A Harvard University Study showed that 3% of graduating students from the Class of 1953 had written down their career goals. In 1973, a team of researchers interviewed the same students from that class and found that the 3% who had written down their Goals were worth more financially than the other 97% combined.

The planning process; Goal Setting for sports or in life, guide our actions and focus our energy. They provide a road to follow. A Goal is anything you choose to achieve. They are the start of dreams that come true. The key is to establish a clear and concise VISION for what you want to do with your life and or Golf.

Goals can be long term (Playing on the European Tour), medium or short term (beating friends in a chipping competition on Sunday) but they have to be yours and yours alone. Goals work best when the small ones are focussed on more heavily than the big. They provide the foundation to bigger ones (e.g. the extra practice you put in to win those chipping contests might help you actually make the European Tour). People can help you reach your goals, or help you understand what your goals are, but choosing them is your job. It is YOUR life and YOU need to take control and decide what life you want to live. Goals are like road signs or a map. If you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to get there?

Goal setting allows you to:

  • Establish exactly where you want to go - Your Vision.
  • Identify the journey you need to take to get there.
  • Help you realise when you have arrived - if you ever do.

Engaging in proper Goal Setting, where you write down your plans in the short & long term, consult with a coach on how you plan to achieve them, can shift intention into results. Goals can:

  • Help you monitor and improve your performance.
  • Provide motivation during slumps & injuries over the course of your career.
  • Replace fear and tension with focus.
  • Improve the quality of your practice and play through challenges and tasks.
  • Achieving goals helps you develop that all important element of performance: CONFIDENCE.

Not all goals are created equally. Anyone can say their goal is to make the PGA/European Tour or to play UK University or US College Golf. Procrastinating/saying isn’t DOING! Having a lofty vision/goal is a good thing only if it inspires you to take all the small steps required to become the best golfer you can be. They are the key to the long term vision, the daily habits and processes. 

SMART GOALS is a vintage and time tested way of establishing Goals.

What is a goal a SMART GOAL? After you set a goal such as “I want to win the Club Championship,” ask yourself is it:

SMART Goals.jpg

Does it have enough detail?

Is there a way to identify you have reached it? Is it tangible?

If you achieve it, can you increase the intensity or is it too lofty and needs to be more realistic?

Do you 100% REALLY believe you can do this? If not, deep down you wont be fully committed to it. 

Is there a date when you are going to measure and see if you have achieved it?

An example of a SMART Goal: 

“Lower my handicap from 11.5 on the 1st of February to 6.4 by the 31st of September.

It’s a SMART Goal because its: 

Specific - It states exactly what they want to achieve.

Measurable - It can be calculated easily.

Adjustable - It can be adjusted.

Realistic - It is realistic given the skill level of the golfer (a drop from 11.5 to a 1.0 might be less realistic) and a commitment to an organised programme that includes Training, Coaching, Competition and Evaluation. 

Time-based - It has a specific date.

Below are a couple of Worksheets to help you set some Goals and identify if they are SMART, Long, Medium or Short Term.

Setting SMART Goals is just part of the equation. Reaching one major goal usually requires the setting of several other short term goals. The process of reaching more short term goals creates the momentum that makes reaching larger goals possible. It also makes the big Goals appear less daunting by breaking them down into smaller, more achievable steps

Below outlines 5 Steps to Successful Goal Setting.

Step 1: Establishing Your Vision (Outcome Goals)

These are goals that you lie in bed dreaming about. They are the ones that get you excited: setting a course record or winning a significant tournament. When Tiger Woods placed Jack Nicklaus’s career records onto his bedroom wall, he was setting the mother of all outcome goals: to become the best player in the history of the game. Your Vision (Outcome Goals) is what you hope to get out of all your hard work - the fruits of your labour. Setting them is fun. You can set them on a yearly basis or even look beyond that. I like to set 1, 3 and 5 Year Vision’s and reassess how I’m doing every 3 Months while sitting in Starbucks, enjoying a beverage (My Starbucks Moments). A concept that Thomas Plummer (the great Business Consultant and Speaker) introduced to me. However Visions require a note of caution.

It’s essential to have a Vision/Outcome Goals, but they need to be kept in their place - away from the Golf course. Focussing on trying to set a course record after going four under through four holes is a great way  NOT to set a course record. To play your best, you need to keep your mind clear of the result or outcome based thinking. Establish your Vision(s), then file them, allow your mind to focus on the process of achieving them. Great golfers let results happen and trust their preparation to get them where they need to go, playing each shot an island unto itself: Over prepare so you don’t under perform!

Step 2: Establish Performance Goal ‘Road Signs’ To Help You Stay On Course

Goal Setting allows you to practice with purpose, which is vital. If your Vision/Outcome Goals include lowering your handicap, setting Road Signs (Stats) that allow you to figure out how. Some examples:

  • Improving your driving accuracy - setting a target for the percentage of Fairways/First Cut  of Rough you expect to hit on average in competition this coming season. 
  • Set a target for the percentage of greens in regulation and within that - how often you get the ball inside 15 feet of the hole (how many birdie chances you give yourself).
  • Learn to hit the ball high/low. 
  • Learn to keep target/externally focussed on the target throughout the shot/stroke.
  • Stay balanced when Pitching.

Step 3: Develop a Strategy To Reach your ‘Road-signs’

The Step 2 Goals are examples of what someone may need to work on to reach their Vision(s). Once you’ve decided on the physical aspects of your game that you want to improve, you need to figure out how to make them happen. A key to doing this is developing a post-round debriefing strategy that allows you to objectively review aspects of your game that are letting you down.

For example, if after a round you realise better Pitching from 50-70 yards would save you 2/3 shots a round you can set a Road Sign to develop a strategy/process to meet that Goal. You might have a Coaching session concentrating on the aspects of those shots, making sure your technique, mental aspects and equipment are sound. Next you would plan to practice your pitching play 3 times a week until you get up and down 5 out of 9 times every session. Each of your Road Signs/Performance Goals require similar attention to detail.

Step 4: Establish Mental Road Signs &
A Strategy To Get To Them

Reaching physical goals requires an organised mental approach. Some examples include:

  • Establish a Playing Focus during the round and a Tactical strategy for each hole - WRITE THEM DOWN.
  • Use Breathing and Quick Coherence techniques to help when under pressure.
  • React Positively or Objectively to every shot (avoid negative reactions). 
  • Focus on your Playing Focus 90% of the time during your round.
  • Complete a post-round debrief after every round.
  • Replace thoughts on swing mechanics with sensory based focus when competing.

Step 5: Balance Your Goals

Life doesn’t stop for Golf - unless it is your profession ;). It’s unhealthy and counter productive if it does: “I’ll do ‘X’ later, I need to practice if I’m going to make it onto the European Tour!”. In reality, if you let other commitments pile up, not only will they suffer, your Golf will too, as life's stresses will likely leek into your Golf game. It is much wiser to take the steps necessary to balance the demands of Golf and other realities of life so that both benefit. Not as easy to quantify as hitting a certain number of Greens in a round or taking 5 shots off your handicap, there are some useful steps you can take to find the right balance between Work/School, Golf, Family, Friends, Relationships and Personal Time.

On average we have about 112 waking hours to ‘spend’ each week (8 hours sleep per day). A good exercise  to do is to calculate how many hours you are Working/In School; how many hours you plan to Practice, Physically Train, Play and how many hours you expect to devote to Family Activities. As you probably are realising, it doesn’t leave much time for Friends, ‘Hanging Out’ etc (although there is definitely a place for that). A breakdown for an Elite Golfer might look like this:

  • Work/Golf - 65%, of their time, or about 73 hours per week.
  • Family - 10%, or about 11 hours per week.
  • Friends - 10%, or about 11 hours per week.
  • Personal (reading, TV, internet) - 10%, or about 11 hours per week.
  • Relationships - 5%, or about 6 hours per week.

This is only an example and everyones life is different.

Here is a useful Tool for you establish your weekly Time Budget:

As you may have gathered, if you are serious about becoming the best Golfer you can be, it’s not going to happen by accident. A diligent and Goal Orientated approach will allow you to reach your true potential.

It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfilment. It is in the happiness of pursuit.
— Denis Waitley

If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch via the contact details below:


Oliver C. Morton

The Leading Edge Golf Company
E - info@theleadingedgegolfcompany.com
T - 07831400296

AuthorOliver Morton