How Best To Set Goals And Achieve Them

Top 50 coach Katie Dawkins delves into the subject of goal setting for better golf

Stay focused
(Image credit: Future)

Ever had a huge list of things you NEED to do? Perhaps you’ve already broken a few of your New Year's Resolutions. What about making a list of things you WANT to do? These might be a lower handicap, hole more putts or hit it further? Do you really want another golf season to begin and those improvements you listed over a year ago still aren’t taking hold? It’s time to change your approach, ditch the excuses such as the weather was below freezing, there were lots of bugs about, your head wasn’t in the right space. The bottom line is your “New Year, New You” list is actually looking longer which is frustrating and pushing you further away from your goals.

How Do You Start To See Change, How Do We Make Change Happen?

All too often people have an extensive list of things they want to do well or do better, or just do full stop. So, this is where the problem lies. A mammoth list of tasks is almost too scary for some, but it is important to write tasks down as this will at least take them off your mind and then you can see what you’re up against. 

Once you’ve written down all your tasks on one page, fold the page in half lengthways and take ONE goal. Write this on the front of the page - get this done, cross it off and reopen the page and allow yourself another. A massive list seems overwhelming, but it is more manageable when broken up.

Are Your Goals Relevant And Will They Have Impact? 

Have you plucked ideas of grandeur from the heavens of the golfing gods, or have you actually considered your game along with your coach. Have you worked out your ultimate goal and the small changes you are going to work through to make the big things happen? Taking a marginal gains approach by making small tweaks rather than attempting enormous changes will have a HUGE impact on overall performance. This has so much more impact than attempting enormous changes. The route to get to this improvement feels less “whoah” and more manageable. This is how I coach. The small changes are the most important ones.

Making multiple lists can muddle your focus and make you put off working on any change at all

Making multiple lists can muddle your focus and delay making any changes at all

(Image credit: Katie Dawkins)

Can One Of Your Goals Help You To Tick Multiple Goals Off Your List? 

Getting to the root cause of a problem often fixes a multitude of sins and your coach can help with this. People that have set new golfing goals might find that these get tucked behind an enormous list of other jobs and ambitions. In order to put a spring in your step and dust off the double bogeys from your game, you must chunk up the big goals. Make all goals seem achievable on paper, or you’ll keep putting them off.

To create new habits, you cannot simply write on your list, “Stop missing 2 foot putts,” or “Stop focusing on the trouble down the right on the first hole.” You must replace the bad habit with a good cue. For example, a positive visualisation or some self-talk that helps you to focus on where you do want the ball to go. The big fix here is a pre-shot routine. Actively acknowledge every time you do this, and reward yourself with acknowledgement, or even a mark on your card. 

Making a list following a lesson with your coach can really help to focus on what take priority in your Improvement plan

A focused list made with your coach will help identify HOW you can make changes 

(Image credit: Katie Dawkins)

Another way to ensure you stick to good habits is to tell others you’re actively adding them into your game. Be vocal, as you can’t back out of it then. Rather than saying to fellow golfers, “If only I could putt,” or “My putting is still costing me”. Opt for positive conversation. “My 2 foot putts are improving, I’m working hard on this and it’s beginning to pay off”. By making yourself accountable and taking the lead, you'll also start to believe that your putting is improving … and the ball will start to drop. 

Adding in small chunks of practice may be more achievable than lengthy sessions

Working on small chunks of practice will help towards big changes in your scores

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

A lifestyle example - don't say, “I don’t drink enough water,” or “I must drink more water” but rather, “Drinking more water helps my energy levels.” This gives a constant reminder of why you want to change and what you’re gaining from it.  Language is so important in building good habits. We have to change the way we talk to ourselves and others if we hope to move forward in a positive direction, but you've got to want to change, nobody is going to make you do it.

Gratitude Logging

Fine-tune goals that make you happy. You can formulate your list over a few weeks or constantly add to it. Write down three things that make you happy each day. Do this last thing at night as a way to clear out itchy thoughts. Life changes fast. Making changes to make you more happy should be prioritised. 

When we are happy we are naturally more productive and proactive. We have a spring in our step. When you play the kind of golf that gives you a buzz, you play better. The opposite is true when we are sad or bored.

Do something that makes you happy

Add things to your list that that make you happy, bunkers make me happy!

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Own Your List And Take Control Of It

Ensure your list is for YOU and not a list of things you think you should do, or that you’ve been told you should do. Take it one goal at a time and prioritise. If your goals have been the same for a few years (or forever), then introduce fresh perspective and have a lesson with a pro who can inspire you to create that ultimate achievable goal. Not just for a month or two but for life. Be inspired and feel yourself and your golf grow.

Katie Dawkins
Advanced PGA Professional and freelance contributor

Katie is an Advanced PGA professional with over 20 years of coaching experience. She helps golfers of every age and ability to be the best versions of themselves. In January 2022 she was named as one of Golf Monthly's Top 50 Coaches.

Katie coaches the individual and uses her vast experience in technique, psychology and golf fitness to fix problems in a logical manner that is effective - she makes golf simple. Katie is now based on the edge of the New Forest. An experienced club coach, she developed GardenGOLF during lockdown and as well as coaching at Hamptworth Golf Club she freelances, operating via pop-up clinics and travelling to clients homes to help them use their space to improve. 

She has coached tour pros on both LET tour and the Challenge Tour as well as introduced many a beginner to the game. 

Katie has been writing instructional content for magazines for 20 years. Her creative approach to writing is fuelled by her sideline as an artist.