2024 Golf Goals & Season Plan

Having clearly defined goals is really important for me. With all that I’m trying to juggle in my life, if I want a chance to reach the heights in golf that I aspire to, I need clarity on what I’m trying to improve on this season. I don’t have the luxury of wasting time – every time I show up to practice or play, I need to know that what I’m doing is part of the plan.

Truthfully, in years past I did a mediocre job at defining my golf goals and was essentially checking a box. I wasn’t creating a document that would truly guide the 5-6 months of my competitive golf life. Failing to do this properly led to the pain and frustration of underperformance, marginal progress and repetitive mistakes.

Of course, I know better because I work with my clients on this all…the…time. I know how important it is to set goals and create a plan to achieve them. But as we’ve all experienced, knowing doesn’t always translate into action. And as I said, I started blogging in part to help force me to put in the extra time/energy to bring my preparation and mental game work to another level.

Frankly though, I really enjoyed the time I spent over the past 6 weeks reflecting on my game, reviewing random notes from previous years, and even looking over the half-assed previous goals. It’s motivating in the right way—not giving me an inspirational high, but fueling a deeper drive. My focus is on the right things, which means I’m also less likely to get sucked into the limitless number of other stuff out there I could be doing or working on. I also can see more clearly how I’ll measure success this season beyond just my tournament results.

If you’re also serious about improving this year, this is a process I encourage you to undertake.

 

My Goals & Plan Worksheet

Below is a screenshot of my goals worksheet (This is a tool I regularly use with my clients, you can download a template here) and I’ll share some thoughts on it below.

You can see at the top that I’ve segmented the tournament result goals from qualitative results that I want to achieve. These are distinct outcomes, in both my mental game and daily routine, that can be measured. Separating them out and tracking them in this way should help to direct my energy towards achieving them. A big one is getting into the zone in competition, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. I want it and I know how to get it.

I spent a lot of time on the next section, “Why These Goals Matter,” because I know how much it drives my focus and process and ability to get into the zone. I looked through previous golf journals and other times I’ve written about this topic to make sure I wasn’t being short-sighted or having a recency bias. There are a lot of things I’ve said in the past that still strongly resonate—if something comes up again and again, that tells me it is an important part of what drives me.

 

Process Goals

I’ve come a long way from the 18-year-old kid who choked trying to qualify for the U.S. Open in 1997. The pressure I feel now when I compete is at a much more normal level of intensity and is often helpful. That’s not to say that I always handle it perfectly, but it’s no longer my top concern. Quite the opposite. In the absence of the excessive fear/pressure I felt years ago, there are now times, even on the first tee, when my focus is too low. My energy is too flat. I need to generate the intensity on my own to fill the vacuum left from the pressure/fear I resolved. That’s why going through this process of setting my goals is so important – this is what generates that energy.

Emphasizing my process for every shot I hit is where that focus gets deployed. But I need to train it like a muscle. I’ve trained my body and it has gotten a lot stronger, but right now this area of my mind is weak and that leads to my decision-making process not being robust enough. I don’t give myself the opportunity to tap into my “feel” or “sense” of the shot, which is one of my biggest strengths and one of the things I love most about the game. I can be athletic and creative when I have the right focus, presence and clarity of mind. Not having that level of focus I now consider a punishment, like I’ve taken away my favorite toy.

I’m also learning how to strategically think around the golf course far better than I ever have before. Sounds weird to say, but I never really used my intelligence to play the game. I relied on my athletic instincts to make decisions, which could easily get overly aggressive and cost me. Keeping strokes gained statistics are helpful for learning to make smart decisions and evaluate the quality of my decisions after the round.

I’ve seen a lot of stat-tracking apps and templates that have been in golf psychology books, but I haven’t been happy with their application to my game. So the one thing I haven’t nailed down yet is how I’ll specifically be tracking progress of my shots while playing and be able to make sense of them after. I’ll be working on a custom solution.

While my confidence is quite strong overall, historically I have also expected a lot of myself and that can damage my perception of what I’m capable of. It happened again just a few weeks ago when I was down in FL visiting my parents after playing my second round of golf this year. I shot even par from the tips in windy conditions but wasn’t super happy after the round. I left a lot of shots out there at the end of the round—made double on 16 because of two terrible chips shots and made par from just off the green in two on the par 5 18th, with a pretty easy chip.

Given that I haven’t practiced or played in nearly 5 months, it was actually a fantastic round! My short game let me down, but I had barely practiced it. My ball striking, putting and routine/ process were all solid. From ll the strength/mobility work during the off season my swing felt strong and stable. The round was confirmation that my game was already in a good spot and I should have walked away feeling positive. Nope. I was stuck on the three poor chips and the fact that I didn’t shoot under par and feeling bad.

This reaction weakens my confidence—I’m not being accurate with myself about my performance or progression. I know that when I’m in competition, I need that deep level of certainty about what I can do and that means being as accurate as I can be about my capabilities.

Of course, this isn’t black or white, I just know there are times where, subconsciously, my mind looks for validation externally in ways that I would never actually want. For example, when playing with someone new I might subtly want a compliment from them on my swing or my game. I’m looking for the validation that I’m not giving myself. That needs to come from me, not from someone random who knows almost nothing about me or my game.

 

Problems I’ll Likely Face

The last couple of years I’ve cleaned up my golf swing and really don’t want to be tweaking anything this year—I want this year focused on the things I’ve mentioned. But sometimes it can be easy to start thinking more consciously about certain positions. A possible scenario this year is that as the season starts to progress, I can imagine hitting some great shots and feeling like I’m finding something new with my swing from the added strength/mobility that I’ve gained and wanting more of it.

I know myself; I’ll want to replicate it. I’ll want to understand what I’m doing better and will start thinking more about it in a forceful way. I’ve been down this road many times and I need to allow that to happen naturally, without consciously paying attention to it. IT WILL BE A DISTRACTION. My swing is good enough right now to achieve several of the goals I want, maybe even all of them. My process is not consistent/strong enough and that’s where my focus needs to be, very likely for the whole season. If I nail that this year, then next year maybe it’ll make sense to do more work with my coach Dom on my swing.

 

Last thing I’ll mention is what’s not reflected here is regular practice that I’ll be putting into my game both on and off the course. I’m going to allow myself to be responsive to where my game is at certain points, knowing that my short game and putting are areas that tend to need the most practice. But from a process standpoint, I care more about being structured with what I’m working on and not getting lost with my time. I know I’m going to work on what’s important because of this plan.

First tournament of the season is the qualifier for the Philly Mid-am on April 13th and then on May 6th is the U.S. Open Local Qualifying. Let’s go!

As I take one last attempt to realize my golf dreams, I decided to start blogging to practice what I preach, bring some accountability, and provide a window into my mental game work, goals, and process. If you’d like my latest post delivered right to your inbox, click here to added to the list.

Written by Jared Tendler

March 24, 2024

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