Improve your golf by setting your 2014 goals now!
By: Ross Starkey

I once heard a saying, "success is the pursuit of a worthy goal", and this should be the mantra of every player's game improvement. Planning improvement starts with identifying the skills that will make the biggest difference in your game. Setting a goal and pursuing it will not make you a poorer golfer, on the contrary the closer you get to your goal the more successful you will become. It will begin to have purpose you'll begin to feel better about your game too.

Identify your goals

Every golfer makes goals, if you are Luke Donald then it's winning tournaments and competing in the majors. A Challenge Tour graduate might be looking to retain their Tour card. The average club golfer might want to compete for prizes in club competitions or reduce their handicap by a few strokes.

Whatever your level of golf, and it really doesn't matter what level it is, the role of setting goals is the starting point of actually becoming better. Accepting that something has to change and that work needs to be done in order to improve is a big psychological hurdle for most golfers. That first step is critical to implementing improvement.

When determining meaningful goals, it is important to have an accurate assessment of your skills and prioritise them. You may be a  poor bunker player but still score reasonably well because you don’t visit many bunkers. But if your putting is questionable, it should be a priority because putting is important on every hole you play. Becoming a better putter is an obvious goal for almost every player at every level.

Make your goals achievable

It is better to identify goals that are achievable and worthy. Merely swinging a golf club or whacking balls again and again does not guarantee improvement in performance. Just repeating a performance isn't practise. To perfect a skill, you must practise with a purpose, and have a goal in mind.

A meaningful practise goal is one that you believe will lead to increased success and lower scores. Perhaps you always find trouble off the tee making a bogey, or worse unavoidable. If that's the case then you must focus on practising a way to hit the ball straighter, not longer and set targets likewise.

Plan your route to goal

Work backwards from your goal with reference to your current game. Be honest. If you want to reduce your handicap by four shots and you currently three putt two, three or more times a round, then by solely focussing and working to improve distance control and holing out will be enough to reach your target in itself.

Goal setting doesn't work for everyone, but it certainly would if everyone committed to their goals and focused on the work required to make improvement. Last winter I set about making my own goals, I wanted to reduce my handicap by two shots. I realised, looking at my stats, that I putted 2.12 times for every green in regulation I hit. I knew I needed to change my putting style and develop a sound chipping method.

I had been shocked at my own stats, although not as shocked as my wife was as she watched me chip around the garden and living room and use the hallway as a temporary putting green. It worked though, I rarely visited the driving range and my handicap came down by two shots (I now average 1.92 putts per GIR).

Take a break for the golf course, find somewhere quiet, have a real honest look at your golf game, and start setting goals for 2014!