How to Improve Your Game After Taking a Break from Golf
The trials and tribulations of the past few years has given many golfers a greater appreciation of the game they love—and occasionally hate. However, that sentiment extended beyond enthuiasts and scratch golfers.
There has been an influx of players returning to the game after a long layoff and newcomers to the sport appearing on golf courses around the country, which may have included you. Whether you had never hit a golf ball before or had to dust off your clubs after a long hiatus, the sport likely appealed to you during the pandemic. After all, what pastime involves more social distancing and outdoor space than golf?
Of course, as you began to play more regularly, the expectations you had for the game and your skill level changed. However, improving your golf swing may have been more of a challenge than you had expected.
As you may be well aware, it is important for golfers to understand that one good round doesn’t necessarily mean that your game has improved overnight. This is especially true if you have taken a break from golf for awhile or are new to the sport. Golf is as much a mental game as it is physical and you must develop the mental side of the game to be a skilled player.
Learn more below about how to improve your golf game by using scientifcally proven methods used by sports psychologists.
Set a Long-Term Goal for Your Golf Game
Start with one long-term goal, ideally a performance goal (e.g. “I want to cut seven strokes off my score.”) Do not set an outcome goal (e.g. “I want to win the club championship in my flight.”) Making specific short-term goals that will help you climb the ladder to your long-term goals will result in more golf success.
Naturally, the first rung of the ladder is to know where you are at present regarding your full swing and short game.
To that end, the Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor is a great tool because it can baseline your current performance. You could start by taking some practice swings and baselining all your important golf clubs, such as your driver, a fairway wood, a favorite hybrid, a mid-iron, and some wedges.
Say you hit 10 driver shots with an average directional spray of 50 yards and distance spray of 30 yards. Then suppose you play the Closest-to-Pin game (availble with the Rapsodo MLM) and find considerable spray in accuracy there, too. That is the starting point for setting an acheivable goal.
Goal setting is one of the most important concepts used by sports psychologists to help athletes improve their skills. You should set goals for all aspects of your game—tee shots, approach shots, around-the-green (within 30 yards of the green) and on the green.
It could also fan out to include course-management, physical fitness, and nutrition goals, but it all depends on the amount of time and work you are able and willing to put into the achievement of your goals.
Determine SMART Goals for Success
Once you have a long-term goal to focus on and you are able to collect the data that you need—such as swing mechanic statistics that indicate bad habits you have developed—you can set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based) goals.
A SMART goal incorporates all five of these criteria and will help you focus on your golf objectives to improve the chances of success.
Without clear and specific objectives for your golf game, you may have difficulty focusing your efforts and finding the motivation to acchieve your goals. Setting a specific goal as part of your SMART goal is the first the first step and sets the guidelines for why and how you want to accomplish it. For instance, you could set a goal to improve your swing with a specific driver by round twice a week, which could reduce your accuracy issues
Browsing through resources that offer golf tips about the various aspects of the sport, such as swing mechanics, may be helpful in narrowing down which the specific areas of your game you want to work on.
To make a goal measurable, you need to be able to determine the progress you have made in your golf game. By establishing indicators of development and progression, you can measure your next steps in achieving your goal. An example of a measurable goal is to practice hitting with different golf clubs at 30 yards, 40 yards, 50 yards, etc. and reviewing the Rapsodo MLM data for improvement over time.
An attainable goal in golf is one that is not beyond your capabilities. While a goal should challenge you, setting unattainable goals will not help you improve your golf game and will likely result in a loss of motivation. For instance, if you struggle on the green, it may be more attainable for you to begin with a goal to increase the accuracy of short putts rather than starting with lag putts (long-distance putts).
A goal should be realistic, meaning that it should align with the amount of time you intend to devote to practice and the resources that are available to you. You may not make the PGA Tour, but having a realistic and sensible plan in place will help you achieve the goals you set for your golf game. If the you find that you are unable to make it to practice sessions as often as you had planned due to time constraints, you can’t expect to achieve your goal in the same amount of time.
Likewise, if you included the objective of attending one-on-one lessons with a PGA pro in your SMART goal, but are unable to find a golf course that offers that service, you may find that you need to reevaluate your goal.
A SMART goal requires you to operate within a timeframe, with predetermined start and end dates. Time constraints are critical to achievement, providing a sense of urgency that will motivate you to make progress. However, having tempered expectations when setting time-based goals will help you avoid fraustrations.
If your goal is to shave a few strokes off your short game by devoting time to chipping practice and you set a specificed deadline to achieve the goal, you need to consider how often you can actually make it to the golf course in that time period.
Regardless of when you began your golf journey, setting long-term and SMART goals will go a long way towards meaningful improvements in your golf game. This process is used by tour players, and is a proven way to make your golf game better.
Learn more about how you can use the Rapsodo MLM can offer swing tips to improve your game after taking break from golf or if you are new to the sport.
Kiran Kanwar, Golf Instructor
MS and Ph.D. Kinesiology
LPGA Master Professional
National Amateur Golf Championship winner (India)