Build your game around three key elements to boost your performance and improve your scores
At the start of a new season, you might expect performance coaches like me to rattle on about goals and goal-setting. But in my experience, setting targets to aspire to is an individual thing: some people respond to the challenge while others feel pressured by it, or lose heart if they feel their goal is unlikely to be achieved. For these folk, a simple direction can be more effective. The important thing is to know what works best for you.
In this article, we are going to look at these three easy ways to boost your performance and scores this year - and whether you're a goal-setting or a direction follower, they can all work for you.
1: Improve your Greens in Regulation (GIR) performance
Back in the 1990s, an American golf analyst named Lucius Riccio charted 100 golfers over eight rounds each. He discovered that more than any other stat, GIR had the closest correlation with score. The equation he came up with – Score = 95 minus 2xGIR – proved 93% accurate. His work has been validated many times since.
Yes, one of the fastest ways to improve your scores in 2018 is to boost your GIR stats. One of the best ways I've found of delivering on this is quite simply to play no-pin golf. The flag is so hypnotic that we aim at it without even thinking.
This narrows our margin for error while increasing the consequences of failure. But if you can make it your sole task to find the middle of the green, you create a wider miss either side of the putting surface and will leave fewer shots short.
Of course, taking on the pin is part of golf; but let your ability dictate when you do it. If you hit only four or five greens a round, shoot at the flag with nothing longer than a wedge. As your GIR stats improve that can come down.
#2: Putting: focus on the 'opportunity' range
I like to divide putts into three ranges: up to 6ft is 'Hole out', seven-20ft is 'Opportunity' and over 20ft is 'Feel'. I have observed that this middle range, Opportunity, can make a massive difference to a golfer's momentum and mentality, and it's here I'd like you to focus.
Think back to your last few rounds. How many putts of any distance have you holed? For most of you, the answer will be very few. But when one did go in, remember how it made you feel: perhaps you felt you had stolen a shot against the course, or that you'd rewarded yourself for solid approach play. Either way, draining such a putt gives you real upward momentum. So for 2018, make it either your goal or new direction to hole more putts from mid-range.
To help you do that, consider where you place your attention when you throw a ball to someone. It is always on where you want the ball to end and not where you want it to start. With putting most people do the opposite, focusing on either the starting line or the mechanics of the stroke. But if you can place your attention on the last third of the ball's journey, you create a clearer intention of what you're trying to do with the ball.
Really picture the ball's final journey, right through to its point of entry into the cup. This allows your brain subconsciously to create a map of how to deliver the desired movement. That will help you grasp far more opportunities in the Opportunity range... and give your round a real shot in the arm.
3: Take the 'Reaction Challenge'
Can you improve your reaction to the inevitable bad shots you'll hit this year? Your goal in 2018 is to boost your GIR stats. One of the best ways I've found of delivering on this is quite simply to play no- pin golf. The flag is so hypnotic that we aim at it without even thinking.
Look back to your bad golf last year, and you'll begin to appreciate how poor reaction to bad play turned one bad hole into three or four more. Let's put this to an end in 2018. The way you can do this is by using facts rather than opinions. Rather than reacting with "I'm useless", "I can't play" "I'm such a chopper" and so on, bring your reaction back to the fact of the shot. "I left the face open", "I hit it heavy", "That came out of the toe" are all good, factual reactions that leave you open to the possibility that your next shot could be better. With those emotive responses, we tend to assume the bad play will continue.
This is not to say you cannot react emotionally; that feeling of frustration or anger when you hit a bad shot is part of golf, and always will be. What we need to deal with is the rumination after the initial reaction. The important thing is that you are reset by the next shot, and open to the possibility that it could be a good one.
Improving your reaction is of course a directional improvement, but for a goal-based approach, mark an X on the scorecard every time you carry negative emotion into the next shot.
If you can set and meet a target of no Xs on the scorecard, you will have passed the Reaction Challenge.