Setting Golf Goals: 4 Tips To Become A Better Player

All golfers want to shoot lower scores, but sometimes it can feel like you’ve tried everything with little success. Setting golf goals is a simple and effective way to improve your game, yet few have tried nor know how to set them.

Practice and golf lessons can of course help – but how do you know if you are getting better? How do you measure your improvement? How do you optimize your practice time?

Without setting goals, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and feel like you’re going round in circles.

Setting incremental goals keeps us focused and makes our biggest golf goals more achievable, by breaking them down into more manageable steps.

So if you’re new to golf goals, then keep reading. In this article, we’ll cover how to track and measure your goals, then give you 4 ways to use golf goals to improve your game.

Ready? Let’s get into the swing of it.

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How To Measure And Track Your Golf Goals

For golf goals to be actionable, you need the ability to measure your progress. Simply saying you want to stop hooking the ball is not an actionable goal – you need to break it down into smaller, easy-to-measure steps.

The good news is that the game of golf is easily measured. There are plenty of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that can help you determine the best way to improve.

We recommend you do two things to start tracking your golf game:

#1: Sign-up For A Golf Handicap

First up, you can track your progress by using a golf handicap.

All golfers should establish a golf handicap to measure their play over time. It is simple – every time you play you post your score.

Don’t know how to get a golf handicap? The USGA (United States Golf Association) has great resources to help.

Your handicap index will be a number. For example, you may have a 10.2 handicap. This means that you have the potential to shoot an 82 on a par 72 golf course.

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A zero handicap is called a scratch golfer and they would have to give you 10 strokes to have a fair match.

So, the lower the handicap, the better the golfer. Using this rule of thumb, a handicap can be an easy way to measure your progress.

#2: Track High-Level KPIs When You Play

Second up, you can use high-level KPIs (key performance indicators) to measure your progress.

Using three simple KPIs, you can track what happens during a round of golf that impacts your scorecard and which metrics impact your score the most.

These three are the same for professional golfers and high-handicappers: Fairways hit, greens in regulation (GIR), and # of putts.

  • The number of fairways you hit is easy to track. How many times did your tee shot find the fairway? (Note: Ignore par 3s. Most 18 hole courses have 14 par 4s and par 5s.)
  • A green in regulation means that you had a birdie putt. For example, on a par 4, you reach the green in two strokes.
  • The # of putts is simple. How many total putts did you have during your round? If you 2-putt every green you would have 36 putts.
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You can easily track these KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on your scorecard. The most popular golf handicap phone app (GHIN) allows you to enter this data when you post your score.

Now you have the data – it’s time to talk about creating golf goals!

4 Ways To Use Golf Goals To Improve

For each section below we will discuss how to assess your game and recommend some potential golf goals you can use.

You should tailor your practice time to work on the areas of improvement you identify in your golf game.

#1: Analyze Your Scorecard

The simplest way to understand your game and set golf goals is to take a few moments after your round to review your scorecard.

You are looking at the score on each hole to determine where and why you struggled or lost strokes.

Related Article: Building a Golf Practice Routine: A How-To Guide

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For example, ask yourself about:

  • Penalty Strokes – how many times did you hit your ball in a hazard (creek, lake, marsh, etc.)? how many times did you hit your ball out of bounds?
  • Types of Holes – compare your scores on par 3s vs. par 4s vs. par 5s. Does one type of hole give you more trouble?
  • Did you finish strong? How did you play the last 3-4 holes?

Each of the above items tells you about your game and can help you shape golf goals.

A high number of penalty strokes could mean that you need to work on making consistent contact with the ball and/or you are playing too aggressively.

Establish a goal to reduce the number of penalty shots per round. Reach this goal by working on your swing tempo and improving your course management.

Most amateur golfers struggle the most on par 3s. Create a golf goal to monitor and improve your par 3 scoring.

The best tip for improving your par 3 scoring – ignore the pin and always aim at the middle of the green.

Finally, do you notice a trend where you struggle to finish a round? Many golfers get tired on the back nine and their scores suffer.

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Why not include a fitness goal in your golf improvement plan? Getting in better physical shape will help improve your golf game – not all golf goals need to be about your swing or your scores.

#2 – Golf Handicap Reduction

Your golf handicap is the best measure of your golf game. There is no doubt that a lower handicap means you are playing better golf.

If you currently are a 15 handicap and 6 months ago you were an 18 handicap – you are now a better player. You have improved!

No set of golf goals is complete without a handicap reduction target. It is a must for all players looking to improve.

We recommend you set an annual goal for your golf handicap. Make it reasonable, but also challenge yourself.

#3 – Golf Goals Tied to Your KPI(s)

As we mentioned above, all golfers should be tracking fairways hit, greens in regulation (GIR), and # of putts. These KPIs tell you a lot about your game and how to improve.

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You may find it surprising, but fairways hit is the least important to your final score. As long as your bad drives don’t lead to penalty shots, you can recover and still have a good hole.

The more greens in regulation (GIR) you hit, the easier your round will be. Professional golfers average 12 GIR per round.

Even if you don’t make any of the birdie putts, you can two-putt and head to the next tee with a par on your scorecard.

Finally, the # of putts per round will dramatically impact your scorecard and your golf handicap.

Another way to think about your putting. Every time you 1-putt you have saved a stroke and every time you 3-putt you have lost a stroke.

To be a good putter, you need to save many more putts than you lose. Scratch golfers average around 32 putts per round, but their best rounds have ~25 putts. (If you average more than 36 putts per round you might have the dreaded Yips!)

Use these KPIs to build golf goals. For example, average 10 fairways per round, 8 GIRs (greens in regulation), and 32 putts or less.

Track your golf KPIs for ~10 rounds to develop a baseline. Use your baseline data to develop reasonable targets. Golf goals should be challenging, but reachable.

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#4 – Challenge Yourself To Compete

Playing golf is an awesome experience, but to get everything out of the game you have to test yourself.

Competitive golf is the true test of your game. Someone else keeps your scorecard and every stroke counts. At the end of the round, your score is posted for everyone to see.

In my opinion, your list of golf goals is not complete until you add one related to playing in a tournament.

You don’t have to play in a national or regional event. It can be something small at your local club. Setting goals to play in these types of tournaments keeps you accountable and motivated.

Sign-up for your club championship or find a “net” tournament where you can use your golf handicap.

At least a few times every year you should “tee it up” in a competitive environment!

Write Down Your Golf Goals And Track Your Improvement

It doesn’t matter if you have 3 or 10 golf goals. Write them down.

Be thoughtful about your targets. The more realistic, the more likely you’ll be able to achieve them and stay motivated.

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For example, it just isn’t realistic to reduce your handicap by 10 strokes in one year. Golf is a marathon, not a sprint. You have plenty of time to improve.

Once you have a documented golf improvement plan, tailor your practice to achieve your golf goals. For example:

  • Do you have a goal to reduce your putts per round? Spend plenty of time on the practice putting green.
  • Do you want to hit more fairways and reduce your penalty shots per round? Invest in a full-swing lesson with a certified golf instructor.

Next to each golf goal in your plan, add the steps (commitments) you are going to take to reach the goal.

For example, practice putting for 1-hour per week. Get 1-lesson per month. Visit the driving range once per week.

Periodically, revisit your golf improvement plan. How are you progressing towards your golf goals? Are you consistently meeting the commitments you documented?

Finally, celebrate your accomplishments. Golf is hard. You may not reach all of your golf goals, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t improved.

Once you reach a goal, it is time to make a new one – you can always improve your game.

How To Set Golf Goals To Become A Better Player

You Have Your Plan – How Are You Going To Get There?

It could be as simple as improving your Swing Tempo! Or maybe you need some golf betting games to keep the stakes high?

Ray Dingledine

Ray Dingledine

Ray has played golf for over 30 years and competed at the collegiate level. He enjoys growing the game of golf through coaching PGA Jr. and High School golf teams. Ray continues to play in local amateur golf events and currently has a +1 handicap.

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