Play Better Tournament Golf
Use Process Goals to Play Your Best Golf
Outcome goals are things we ultimately want to achieve. For a PGA or LPGA Tour Player, examples they might be retaining your playing status, winning a tournament, qualifying for the Fed-ex Cup Playoffs, making the Ryder Cup Team or Solheim Cup Team, making a certain amount of money...For an amateur golfer, goals might be: winning a tournament, winning or playing well in a club championship, or a member-guest tournament, shooting a certain score, making a team… While it’s very important to have goals that you can work toward and something to help keep you motivated, focusing on outcome goals while playing is very detrimental to your score. Instead, you want to focus on process goals, things you can control that will help you ultimately achieve your outcome goals.
Process goals help you stay focused on things that are within your control. To play your best golf under pressure, it’s important to focus on things within your control instead of being drawn to outcomes and things that you cannot control.
Examples of processes that you control are:
Going through a consistent routine on every shot – not taking more or less time depending on the importance or difficulty of the shot
Asking yourself: “what’s my target?” “Where do I want to hit this shot?” What do I want to do here?” or some form of this question before you hit each shot. (Notice these questions are in the forms of a positive rather than negative manner)
Getting100% committed to your target before stepping up to the ball
Getting 100% committed to the club you choose before hitting each shot
Accepting poor shots or putts before hitting the next shot or putt
Staying patient and poised no matter the circumstances
Sticking to your game plan unless weather dictates a change – not changing due to another player’s strategy or a score you made on a previous hole
These are just a few examples of process goals that, if you are able to stick to them, will help you reach your ultimate outcome goals.
Right now on the PGA Tour you will see guys trying to play their way into the Top 125 so they can retain their playing status and in the coming weeks they will be trying to gain enough points on the FedEx Cup Playoff list to continue qualifying for and playing in the Playoffs.
I recently played in the NEPGA Sr. Section Championship and was the defending champion. While this is small potatoes compared to the PGA Tour, it's important to me. Being the defending champion can put additional pressure on you if your expectations are too elevated and you focus on outcomes rather than the process. So, the night before the first round, I wrote down a few process goals that I felt would help me reach my outcome goal of coming in the top 5 and possibly winning the tournament. My main process goals for this tournament were:
1. Get 100% committed to my target, club selection and type of shot I wanted to play before stepping up to the ball on every shot.
2. Stay patient and play with poise no matter the circumstance.
3. Accept poor shots or bad breaks and move on to what I can control.
I’m happy to report that I did a good job with my process goals and am especially proud of what I though was the most important goal: staying patient and playing with poise. The second day (final day as it’s a 36-hole event) my putting wasn’t as strong as it normally is. I was leaving putts short as the greens were slower than I am used to. In the past, after missing a few putts dead in the center of the cup but short, I would have gotten impatient, started to press and try to force things. Instead, I remained patient, played each shot one at a time and made an 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. I stayed patient on 18, committed to my clubs and targets, made a par and won by 1 stroke. What’s important to note is that staying aware of my process goals and focusing on them, things I can control, allowed me to reach my outcome goal.
What’s also interesting to note is that even though I felt like I wasn’t putting well, after the round I entered my stats and found that I was +.5 strokes gained putting. This means I putted better than the PGA Tour average that round and gained 1/2 a stroke through my putting. I felt as if my putting wasn’t up to my usual standards when in reality it was still better than PGA Tour average. That doesn’t mean I’m striving for average, but it does tell me that if I had gotten impatient and tried to force things, not only would it not have worked, but I would have been doing so on a feeling that turned out to be totally wrong. So, use me as an example, and make sure you focus on what you can control, your process goals and allow them to help you play your best golf.