors that will allow you to execute a particular shot with consistency and the desired quality. Then, and only then, will the results come.

Let’s choose the dreaded “avoid the 3 putts” scenario I mentioned earlier to illustrate how my concept applies.

First thing you’d naturally want to think of is your putting process. Instead of saying, I’ll try to hole it out with 1 putt, or putt it close to get a tap-in and ensure the 2-putt, you’re better off asking yourself, what are the important parts of my entire putting process that gives me a 2-putt at worst?

It could be your grip, your stance, your timing, or the way you’re rolling the ball. Whatever it is that you’ve identified is what you should break down into little steps. If it’s your timing, then maybe you’d want to take 10 putts using your ideal timing and then (now this is the crucial part) TRACK those 10 putts.

Score yourself.

Out of those 10 putts, how many times were you able to use your ideal timing? The higher percentage you score every time, the higher the chances of you avoiding the dreaded 3-putt situation.

In the same scenario, you can also focus on your chipping and pitching to get your short game on point so that you don’t need to stress a lot about your actual putting.

If you can throw darts at the hole from under 120 yards so that all you’re left is a tap-in, then that should also help you avoid 3-putting.

Go ahead and break your short game down—can you go through your mental routine in at least 8 out of 10 pitches when you’re on the range? Are you correctly following your swing sequence in 15 out of 20 shots? Are you aware of your breathing in each of your shots?

Four months left in the year, four months of golf to play.

The more you focus and work on attaining process goals, the more easily your desired results will follow. As more of your desired results happen, then the more you start enjoying the game.