Here's what you need to do over winter to be a better golfer

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The golf season may be drawing to a close, but this time of year offers you a unique opportunity to make progress with your game. Let me explain. 

For most club golfers, the competitive year ends around October 31. They’ll either cut down how much they play, or even stop altogether. Then, in late February, when the new season is around the corner, they will start making plans or goals. The trouble is that, by then, those plans will have no reference to what happened to them the year before. Right now, you have a whole season of experiences and results, successes and failures to draw on. To plan effectively for the future, you should take them into account. 

Think of it like a business. At the end of the business year, the directors will get together for a meeting. Their plans for the future will be very much based on what worked or didn’t work the year before – and your golf planning should be no different. So hold your own board meeting. Look at your game through a critical eye, almost as if someone from outside was assessing what your year was like. Specifically, address these key areas:

1. What was your best score of the year, and your worst? 

In both cases, cast your mind back to recall what worked for you, and what didn’t. On your best day, what was good about your game, your mental state, your swing? What thought processes did you have? What created that best score? On your worst day, when you were horrendous, what went wrong? Did you have no plan or trust? Were you irritated by others? Did you have too many swing thoughts? I’m not suggesting that you will be able to re-find that good state at will, simply by remembering it. But revisiting those days will help you isolate what works for you, and what doesn’t... and show you the direction you need to move towards. For example, if on your best day you felt a sudden trust in your technique, that suggests trust for you is important...and the need to work technically to develop it. Leave this till the spring and those memories – and the lessons you can learn from them – will be lost.

2. Divide your game into sub-categories, and give each a mark out of 10 

This will help you identify which part of your game needs the most work. If you’ve collected some stats over the year, this will really help you here – and ideally find a stats website or app that gives you a performance benchmark for your ability. The best players in the world average just 13 greens a round, so if you’re a 16 handicapper who hits eight, this is not your problem… however much your perception tells you otherwise. 

3. From your answers to questions one and two, create a plan to work on your game, with a defined goal at its end

This will give you the incentive to work on your game through the winter. I call this the London Marathon Process; if you told yourself to run four times a week through the winter you’d have a hell of a job; but if you’ve entered the marathon, you’ve given yourself a rock-solid reason to do it. 

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4. Base your winter program on the truth 

In other words, now is the ideal time to book some time on a launch monitor and find out once and for all what’s going on with your swing. Use that information to help you form your plans and goals. 

5. Finally, make a commitment to gather some statistics throughout 2016 

That way, when this moment comes around in 12 months, you can sit down with a good set of data that will help you plan for 2017. It will also help you set sub-goals in different parts of the game, like taking two putts a round less – and achieving those is the true path to building confidence.

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