“Golf is assuredly a mystifying game. It would seem that if a person has hit a golf ball correctly a thousand times, he should be able to duplicate the performance at will. But such is certainly not the case. Bobby Jones.
New Year Resolutions for Golfers
Whenever I hear of New Year Resolutions for golf or whatever, I become somewhat skeptical because of the underlying science behind why people fail to see them through. It is not an easy game to master; the most beguiling aspect is the ability to have a good day on the course, followed by an awful one.
This is an essential consideration before we start out in 2020 to improve at a game where the movements can be learned quite quickly by someone who is reasonably agile and injury-free. Learning them and owning them to the point of being able to repeat them consciously unconscious are two strange bedfellows as the Bobby Jones quote above suggests.
Little and often is the key, the power of compounding works wonders when trying to improve at golf. So, my top tips for getting the best out of your game this year?
Get a Coach.
The difference between a good and bad coach.
It is hard to get away from the fact that a good golf instructor will help you improve at golf. It is challenging to solve a dynamic problem with static solutions. You can’t see what you are doing in your swing in real-time, lifting your head to check makes it a different movement. I shudder when I see this in the range, if you take anything away from today’s blog, remember this; it is not the same movement.
Use word of mouth to pick a coach. If you are a member of a club, is the professional well regarded by members as a teacher? Follow the progress of players who have got lessons and seek them out for guidance. Doing a little bit of research here can save you from problems ahead. Remember, compatibility is key, the teacher could be top class but just not suited to your style of learning!
Get fitted for clubs.
I said this last year in my blog for 2019 that the amount of golfers I see using clubs that are ill-suited for them is staggering. In saying that, club fitting should only be done when you are hitting the ball in a reasonable manner. The latest SIM driver from TaylorMade or TS3 from Titleist won’t make a jot of difference if you swing it poorly. Don’t be seduced by the marketing gurus promising a swing like Rory. Learn to play correctly first!
Get golf fit!
As we age, we all lose lean muscle mass, which is known as sarcopenia. This has the knock-on effect of weight gain, and of course, this inhibits our ability to rotate and move efficiently in the swing. We all get stiffer as the years pass through the sedentary lifestyle that most golfers live. So, any form of exercise will help you improve at golf. There are plenty of group classes available for golf-specific exercise, yoga, and pilates! Sign up for one!
You can read more about the science of why we lose clubhead speed as we age here!
Tips & Tricks!
They are my big three golf ideas for 2020, and here are some tips and tricks on how to keep those New Year Resolutions. Roughly 80% of people fail with NY Resolutions, and the truth is relying on motivation alone is a loser’s game. Like willpower, you only have so much to use each day, so unless you are in the fortunate few that have a purpose in life (purpose by definition doesn’t waver), follow these guidelines when setting your goals and aspirations.
1 Form proper habit loops. Be very specific on what you are trying to achieve. I will improve my chipping; NOT I will win the Captains Prize, I will lose two shots off my handicap, I will play to single figures. This is an example of smart goals v poor goals.
2 Write down your goals and become accountable. Track your progress after every session. It must be measurable. My clients divide their game into six buckets and then divide them into sub-sections. They then enter them in their training space online. No hiding place!
3 Break your game down into bite-size pieces that are achievable. Always work backward in goal setting for golf, whether that be breaking 90 – 80 or 70. This will give you more wins, which will keep you motivated to continue. Accept failure; this is a good thing in the pursuit of true learning. See Carol Dweck Errorful Learning
Finally, remember any win is a win.
4 Work towards a specific goal target. To help you do this, replace one habit with another. So you watch football on a Monday, replace that with a trip to the range. You have a coffee before you play golf? Replace that with 15 minutes of chipping practice.
5 Time; set a specific time aside for your practice, make sure it fits in comfortably with your daily schedule. RANDOM = LOST.
6 Finally, enjoy the process, if you genuinely don’t well consider some other activity!
Why do we fail?
1 Going it alone. Nothing beats having a friend along to help motivate you. Many clubs use team-building sessions during the winter months for their interclub teams. It is always easier to achieve when you have company (the right company!) Avoid negative people like the plague.
2 Cost of hiring a coach, getting lessons, getting fitted for clubs. The cost has a huge bearing on all aspects of the golf industry and should be considered carefully before beginning the hike to the summit!
3 Sky-high expectations, if it were that easy, you would be in Abu Dhabi this week, not just sunning yourself but also playing for obscene amounts of filthy lucre. The wind and rain you hear at your window is your wake up call. Temper your expectations accordingly!
4 No plan in place. You have just entered snipers alley — Stone-dead before you start. Or the plan is unspecific, unrealistic, based on willpower and not systems.
5 Giving up too quickly. It takes time. In my blog on Mastery, I write that “New becomes old, exciting becomes predictable. Mastery requires practice, but the more you practice, the more boring and routine it becomes. The bitter irony of practice is repetition and the greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. Habits stop delighting, and the outcome becomes expected.” Give yourself plenty of time.
6 Not believing in yourself, we are hard-wired since prehistoric times to do what is easy. You know the what but not the why. You must have a compelling reason for improving at golf. Long-lasting change is most likely when it is self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking, Harvard Medical school.
In saying all of the above, be honest with yourself, what do you actually want from golf? I know plenty of golfers who play week in and week out off the same handicap and in the same fourball and are happy with their lot. Each to their own, but if this is you, trying to change your inner view of who you believe you are is doomed to failure. It’s known as “False Hope Syndrome,” coined by Peter Herman, a psychology professor. “Their resolution is significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves.”
I wish you all the best in your efforts to improve at golf. Some of my favourite books on habit forming are listed below. Hope you enjoy!
The Science of Rapid Skill Acquisition by Peter Hollins.
Atomic Habits by James Clear.
The First 20 Hours ~ How to learn anything fast by Josh Kaufman.
Thank you for taking the time to read! It is greatly appreciated. Follow our Ryder Cup Captain at our dedicated Ryder Cup page and over at his website. Finally, don’t forget to sign up for my FREE monthly digital magazine. Finally, you also have a chance to win a dozen Titleist Pro V1’s each & every month. Tadhg.
Tadhg Harrington is a full time, professional golf instructor, and owner of the Harrington Golf Academy, based in Dublin, Ireland. He is a graduate of the Titleist Performance Institute and Setanta College. He is the eldest brother of three-time time Major Champion, Padraig Harrington.
He succeeds, employing empathy, passion and exceptional customer service, teaching above the noise, the quick tips, and the latest fads and is truly unique in the Irish golf industry.
The Harrington Golf Academy provides long term coaching programs designed to bring sensory processing to motor learning skills. Tadhg teaches the long game at Drynam Park Golf Centre and short game at Roganstown GC. His business partner, Ex European Tour Player, Rebecca Codd, also teaches full time at Drynam Park Golf Centre.