1. Evaluate and Reflect on 2019
The end of the year is a good time to reflect and evaluate the golf season. What did you learn about the effectiveness of your practice and play? What went well? Let’s celebrate your most successful rounds and moments and figure out what you need to work on to make 2020 even better. What were your strengths and weaknesses over the season? To get the clearest, most honest look at the state of your game, you have to look at your stats. Did you keep stats in 2019? The numbers don’t lie and require you to be vulnerable about your weaknesses. Most of my students keep stats on their game using a stat tracking tool which calculates their “strokes gained” (there are plenty) from different distances. I.e. how many strokes are you gaining or losing from different yardages on the golf course (relative to your target handicap)? Once you have these numbers you’ll know what your priorities should be during your winter training and for 2020, and you’ll be able to measure your progress.
2. Set Goals for 2020
What do you want to achieve next year and how are you going to achieve it? What is your purpose for achieving those goals? Make sure there is no “extrinsic” motivation (to please or impress others) and it’s all “intrinsic” (you mastering your own game). Instead of setting outcome goals like “Winning the club championship”, “having a top 10 in a specific tournament” or “achieving a certain ranking”, set performance goals (stats for specific areas of the game you need to improve to get you there), and process goals – what specifically you are going to do to achieve your performance goals. This way, your goals are more within your control and don’t require you to judge your game relative to others. Think about the person and player you would like to become next year and the mental characteristics you would like to develop more of.
3. Start a Golf specific fitness regime
Getting in the gym will help your golf game in a number of ways: First, golf is a game that is quickly becoming about power and distance, so if you don’t currently have a golf specific fitness regime, you’re losing out on increased distance and the longevity of being able to play the game at a high level for longer (especially if you’re over 40). Second, better overall fitness will lower your resting heart rate and improve your ability to play well under pressure. Your winter training for golf should include 3+ gym sessions per week including a combination of cardio and strength and conditioning. I recently signed up for a course of exercises from Golf Fitness coach, Michael Carroll, which is excellent. You can find it here and use the code GSOM20 to get 20% off.
4. Improve Your Concentration
In today’s fast paced “information age” and our connection to our mobile devices – we’re constantly distracted. Our minds are always agitated which is making us more and more stressed and it affects our ability to focus, relax and sleep. There’s no coincidence that techniques like meditation have become so popular, and most of the competitive players I work with have it in their daily routine. Meditation would be a great addition to your winter training. By practicing meditation, we can calm our minds, which gets us deeper into the present moment, meaning less mental chatter and better athletic movement. I’ve been doing 15-20 mins of meditation almost every day for the past 3 years and I can honestly say that it’s not only helped my ability to focus and deal with stress on the golf course, but it’s made me a happier person off the course too. If you need help getting started there are plenty of guided meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Another word you’re probably hearing more often, is “Mindfulness”. But what does it mean? Phil Jackson, former coach of the Chicago Bulls, said that teaching his players mindfulness helped the team win 11 NBA titles. Essentially, “Mindfulness” means being more comfortable with your thoughts and feelings. You become more of an observer of what you think and feel and less of an active participant in them. You accept that you can’t control your thoughts and emotions, so you don’t try to resist and change them. It’s the resistance that causes the frustration and tension, and ultimately, magnifies that negative thought or emotion you are trying to change. If you can begin to develop the habit of Mindfulness as part of your winter training, by the time the spring comes around you’ll be better positioned to deal with your thoughts and emotions during your rounds. I’ve shared some recommended books on meditation and mindfulness later in the article, and I also wrote an article a few weeks ago.
6. Make gratitude a daily habit
Studies show that an “attitude of gratitude” can have a positive affect on our mental health. Focusing on things that you are grateful for is the opposite of focusing in things that you are stressed about. Grateful people tend to be happier and more optimistic (they expect good things to happen). As a daily exercise, write down or think about 3 things that you are grateful for and 3 things that you love about yourself.
7. Educate yourself
The winter is a great time to read and increase your knowledge. Here are some books and programs, that will help you prepare for the new year.
8. Get better sleep
The importance of sleep is vastly underestimated. All of the Tour players I work with take sleep very seriously. In his podcast interview with Dr. Michael Gervais, sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, says that “Sleep recharges you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Everything we do, we do better with sleep”. Michael Gervais put together a list of his top tips for getting better quality sleep.
I currently use a device which I wear on my wrist called “Whoop” which measures my Heart Rate Variability – a measure of stress and how recovered you are. It tells me exactly how much sleep (broken down into light, REM and deep sleep) I get each night out of the time that I’ve spent in bed. I’ve found that since I’ve been able to measure my sleep, I’ve been able to improve it.
9. Practice more effectively
Most golfers go to the driving range and spend the whole session tinkering with their swing, which doesn’t help them improve in the long-term. Start 2020 with a better approach to practice and game improvement. Just because you might not be able to get to the course during the winter months, doesn’t mean that you can’t practice playing golf ! Use the driving range for random and performance practice, instead of trying to repeat your swing. Put yourself under pressure and try the 80+ performance drills I’ve added to the Golf State of Mind Practice System.
10. Start a performance journal
Most of the students I work with make regular entries in their “performance journal”, such as Coach Now. Keeping a performance journal is proven to be very powerful. Writing is a great way to reflect on your performance and practice, and stay committed to your goals. Write your daily goals in your performance journal and hold yourself accountable to getting them done. Even better, share them with your coach to further increase your accountability. After each practice session, write down how you spent your time, what goal you were working towards and what exercises you were doing.