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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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Instruction

Brooks Koepka’s grip secret

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Here is a great video on understanding what allows a great player to get through the ball and deliver hardcore to his targets. Without this part of his grip, he would be hard-pressed to deliver anything with any kind of smash factor and compression. See what you can learn from his grip.

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Swing speed vs. quality impact

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In today’s age of hitting the ball as hard and as far as you can on tour, I am amazed at the number of amateur golfers who totally disregard the idea of quality impact. In fact, you can hit the ball further with better impact than you can with poor impact and more speed (to a point.) Sure, if you can kick the clubhead speed up 10 MPH-plus versus your normal speed, then this is not a requirement, but in reality most players only swing a few MPH faster when they actually try. Yes, this is true, I see it day after day. You might think you can swing 10 MPH faster but rarely do I see more than 2-3 MPH tops.

I had a student that came in the other day and was obsessed with swinging harder but when he did his impacts were terrible! When I put him on Trackman and showed him the data he was astounded that he could swing slower yet produce more distance.

Here was a typical swing he made when swinging faster 105.8 mph where the impact was low on the face and the ball carried 222.3 yards.


Here was a typical swing he made when swinging slower 102.9 mph where the impact was much better on the face and the ball carried 242.7 yards.

Now, obviously we know that this works to a certain degree of swing speed but it does show you that focusing on quality impact is a key as well. I’m always telling my players that I want them to swing as hard and as fast as they can AND maintain quality impact location — if you can do both then you can have it all!

The best way to understand impact quality without dismantling your swing is to use foot spray to coat the face of the club then hit a few balls to see where impact normally occurs and see if you can adjust.


If you can, great, if not, then go see your teaching professional and figure out why so you can find quality impact once and for all!

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How to warm up for golf PROPERLY

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Leo Rooney, Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance, shows you how to get ready to hit balls and/or hit the golf course.

Who is Leo Rooney?

Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance
B.Sc Exercise Physiology
TPI, NSCA

Leo Rooney played 16 years of competitive golf, in both college and professionally. He got a degree in exercise physiology and has worked with anyone from top tour players to beginners. Leo is now the Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance and is responsible for the overall operations but still works closely with some elite tour players and the UCLA Men’s Golf Team.

He also has experience in long driving with a personal best 445-yard drive in the 2010 European Long driving Championship.

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