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Get SMART to improve your game in the New Year

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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!