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Golfing Goals: Do they work… or is there a better way?

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Sometime after The Masters and before golf season gets into full swing, golfers write down their goals for the summer; win the club championship, finish top-5 in the National Championship, make the National Team, etc. But is goal-setting helpful? Does setting specific tournament results assist golfers in achieving them? Did Tommy Fleetwood sit down at the beginning of 2017 and write out that he would like to win the Race to Dubai and win three tournaments?

There’s a now famous story of Rory McIlroy writing out his goals for the year on the back of an Emirates Airline boarding pass, but in my conversations with European Tour players I’ve found the practice to be the exception, not the rule. I’ve asked the goal-setting question to former World No. 1 players Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Adam Scott. I’ve even asked Tom Watson about it when sitting down for breakfast with him at the 2014 British Open. Very few top golfers formally write down specific goals on a sheet of paper at the start of a year.

So why is goal-setting not an essential tool? After all, most sports psychologists encourage their clients to do this ritual. I believe goal-setting has a place for some players, but for many players it can also create counter-productive expectations. Anyone who has read my Elite Performance Workbooks knows that I see expectations or “performance demands” as a cancer for elite players.

Being a world class tournament golfer is a performance art that’s akin to being a great chef; it’s about having quality ingredients that are cooked in the right way and at the right time if you hope to create a great dish. So while I’m not a fan of  goal-setting, I do believe that it’s very important for players to have a vision. Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott and Tom Watson all have had a great vision of what they wanted to achieve.

So what is the difference between a vision and a goal? 

For me, a vision is a picture in your mind of what’s possible. A goal is more rigid and inflexible. It’s black and white. You either achieve it or you don’t. The difference is subtle — and so is the difference between success and failure at elite level. That’s why I like players at the beginning of each season to build a vision instead of creating black-and-white goals. I also like to see them describe their vision for three different parameters:

  • An OK Season
  • A GOOD Season
  • A GREAT Season

As golfers, there are many things not directly in our control: injury, outside golf life things, etc. Having a vision with three different parameters does not induce the pressure that goal setting can. Instead, it creates a motivating picture of clarity that the mind can gravitate toward, and having clarity in your vision of where you are going and how you are going to get there is such an important part of the performance jigsaw puzzle.

What happens once you’ve created this vision? First, I want you to pin it up on your wall or your bathroom mirror (so you’re guaranteed to see it twice a day when you brush your teeth). Each day, you should be visualizing  your OK and GREAT visions being achieved and grow this picture in your mind in rich detail. I call this “watering your dream daily,” and it’s hugely important if you want your dream to flower. Many months from now, you may be just be eating your holiday dinner and recounting to your distant relatives how this was your best golf season ever.

Thanks for reading, and here is a Vision Map PDF you can download to help you build YOUR vision for 2018.

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Jonathan Wallett has been a coach on the European Tour since 2011. He's also the National Coach for the Hong Kong Golf Team. His academy specializes in assisting elite juniors, elite amateurs, and touring professionals in reducing their scores. Interested in learning to perform your best on tournament day? Jonathan has developed a system called the "Tour Player Tournament System," which helps players understand the keys to play their best on tournament day. Sign up for some free coaching videos at elitegolfplayer.com

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Why most golfers aren’t improving as fast as they should

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Improvement happens when our current skillset is challenged to adapt and expand to a new level. So, in order to improve, we need to learn to embrace the challenges that will lead us down the path of improvement.

Unfortunately, most of us have learned to fear challenges. It makes sense. Challenges often led to failure, which can lead to humiliation and embarrassment. They can make you feel lousy. If we can get past our egos that are trying to protect us from failure, however, we can come to see that challenges are the only route to improvement. From there, we have a chance to enact real change and long-lasting improvement.

When you’re practicing golf, you need to look beyond the results or the awkwardness of learning a new technique or skillset. Coordination in the golf swing is everything, and sometimes the changes that are needed are not all that big. They may feel like enormous changes, though, because there is a difference between feel and real.

Golf is a game of improvement. In this video I share my thoughts on how you can get started in your process of improvement. Please enjoy, and feel free to interact with your comments and thoughts.

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WATCH: How to (and how NOT to) play from an uphill lie

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Top-100 teacher Tom Stickney of Punta Mita Golf Academy in Mexico provides tips for playing the ball from an uphill lie. Hope this helps!

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UYGP: Stop killing your score, here’s how to fully commit to every single shot

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Coach Will Robins explains the mindset you need to be able to commit to each and every shot during a round of golf, and avoid huge mistakes throughout the round. Learn how to make better decisions and become your own caddy. Some of the best pros and amateurs in the world use these tactics!

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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