Get SMART to improve your game in the New Year

By Tasha BrownerDecember 29, 2014, 4:00 pm

What are your New Year's golf resolutions? Do they include the common ones, such as lose weight, hit it farther, join a gym, lower your handicap, make more putts, etc.? And why are resolutions so hard to attain?

When hearing the most common resolutions, I can't help but notice that they set people up for failure. Not only do these goals lack specificity, they have no deadline or accountability for the people who set them.

Before you set your New Year's golf (and life) resolutions, make sure you know how to actually achieve them.

The key to reaching your goals is to make them SMART -- specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time targeted. In other words, this is the what, when, why, and how when it comes to achieving your goals.

To get started, make an honest assessment of the state of your game and then divide your goals into the game's four most important parts -- technique, course management, golf fitness, and mental game.

Here are some examples of SMART golf goals, and how to reach them, as it relates to the four specific parts of the game mentioned above.

Specific example: "Improve my performance on uneven lies." This is a specific course management goal. If this is your resolution, you would be practicing on downhill, uphill, and sidehill lies. When you have a specific goal like this, you create an excellent focus for your range and course practice, although you may need to enlist a PGA/LPGA Professional to help you reach your "specific" goals.

Measurable example: "I want to hit 75 percent of the fairways." This is a measurable technique/course management goal, and there are tools to help. One such tool that I have used is called GameGolf. This sensor system clips onto your belt and clubs, and it easily tracks your golf statistics to help measure your goals. Remember, it is critical to have something to measure, and with all of the technology available, it is simpler than ever to track your goals.

Achievable example: "Repeat my pre-shot routine on every shot." This is an achievable mental game/course management goal that can be practiced on the range or the course and will make a big difference in your performance. Made famous by Vision 54's Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson, a pre-shot routine or "think box/play box" is the time before you hit where you separate where you do the thinking from where you do the playing of the shot. On the course, instead of keeping score, you can use the scorecard to tally how many times you execute your routine.

Realistic example: "During my two practices a week, I want to improve transferring my game from the range to the course." This is a very common problem and a realistic course management/mental game goal that takes time commitment. Most people practice their technique on the range but fail to incorporate "course-like" training. Also, golfers make goals that they don't have time to achieve. One simple way to transition your swing to the course (without spending hours at the course) would be to play "holes" on the range by switching clubs and targets on every shot.

Time-targeted example: "By the time the course reopens on March 15th, I want to increase my flexibility." This is a time-targeted golf fitness goal that allows for the creation of a short- and long-term plan. When you have a time-targeted goal, you and your fitness professional are able to set the frequency and difficulty level of your fitness sessions. Start with trying different types of fitness to help your flexibility, such as Yoga, Pilates, daily foam rolling, etc. Then make a long-term goal of having a permanent one-on-one appointment with a fitness professional and an at-home workout to help you reach your flexibility goals.

In addition to identifying goals, write them down and post them somewhere that you see them often. This is a critical step in goal setting so you are accountable.

When making your New Year's resolutions, set SMART goals, write them down, and reevaluate and measure your progress often to truly take your game to the next level.

Best wishes in 2015!

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.