How To Take Your Golf Game To The Next Level: Part I – Establish a Performance Baseline
If the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, why do most golfers approach the process of improving like it is a roller coaster ride?
In this issue we kick off a newsletter series on High Performance Golf with a technique for identifying your key priorities and taking the fast-track, straight-line approach to better golf and lower scores. I’ll use my own golf game “comeback” to give you specific examples of High Performance Golf in action that will help you adapt the approach to your own game. My goal, as always, is to help you play better golf faster and to have more fun along the way.
High Performance Golf Works For All Golfers
High Performance golf is for everybody, at all skill levels. It’s simply a focused, results-oriented approach that will give you greater insights into your game, help you develop confidence, and provide a clear path to improving. It’s the antidote to mindless play or practice, and the cure for those times when the wheels come off. If you want to improve your golf game this is the most effective approach to reach your goals.
“What” and “How” Golf Goals
Nearly every golfer sets goals, and I’ll bet you have them as well. It’s one of the first questions I ask new students. Here are some common golf goals:
1. Improve consistency
2. Reach a lower index
3. Go from shooting in the XX’s to YY’s (90’s to 80’s, 80’s to 70’s, etc.)
4. Hit better drives (longer, more accurate, more consistent, etc.)
5. Win a XX .. (tournament, match, flight, qualifier, etc.)
It’s important to have goals because as the saying goes “If you don’t know where you are going, you probably aren’t going to get there.”
But take a closer look at the goals listed above. They are all “outcome-focused “what”” goals. In other words they define the end state or, to put it in the parlance of a roadmap, the final destination. Because it defines what golfers want to achieve we call it a “What” goal. What’s missing from “what” goals are the steps to get you take that will get them from here to there. The steps in between are what we call “How” goals.
You need both types of goals – “what” and “how” goals. But the reason I call out attention to the difference is because when you focus on your “How” goals your “What” goals virtually take care of themselves.
“What” goals are relatively easy to define. The hard part is figuring out the best How steps to use. We’ll use this newsletter series to show you a very effective approach to answering that question. Here’s how it works and how it can improve your golf game.
High Performance Golf = Results-Focused Golf
One of the key ideas behind High Performance Golf is to use stats from your game on the course to tell you where to focus your improvement efforts. Once you identify opportunities and challenges, you then go after your highest priorities, knocking them off one by one as your game improves.
Odds are that if you play with any degree of regularity you have a pretty good “feel” for the issues and opportunities in your game. But you’d be surprised at how much more insight you can get with just a few statistics, and then how much more specific you can get in your practice. The key is to get measurable statistics so you an analyze your improvement over time.
These stats, such as fairways hit, greens in regulation, and length of your putts, are easy to keep while you play and don’t detract your golfing experience or your focus. In the next newsletter I’ll show you how I use a separate scorecard to record my stats each hole while I play, and then the ScoreTracker Excel program used to track the results and provide analysis.
For now, let’s take a look at the process and the steps you can use to start implementing High Performance Golf concepts in your game.
Reengineering Your Golf Game
Here’s the improvement process in its simplest form:
1. Where am I now?
2. Where do I want to be?
3. What are the steps I need to take to get from where I am now to where I want to be?
Anybody familiar with the business concepts of Business Process Reengineering or the Continuous Improvement Process will recognize these steps: Current State Assessment => Future State Defined => Gap Analysis => Action Steps. We’ve just adapted them specifically to golf.
Step 1: Establish a Baseline
The first step to take to incorporate High Performance Golf in your own game is to establish a “Baseline” performance measure, as I discuss in my video. The goal is determine the “current state” of your game – the “where am I now?” To do that you need to get out on the golf course, and you need to keep your stats.
For example, one of my personal long-term goals is to compete well in and ultimately win a professional tournament. But to get there it is vitally important that I spend my practice time working on the things that will have the biggest positive impact on my scores. To figure out where to spend my practice time in the most productive way possible I decided to play in a professional tournament, even though I’m not technically ready to play at that level yet. But I have to start somewhere, and I needed to know exactly what I to focus on.
So during my tournament round I kept stats as I played, then transferred them to my ScoreTracker spreadsheet. In the next newsletter and video we’ll take a look at those stats and provide an analysis.
But for now I encourage you to try keeping a small handful of stats the next time you play. Here are the simple stats I recommend you start keeping (you can always keep more detailed stats later).
1. Score (note: all stats are hole-by-hole)
2. Number of putts
3. Fairway (yes or no)
4. Green in Regulation (yes or no)
5. Length of first putt (in feet – you’ll want to get in the habit of pacing off all your putts)
6. Length of second putt (feet)
7. Up & Down (yes or no, used only when you miss a Green in Regulation. Called “Scrambling” by PGA Tour stat keepers)
8. Other (Could be penalty shots, sand saves, mental process, or any other stat you want to keep)
I keep all these stats on a separate scorecard as I play as you can see by the example. It takes only a few minutes to transfer them to my spreadsheet, but the payoff is in the specificity of stats. They are your baseline, and they’ll really help refine your practice.
For example, a student recently asked for help with his putting. He could sense that he had too many putts per round and that it was hurting his score. But he wasn’t tracking any putting stats, so we didn’t have a baseline from which to start.
I asked him to track his putting the next couple of rounds and bring the results. Sure enough he was averaging 37 putts per round. But here’s where the stats really helped. Those 37 putts included five 3-putts, most of which came on putts longer than 38 feet. In addition he was making a high percentage of his three- and four-foot putts (60% to 80%), but a very low percentage of his six-foot putts (10%).
With these stats it was easy to focus in on two specific areas: lag putting from 40 feet, and 6-foot putts. Two months later he showed me his new stats. He’d dropped his average putts per round to 32, reduced 3-putts from five to one, and increased his 6-footer makes from 10% to 30%. What’s more, during that time he shot his career-best round – an 80 – with just 26 putts (this from a player who’s average score was just over 100). Overall his index dropped 11 shots in just a couple of months and scores in the 80’s were becoming the norm rather than the rare exception.
Your Next Action Step
The next time you play, try keeping a few basic stats on your game to establish your baseline. The more specific you can be, the more precisely you will be able to identify the biggest opportunities for your own high performance golf.
Here are links to the entire High Performance Golf Newsletter Series. If you haven’t seen the videos I recommend you start with the first post on establishing performance baselines. Click the link below to get started, then look for the links at the bottom of each post to continue with the next video:
High Performance Golf: Establishing a Performance Baseline
High Performance Golf: Scorecard Analysis and Setting Priorities
High Performance Golf: Driver Accuracy Practice (part 1)
High Performance Golf: Driver Accuracy Practice (part 2)
High Performance Golf: Determining Mid-Iron Carry Distance
PS – If you enjoyed the article, why not leave a comment below? I’d love to hear your thoughts.