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The Mental Game: Go Beyond SMART Goals



In my last article, I discussed how to kick-start your focus and create positive actions through the use of goal setting. Due to the positive reception and requests for more details about SMART goals, I would like to follow it up.

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

Specific — Measurable — Attainable — Realistic — Timely

It’s a fantastic guide for how to write powerful goals that we use daily with all of our students at The Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy.

Goals should be written in a specific manner, as opposed to general. For instance, it’s better to write the goal, “I want to practice my short game” rather than something general such as, “I want to improve.” Saying you want to “improve” gives no specific direction, but focusing on short game provides more detail.

The conscious and unconscious mind is like a missile. If the mind is launched with no parameters, then your thoughts can end up going in any direction, just like a stray missile. If you provide a specific target, however, the launch is all but assured to hit its target. Giving a specific direction for your mind and body to focus on is critical to setting goals.

The goal of “I want to practice my short game” can be taken further by adding a measurable component. Writing “I want to practice an hour a day,” provides even more detail and is a great way to measure your progress. At the end of every day, you can ask yourself, “Did I or did I not practice for an hour today?” You will be able to easily tell if you accomplished your task. On top of this, you can have a calendar at home and check off every day that you practice your short game for an hour, making it easier to track your progress.

Goals can be made both attainable and realistic with two simple questions: Can I? and Will I?

  • Can I accomplish this goal? If yes, the goal is attainable.
  • Will I accomplish this goal? If yes, the goal is realistic.

If you can answer: “Yes! I will practice my short game an hour a day.” Then your goal is both attainable and realistic.

The final and perhaps most important component to SMART goals is making sure the goal is timely and/or having a timeframe, also known as a deadline. To add a dimension of time to this goal, write something like: “I will practice my short game an hour a day each day this week.” You can also add another time frame and actually schedule a specific time to complete your goal, which I highly recommend! Simply saying from 5:30 p.m. t0 6:30 p.m. will provide a complete direction so your mind knows exactly what you need to do!

  • Specific: “I want to practice my short game.”
  • Measurable: “I want to practice my short game an hour a day.”
  • Attainable: “I can practice my short game an hour a day.”
  • Realistic: “I will practice my short game an hour a day.”
  • Timely: “I will practice my short game every day this week from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.”

While SMART guidelines are a great concept for structuring your goals, you can do even more.

Two tips I tell our juniors and pros are:

  1. Make sure your goals are written and stated positively.
  2. Make sure your goals are moderately difficult.

Writing a goal like, “I don’t want to get angry during today’s round” is not a positive goal. It keeps the mind focused on what to avoid. When the mind is focused on what to avoid, it makes that idea more likely to happen. Saying or thinking, “Don’t get angry” tells the brain, “get angry, get angry, get angry.” Therefore, the goal must have a different focus, such as: “stay focused” or “keep calm.” This simple shift in language is very powerful for your goals, mindset and success.

Writing a goal, which is easily attainable, does not motivate a golfer. A scratch golfer may write a SMART goal like, “I will shoot 80 or better today.” But, it likely doesn’t make that golfer excited and passionate. As we discussed in one of my previous articles, “Goals are the fuel of greatness,” goals should not only keep you focused, they should also drive you. Therefore, golfers will benefit by making goals that are attainable and realistic and also challenging.

Consistently writing SMART, positive, challenging goals is one of the most sure ways to continue to progress in golf. Get into the habit of doing this weekly, and you will be on your way to personal greatness.

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Dan Vosgerichian Ph.D. is owner of Elite Performance Solutions. Dr. Dan earned his doctorate in Sport Psychology from Florida State University and has more than 10 years of experience working with golfers to maximize their mental game. His clients have included golfers from The PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Tour, PGA Latin America, as well as some of the top junior and collegiate players in the country. Dr. Dan has experience training elite golfers on every aspect of the game. He served as The Director of Mental Training at Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy, as well as a Mental Game Coach for Nike Golf Schools. He’s also worked as an instructor at The PGA Tour Golf Academy and assistant golf coach at Springfield College. Dan's worked as a professional caddie at TPC Sawgrass, Home of The Players Championship, as well as an assistant to Florida State University's PGA Professional Golf Management Program.



  1. Pingback: The Mental Game: Go Beyond SMART Goals - GolfWRX | SmartphonesSmartphones

  2. Bill Schmedes

    Jul 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Another great article by Dr. Dan!

  3. Pingback: The Mental Game: Go Beyond SMART Goals |

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Stickney: Sit on it (for a better backswing)



As we know golf, is a very tough sport and one that involves many moving pieces. Whenever something overreacts or moves too much on the way back, you end up playing catch-up on the way down. One of my favorite things to watch is how the head moves or doesn’t move on the backswing. Sure, you can have some movement, but you can’t have too much or you put yourself behind the eight ball.

I have charted the head position of a tour player at address and we can see that this is a very normal set up position. It is one that looks positioned to do great things.

However, en route to the top, you can see that this player has put himself into a position where his rear knee straightened too rapidly off the start of his backswing. When this occurs the pelvis “runs out from under” the upper body on the backswing the hips will react and begin to slant downward. (You can see a -10 degree tilt versus 3 degrees the opposite way at address for you number people.)

This causes the head to move out in front of where it was at address. This is not a bad position for the irons but for a driver we have a pending issue. If you don’t make a compensation from here then the player will have an angle of attack that is too much downward through impact with their driver.

As the player moves into his transition, the hips have leveled as the rear shoulder lowers the club into delivery but the head and pelvis are still too far out in front of the ball. The only thing you can do from here is fire the lead side upwards and hope that your head falls back into the correct position. If so, you will have the correct angle of attack, if not, you will chop down on the ball causing your launch conditions to be faulty.

And as we see here that this is precisely what this player did at the very last minute…not the easiest way to swing the club but it is functional IF you make the right correction. So, now that you understand how simple things like the action of the lower body can cause your head to move and your angle of attack to become faulty, what is the secret to controlling your lower body?

Just “sit” on the rear knee flex slightly longer during the backswing as you see here. This will slow down the tilting of the pelvis on backswing and thus your head will stay more in position en route to the top.

Personally, I teach both flexion and extension of the rear knee to the top, depending on what the player is wanting to do, so it really does not matter. However, what does matter is the rate at which it begins to straighten for those of you who do allow it to lengthen. I try to make most of my students hold the most of their address flex until the club moves between belt and chest high, any sooner and you risk the faulty pivot we saw above.

Therefore, take it from me and “sit on it” slightly longer for more quiet head motions as well as a more balanced backswing—your angle of attack will thank you!

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Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing



Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing



He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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