Setting achievable golf goals is key if you want to become a better golfer.
Goals give you a target to aim for. When you have a target to aim for, you can work backward to figure out all the steps you need to take to hit it.
This is a deliberate, systematic approach to improving your golf game. You’re more likely to see results from this approach compared to crossing your fingers and hoping your game improves on its own.
I say “more likely” because it depends on the goals you set. Some types of goals are more optimal than others. The most optimal goals for golfers are SMART and process oriented.
What I’m going to do in this post is explain what SMART and process goals are and why you want to set these types of goals in the first place.
What are SMART Golf Goals?
SMART is an acronym you want to use when setting your goals for the golf course. Here is what each letter in SMART means.
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Attainable
- R – Relevant
- T – Time-based
You might think each of these are self-explanatory. Maybe they are. But I’m going to explain each one anyway. That way, you have no excuse for not setting SMART goals for golf.
S – Specific
You want to set specific golf goals. But what does a specific goal for golf look like?
- I want to get better at golf.
It sure doesn’t look like that. That goal is as vague as they come.
Here’s why it’s bad. It’s not clear what you want to get better at. What exactly do you want to accomplish?
- I want to lower my handicap.
This is okay, but we can still do better.
- I want to lower my handicap from 115 to 72.
Now we’re getting somewhere. You can work with this. Now you can break your goal into more manageable steps or targets.
- 115 to 99 (break 100)
- 98 to 89 (break 90)
- 88 to 79 (break 80)
- 78 to 72 (scratch
- < 71
So many golfers set vague golfing goals. It’s no wonder they don’t improve. If you want to get betting at golfing, you must keep the S in SMART in mind.
You must set specific golf goals.
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.Lewis Carroll
M – Measurable
Next, you want to set measurable golf goals. But first, what does an immeasurable golfing goal look like?
- I want to get better at golf.
Here’s the problem – how are you going to know when you get there?
You won’t. You won’t have any clue because you’re not measuring anything. You’re unable to because there are several things we don’t yet know.
- What exactly do you want to improve?
- How will this improve your golf game?
- Where are you starting from?
- Where do you want to end up?
- When do you want to accomplish this goal by?
- What are you doing to get there? How much, and how often?
What does a measurable goal for golf look like? A simple example would be something like, you want to lower your handicap from 115 to 72 within 5 months.
This is easy to measure because you can look at your handicap at the end of every month to see if you’re any closer to achieving your golf goal.
- Your handicap is 114 in Month 1 – nope
- Your handicap is 105 in Month 2 – nope
- Your handicap is 120 in Month 3 – nope
- Your handicap is 71 in Month 4 – yup
This is an exaggerated example (obviously). But do you see why this is so powerful? Within seconds you can tell whether you’re closer or further away from achieving your goal.
From there you can look to see whether your current strategy is helping you or hindering you. Then you can make any adjustments as needed.
But you won’t have a clue if you’re closer to your goals, much less know whether your current strategy is working, if you don’t set measurable golfing goals.
A – Attainable
It’s important that your golf goals are attainable. Now, what I have to say next might piss you off. This is especially true if you have the “you can’t stop me” or “anything is achievable” mindset.
I generally don’t have a problem with this mindset. More people should adopt this attitude. I think more people should aim higher rather than “be realistic.”
But there’s a difference between aiming high and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone …and being delusional.
If you’re 35 years old, have played golf for only one year, and plan to practice 10 hours per week – in my opinion – aiming to make the PGA Tour ever is delusional.
But if you’re 10 years old? I think that’s doable.
Attainability also applies to your short-term targets, too. It’s not just about whether your goals are realistic, but whether they’re achievable given your resources and parameters.
For example, I think most people can learn how to play scratch golf if they can practice and play enough. Those that don’t or can’t, can still learn to shoot in the high 70s or in the 80s.
But if you’re currently shooting a 100, getting to the 80s within one season, or even two seasons, probably isn’t attainable. That’s not an achievable golf goal.
Another example is setting the goal to practice 20 hours per week, despite having a family, full time job, and other obligations.
Does that make sense?
Now, I don’t want to discourage anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact. I want you to push yourself to play the best golf you can and hit the goals you set for yourself.
But setting achievable goals for golf will play a large role in your ability to do so.
Put another way, we want to set goals that push us to be better – to “stretch” us. But if we set goals that are never going to happen, we set ourselves up for overwhelm, disappointment, and failure.
You might not end up accomplishing much of anything, which is the total opposite of what we’re trying to do here.
R – Relevant
The R is SMART means you want your golf goals to be relevant. What does this mean?
It means you want your goals for the golf course to be aligned with your overall approach to the game and the resources you have available to get there.
You want to start by determining what your end goal is. What do you want from golf? What do you want to achieve?
Maybe your goal is to play the best golf you can. Your long-term goal would be to shoot lower scores and lower your handicap as much as you can.
From here, you’d get a coach, start collecting data, and use both to determine what you should practice, how often, etc.
Those steps and your long-term goals would be in-line with what you want from the game.
But say you just want to enjoy the game, get some exercise, and maybe just enjoy the game with your buddies. Setting improvement-type goals doesn’t mesh with that. Odds are you won’t be happy.
That’s not to say that you can’t have both. You can take a more relaxed approach and still improve your golf game.
But then your expectations need to be reasonable. You’re unlikely to improve as fast practicing 1 hour per week and taking high risk shots because that’s fun compared to 10 hours of dedicated practice per week and only making shots based on data and risk and course management.
Do You Have What You Need to Accomplish Your Golf Goals?
That’s only one side of the relevance coin. Setting relevant golf goals also requires you to look at the resources you have at your disposal i.e. do you have what you need to achieve your golf goals?
Say you want to lower your handicap from 115 to 72, and you want to accomplish this goal within seven years. This might be doable if you have everything you need.
What will you need?
- A place to practice. This can be the driving range, your backyard or garage, a practice course, or even the golf course.
- Access to a coach. It’s unlikely that you’ll become a scratch player without at least a little bit of coaching, especially within seven years.
- Money. You will need money to practice unless you have access to facilities or have your own place to practice. You’ll also need money to play golf, buy and maintain equipment, to pay for coaching and other educational resources, etc.
- Time. You will need time to practice, get coaching, learn, and play. Time is our most valuable resource and, unfortunately, most of us don’t have enough of it.
You need to be honest with yourself on these things. Fudging your estimates will only hurt you in the long run.
It makes more sense to be conservative about your resources. You can always increase the time you spend practicing or money you invest into your game if you find you have more than you thought.
Plus, I think you’ll have fewer setbacks and disappointments if you’re honest about what you can dedicate to achieving your golf goals.
T – Time-based
Finally, you want to set time-based golf goals. You need to give yourself a time limit or deadline.
This is important. A deadline adds motivation and gives you focus.
Parkinson’s First Law states that “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” If your goal doesn’t have a deadline, it’ll take however long you’re willing to give it. You might not hit it at all.
You’re much better off setting a goal of becoming a scratch golfer in 7-10 years rather than only stating that you want to become a scratch golfer, everything else being equal.
Even if you fell short of your goal, odds are you’d be much further along than the golfer who stated they wanted to play scratch golf but never set a deadline for when they wanted to accomplish that goal by.
The more specific you are, the better. That applies to every letter when setting SMART golf goals too. Specificity will help you figure out everything you need.
- What exactly do you want to accomplish?
- What resources do you have to help you accomplish your goals?
- How much time do you have to devote to your goals? How quickly do you want to accomplish your goals?
- Where are you starting now regarding your golf game and where do you want to end up?
Answering these questions will get you so much closer to accomplishing your goals compared to the golfer whose goal is to become a better golfer.
Results-Oriented vs Process Goals for Golf
Earlier I mentioned that I think you should set process goals. This is instead of setting results or outcome-based golf goals.
What I want to do now is explain the differences between results-oriented goals and process goals and why process goals for golf are better.
Results Oriented Golf Goals
Results oriented goals for golf focus on a specific outcome.
- Shoot a 72
- Become a scratch player
- Hit your driver 275 yards
- Achieve a 100+ mph swing speed
- Hit 40% of fairways in regulation
- Hit 50% of greens in regulation
You get the idea. It’s a specific outcome you’re aiming for.
These aren’t bad, they’re just not optimal – especially for the short term. Here’s what sucks about results-oriented goal setting for golf – or anything, really.
- Every day, session, or round that you fail to hit your goal, you failed. This is demoralizing, disappointing, frustrating, etc.
- You might be incapable of achieving the results you want due to talent, physical limitations, time, etc.
- You’re limiting yourself. For example, why stop at playing scratch or shooting a 72 if you’re better than that? Why stop at a 100-mph club speed?
Results oriented goals set you up to fail (often) and are limiting. That’s why I wouldn’t use these as a goal, but rather use them as a milestone as you work on your process golf goals.
Process Golf Goals
Process goals don’t focus on a specific outcome like clubhead speed or driving distance. It focuses on the steps you’re going to take to move towards those targets.
Here are some examples.
- Instead of setting a goal for a 100-mph clubhead speed, you set a goal to swing your Super Speed training sticks for 20 minutes three times per week.
- Instead of setting a goal to drive a ball 275 yards, maybe you set a goal to work with a golf coach once per month to eliminate your horrid slice.
- Instead of setting the goal to play scratch golf, maybe you set a goal to practice three times per week, study course management, and collect and study your stats.
- Instead of setting a goal to hit 50% of greens in regulation, maybe you set a goal to always aim for the middle of the green and use one extra club than you think you need.
Do you see the difference? These goals focus on what you’re going to do to make progress rather than a specific outcome you want to achieve.
Here are the benefits to setting process goals for golfing.
- Every time you go through your process – whether that’s showing up for a golf lesson, going to the gym to get stronger and lose weight, or always aiming for the middle of the green – you accomplish your goal. You’re always achieving something. This makes you feel good and motivates you.
- You don’t limit yourself. You’re always striving to get better. There’s no limit to what you can accomplish assuming you have a good plan and follow it.
- You’ll make whatever progress or achieve whatever milestones that you’re physical capable of with the resources you have.
I can’t make any promises, but I’m confident that you will be happier, more motivated, and will accomplish everything you want and then some if you set process goals for golf instead of goals based on results.
This is how you set SMART and achievable goals for golf.
And that wraps up everything I wanted to say about how to set good golf goals. Now what I want to do is give you some examples of setting goals for golf so you can put this advice to work for yourself.
How to Set Achievable Golf Goals
I can’t tell you how to set achievable goals for your golf game because I don’t know who you are, where you’re starting from, what you want to accomplish, or the resources you have available.
But what I can do is show you some examples. I’ll show you an example of how I’d set an achievable golf goal for beginners, and then an example of goal setting for golfers past the beginner stage.
Achievable Goal Setting for Golf Beginners
Let’s say that you just started playing golf two weeks ago. You’ve never held a golf club before that. You’ve never even been to Top Golf.
What could your golf goals look like?
- To get coaching once every two weeks or once per month to develop your swing.
- To go to the range twice per week to work on what your coach taught you.
- To read 30 pages of a golf book every day. Start with books on mindset and course management.
- To read one blog post like this one every day.
- To study the rules and golf terminology so that you understand what you’re doing and what everyone is saying on the golf course.
- To play nine holes once every 1-2 weeks on a par 3 course.
Your first target would be to play your first real course within 12 months. Depending on where you live and how quickly you progress, you might hit this milestone a little sooner or a little later.
But don’t focus on that. Just focus on completing the process goals above and you’ll get there eventually.
These are reasonable process golf goals for a beginner. But you can also adjust these to better fit your lifestyle and resources, as well as how seriously you plan to take golf.
Achievable Golf Goals for Everyone Else
Now let’s say that you’re not a beginner. You’ve been playing golf for two years now, one year exclusively on par 3 courses and the second year on par 3s and regular courses.
Your best score was a 95. You have a bit of a slice. You hit 20 percent of your greens in regulation. You drive the ball 200 yards. You constantly chunk your irons. You three putt 40% of the time.
What types of goals should you set for yourself?
- You get coaching once per month to work on your slice. This should also help you increase your distance (since your ball will go straighter).
- You will watch 30 minutes of Adam Young’s Strike Plan course every day until you finish it. You will also take notes to review later and use to plan your practice sessions.
- Using your notes and stats, you decide that you need to work on your ball striking. You also decide that you will practice 30 minutes two times per week, using the towel and gate drills.
- You will go to your range and practice your lag putting once per week. You will work on distances between 15ft and 50ft.
- You will read one golf book per month. The first book you will read will be about course management. The second book will be about mindset. The third book will be about…
Does that make sense?
Notice that I didn’t say anything about increasing your greens in regulation. Or decreasing your three-putt percentage. Or specify a yardage that you want to hit off the tee.
These are all process-oriented goals that will move you towards hitting those results-oriented goals that so many golfers set.
What’s great about these goals is that they’ll help you achieve specific results like gaining a few yards off the tee or hitting more GIRs. But the best part is that they’ll take you even further than that.
A list of process golf goals like this might very well put you on the path to becoming a scratch player. No, better than that – they could help you become the best golfer that you can be.
Doesn’t that sound like an awesome target to shoot for?
Most people want to get better at golf, even if they’re not fanatics. Everyone wants to hit the ball further, straighter, sink more putts, and shoot lower scores.
You might accomplish these things without setting a goal, but who knows how long it will take you. You certainly won’t achieve your potential without setting goals for your golf game.
No, to achieve your biggest golf dreams you need to set goals. But not just any goals, you need to set good golf goals.
What do good goals for golf look like?
- Good golf goals are SMART
- Good golf goals process focused instead of results focused
If you use these principles, I’m confident that you can achieve nearly any golf goal that you set for yourself.