Essential Golf: A passion for the Game

S.M.A.R.T. Goals To Improve Your Game

S.M.A.R.T. goals to improve your game are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

When setting goals as a golfer, it is vital to focus on variables that the golfer has the most control over. It is okay to share the dreams and motivation for achieving those, but when it comes to goals, it’s essential we don’t set ones that may have a detrimental effect on our progress.

“I used to write down that I want to win five times, I want to win a major, I want to win The Race to Dubai, I want to win the FedEx Cup…but I can’t control it. There are so many other variables in there. I’d rather set goals that are objective and measurable, that I’m in control of.” – Rory McIlroy said a couple of months ago.

Although tournament wins are ultimately what we are striving for, using tournament wins as your goal won’t work.

Basing our measure of success or failure on where we finish in a tournament, how many tournaments we win throughout a season, or even what we shoot in a tournament or a round adds pressure. Pressure interferes with all the little things we need to do and focus on if we are to improve our game.

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If hitting each shot in the round as best as you possibly can, for example, or following your pre or post-shot routine throughout your round on every shot without exception are your goals, then you have put a lot less pressure on yourself than you do by basing the success of a round or a tournament being all about where you finish. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the obvious either: the better you hit each shot, and the more you do your post and pre-routines, the better your game, scorecard, and position will ultimately be.

Over and above that, it’s essential to bear in mind where you finish in a tournament and where that leaves you in the rankings are things you have little or no control over as the performance of the other players, among other factors, comes into play.

The higher the level of uncertainty around our goals, the more likely they will cause us disappointment, frustration, and ultimately under-performance. Your ranking and results cannot be your measure of success. Only you can be your measure of success. When you shift the focus to elements predominantly within your control, you create the freedom to positively focus on the goals that may enable you to achieve your dreams.

McIlroy explained this well at the beginning of this season when talking about the shift in his thinking about his goals, “I can control if my stats are better than last year. I want my proximity to the hole inside 150 yards to be a certain number, and I want my strokes gained putting to be a certain number. I want to hit over 60% of fairways.”

What McIlroy is doing is setting performance goals, goals which are specific to statistics that, if achieved, will all lead to an overall improvement in his play over the course of a season.


Once you set your performance goals, the next step is to break them down further into process goals which are things you not only have more control over but you have 100% control over. For example, if increasing your clubhead speed was one of your goals, you break it down even further by setting goals for your gym workouts. If, like Rory, you want to focus a goal on hitting at least 60% of fairways, you would break that goal further into driving accuracy and possibly course strategy process goals.

Doing game analysis to discover the areas of your game that will improve your overall performance and setting short term (3-6 months) and long term (Season-long) goals, then building your practice sessions around them is how you will win more tournaments and improve your ranking.

If goals are being set to improve your game, then goals must focus solely on what you need to do and not on what others are doing. By taking care of your short-term goals, you will bring yourself closer to achieving your long-term dreams.

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