Trying to coach yourself golf is like trying to cut your own hair. You have blind spots and can never do as good a job as someone standing beside you. However, we as golfers have to take on a certain amount of control, as few of us can afford to have a golf coach follow us around.
In this article I’ll share my own performance plan for the year – I hope it gives you some insight and helps you plan your own golfing goals for the year.
It has been 8 years since I’ve not had an injury or had 30 hours of weekly PhD work to fit in. With this new found freedom I’m not trying to make it on tour, but I would love to get back to a good playing standard and see how far I can push.
My aim for 2021 is to get back to a +1.5 playing standard, I think I will be around 1-2 handicap standard when we finally come out of lockdown on the 29th March. Through 2021 I would like to play a few small PGA events and have a couple of great golfing trips with my friends.
A secondary aim is to keep learning – planning / performance coaching is the main way I now work with golfers, and I know through this process, I will continue to develop my skills and understanding of how to make this process better for other players.
Big picture (2 to +1.5 playing standard)
There is no perfect way to model how to play to a given handicap, but I find setting rough performance targets really helpful in refining your thinking, practice and reflection each week. Below is a rough performance framework for me to hit this goal:
- FIR / 1st cut: > 65%
- GIR: > 66%
- Up & downs > 59%
- < 29.0 putts
This would mean hitting 9-10 drives in the fairway / 1st cut of rough. Hitting 12 greens a round, and on average, getting up and down on 4 of the 6 holes where I miss the green. If I can keep double bogeys off my card I should average a many rounds with 12 birdie chances and 2-3 drop shots.
The up and down numbers should also mean that I’m converting over 50% of birdie opportunities on par 5’s and short par 4’s when I can put the ball in a good position close to the green.
This model is very basic, but it now gives us a framework to measure strengths / weaknesses and structure weekly practice.
Below is the weekly planning I usual do for other golfers, it was great fun to switch the tables and plan this for myself. Below are my weekly ‘core tasks’ to complete along with goals for each practice challenge.
As I tell my players, the aim is to get as many of these tasks ticked off each week and see if you can reach all the targets during the season. Life (and the British weather) can often get in the way, but if I can get 80% of these tasks done each week I’m sure my golf game will be heading in the right direction.
This is around 5-6 hours of practice a week and a competitive 18 holes. For the first 8 weeks this will work well, then if I’m on track, I need to increase my time playing and competing on the golf course and dial back the blocked practice.
Technique & coaching
I’m relatively confident that with my basics in place and some structured practice I can get my short game and putting up to the required standard – these are the strengths of my golf game. The big area of work is my long game – I strike the ball consistently well, but have never hit the ball accurately or consistently straight enough to earn a living playing as a professional.
Hooks, over-draws and blocks have result in me hitting the ball into trouble 1-2 times a round off the tee and not hitting enough greens. The same issue also impacts distance control and prevents me hitting it close enough from inside 150-yards.
Looking at my few 2020 playing stats I currently hit ~50% of fairways and ~50% of greens. I can often magic my way close to the green in regulation and annoy everyone with my short game, but I do require a more consistent and controllable ball flight to reach a better level of scoring.
The cause of this errant ball flight is simple – 1) a closed club face relative to my swing path and 2) an in-to-out swing path to mitigate the excess club face rotation.
How to improve this is the more challenging issue, there are many parts of my golf swing that could improve this area:
- More neutral club face at the top of backswing
- Increased width and arm swing when starting down
- Better control of body posture starting down
- More stable wrist mechanics through impact
- Better arm swing and upper body clearance through impact
- All of the above combined
If I’m not careful I could fall down a rabbit hole of swing changes and get worse not better!
My wisdom tells me I’ve always hit a draw and played with a shut club face – I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, I need to focus on what matters – greater control and increased consistency of the club face angle through impact.
The main approach I’m going to take is to play skills games that challenge my lateral accuracy, and through repeatedly playing these games my technique will adapt. This is a more implicit way of learning and lets you body find a solution, rather than dissecting every swing position.
During skills challenges I remind players – I don’t care what your swing looks like, just find a way to score as many points as possible. I know this is easy to say and tougher to do in practice, but I shall be doing my best to carry this approach forward during practice.
I will also have 2-3 lessons through the year. I have had two coaches over the past 19 years, I know and trust both – a big shout out to Keith Preston at Aldeburgh and Joe Feather at Leeds GC. What I love about both these coaches is that I can dump all of my ideas on them (listed above) and they help me sift through and focus on the 1-2 most important points.
I will focus on coaching points during technical practice (x2 a week) and far less during the skills challenges. It is impossible to switch off from thinking technically when you are making changes, but my aim is to take technical thoughts and distil them down into one swing cue for me to use on the golf course.
Playing & scoring
The second large challenge will be fitting in enough competitive play. You, fine readers, have likely played 5-10x the amount of golf I have in the past 2-3 years. I can tell you that writing / talking about golf doesn’t magically make you better.
As the year progresses I hope to play and compete twice a week. Scoring is a habit – making the correct decisions, being able to manage doubts during a round and truly focusing over every shot are skills that fade without play.
I need to re-learn how to do this to an excellent standard. Let me know if you would like me to document this in more detail throughout the year.
It would be pointless to invest all this effort without checking my tools are at least suitable. I tried out a lot of irons over the winter, my aim was to find a setup that gave me the best dispersion pattern and still allowed me to hit lower, controlled shots when needed.
Larger club heads offer greater forgiveness, but as a trade-off, they can reduce the ability to control the ball flight. A bit part of this process was finding irons that still provided accurate outcomes, on what felt like, bad swings. I also wanted irons that offered consistent distance control across the club face.
New irons won’t magically get me to my goal, but I now have the confidence that I’ve got the tools to get the most out of my golf game.
- 4-iron to PW
- Project-X 6.5 shafts
- Standard length
- Standard lie
Mizuno T20 Satin wedges
- 52º, 56º & 60º
- Project-X 6.5 shafts
- Standard length
- Standard lie
This wedge setup fits in well with the irons. The 52, 56, 60º wedge setup is my preferred choice and allows me to hit all the shots I need to score well inside 120-yards and around the greens.
If all goes to plan I will be playing sport or hitting the gym 3x a week – with a mix of weights to get stronger and minimise the chances of injury; and a little cardio. No Bryson plans here, just steady progressions. Again, leave a comment if you would like more content and ideas around this area.
Hitting the golf ball further will improve scoring, if all else stays the same, however if your lateral error is too large it could result in more hazards / lost balls and worse scoring. Currently, my club head speed with driver is ~106mph, if I can increase this figure to above 112mph I will be long enough to compete around most golf courses. If my lateral error improves it would then be worth me chasing more distance off the tee.
There is my plan for how to improve my own golf game. No rocket science, just making sure the basics are all covered and I have a solid weekly plan for practice and play. I hope it gives you some useful insight and ideas for developing your own golf game.
This is currently a one-off article, but if you would like me to follow up through the season, and / or dig deeper into any specific area do leave a comment below – the best content always comes from your ideas.
Feel free to use these subheadings to create your own plan for the year, or come find me for a performance coaching session if you’d like some help putting one together.
Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider UK
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