By Erika Larkin on 1/9/13
We all know that specific and realistic goals are more achievable than vague statements about what we hope for. In golf, we are fortunate that we can really measure our progress in lots of areas of the game in play or practice but the majority of us are not tour players; so, maybe we shouldn't try to measure the same stats as the pros. I've come up with a few that you can track this year to help you identify your weaknesses, set new more achievable goals and help your improve your game in 2013:
  • Cone Zone: Instead of just tracking how many putts you had in a round which is vague and sometimes discouraging, track how good your misses are. Try to miss your putts (attempts from outside 6 feet) into a cone extending 6-12 inches beyond the hole. You can apply this zone to practice or play and see how good you can do. The better your misses the better chance you have of making more putts down the road. Then get to work on making lots putts from 6 feet and in and you'll really become a putting whiz :)

  • X marks the spot: For chipping, most people track their ability to get the ball up and down or have it settle close to the hole. These are great stats, but try this for new perspective: pick out where you want to land the ball and then track your ability to hit that spot (or within a couple feet of it). If your "hit" percentage is high but you are still not getting close to the flag, you will learn to adjust your shot shape or landing spot and this will ultimately make your short game better. If you can't hit your landing spot, focus your practice on improving this skill and you will get better without a doubt.

  • Take away one side: The usual stats people track for full swing are "fairways hit" or "greens in regulation" however many golfers are inconsistent and don't know which way they are going to miss it. To solve the bigger problem, find a way to work on eliminating one of your misses (could be alignment adjustment, or grip change or swing key)and take away one side of the course, you will avoid a lot of trouble because you can at least count on what side it should go and play accordingly. Then track your ability to stay on your side and see how often you succeed (or fail) in a given round off tee shots or fairway shots, etc. If nothing else tracking this stat will give you a better feel on which way you miss it more often (it might be different than you think) and that is a good thing to identify so you can work on the right things on the range or with your instructor.

  • Hold your pose: This is not really a "stat" it sounds more like a swing thought but how often do you actually finish your swing in balance? See how often you do this in a given round or over a bucket of balls and see if you can break your own record each time you go out. You may be pleasantly surprised at better ball striking and it can help focus you and guide a better thought process in your pre-shot routine.

  • Chin up! I can't take credit for this idea- many sports psychologists and in particular Pia Nilsson (Annika's long time coach) has preached for many years how to "stay in the present" and manage negative self-talk. Grade yourself A-F or 5-1 on your ability to stay positive each hole. Each time you think or say something negative, drop a point. The better you do at staying positive, your scores should reflect it!
I hope this inspires you to think of specific aspects of your game that you can track to help yourself improve. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community, at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. She was named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine... and she's oobGolf's newest columnist! She writes on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, email her at ErikaLarkin@pga.com. Enjoy!

[ comments ]
GolfSmith7 says:
Good advice!
joe jones says:
I particularly like the idea of taking away one side. Because I lack distance it is critical that I play the percentages when I can't reach the green easily.I always try to play to the spot that removes a hazard or sand from my next shot. Traps beat me up physically because of my bad wheels. Managing my shots is imperative if I am going to score well.
jfurr says:
I have heard the phrase "take a side of the course out of play" before, but I honestly have no idea what that means or how to do it??? Maybe because I hit the ball all over the place.

I like the other tips though.
joe jones says:
I fade the ball so I try to hit my drives to the left center of the fairway If I hit it straight it is in play.If the wind carries it or I push the shot I will usually be on the right side of the fairway but still in play I play away from traps and hazards and never challenge anything that will give me big numbers. On approach shots if I can't hit the green with confidence I play for bail out areas so I can chip and run. I make a strong effort to never short side myself. It can be a bit boring but usually helps me score as well as I can.
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