Using Measurement to Improve Your Golf Performance

justin rose trackman

How can we use measurement via metrics to achieve the vastly improved golf performance results we are looking for? Listen on.

Measurement, tracking, numbers – even music and poetry, have a type of mathematical beauty. Bertrand Russell expressed his sense of mathematical beauty in these words:

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry.

And we want to use measurement to our advantage because what get’s measured get’s done.

I’ve played golf recently with a lot of excellent players and one thing I noticed is that they almost all keep track of their shots. Just something that allows you to track fairways hit, greens in regulation, putts, etc.

Now, I know this can be a hurdle for lot of folks. You might be saying “Who am I to be tracking my stats. I’m just an average player” Well, average players become good players and good players become exceptional players. Sort of how this works. You have to introduce objective analysis to see areas where you can improve your golf performance so you can maximize your practice sessions and work on those things that are causing the most grief in your game.

Sometimes it’s just easier to keep things vague, fuzzy and in the land of potentiality – and that’s fine – but if it impedes the results you are looking for then it might be time to introduce some type of measurement.

Now, of course, this is nothing new. If you’ve watched the Olympics, for example, you witnessed some of the mostly finely-tuned athletes in the world – where hundredths of a second count. These are some of the most “measured” athletes on the planet. From their caloric intake to their workout repetitions and training schedules – they are measured (and have to measure to compete) in supreme detail. Why, because they know it produces results.

So how can we bring measurement into your game to achieve specific results? First, we need to decide on a specific and precise result. Perhaps we want to hit more fairways off the tee – as our statistical analysis has shown us we are hitting about 40% of fairways. We want to achieve a consistent rate of 60%. Perfect, now we have a goal to work with!

Now that we have this precise goal we can easily introduce measurement to get these precise results we are looking for. Step one might be to make an appointment with our golf instructor to have him/her diagnose just what is happening to produce so many non-solid and off-center hits.

Then we would need to set up a schedule. Say Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to practice for, say, 45 minutes to work on that specific swing flaw – and nothing else!(rather, make that the main “focus” of your practice session) That makes your practice session very clear and focused as to what you have to practice, accomplish and therefore golf performance. Do-able, right?! (I thought so)

Let’s get a concrete example going here so we can ground this in reality. Let’s say you want to improve your short game. Ok that’s a start but it’s too general. I means short game can encompass a lot of things, right? — like wedge play, chipping, putting. Let’s target one specifically.

I’ll use myself as an example. We have this 290 yard par 4 that I play each week. Usually I have a 20 yard or so pitch (although it might be more or less) but I always seem to pitch it short. I almost never sniff a birdie here because I don’t give myself a chance on my second shot.  There’s not much to carry. It’s just a straight away pitch. My goal is to be putting birdie at least 50% of the time.

So my plan is to head to the course for a few 45 minute sessions. I’ll head to that area and drop a number of balls and first experiment a little. Try different lofts, clubs, etc. As there is not much to fly (it’s pretty closely mowed) I’m leaning more towards a pitch and run type of shot with a P or 9. I’ll also want to leave 15-20 minutes for the all-important random* practice.

I’ll then record any insight, observations, make visual drawings, etc. in my golf notebook (you do have one, right?) fairly immediately after the session and note when the next session is. Notes can include:

  • What shots were most successful
  • What shots were not
  • What were the conditions
  • What surprised you
  • What “little” things did you notice

When you measure you can adjust. It’s very easy to look and adjust your activity based on your results. What if you didn’t come close to your goal? Well, you may have to find another process (or system) that gets better results. No big deal, just keep testing (and moving) until the formula works.

indoor trackman
Keep in mind, whatever “system” or process you currently have in place is perfect for the results you are achieving. If you’re a consistent 90’s golfer then you DO have the perfect system for producing that. How do you know? Because your results prove it!

I’ll tell you though most people want to make the issue about them. They say, “I’m lousy,” “I never really was a good player,” I can’t really turn like I used to.” In other words what label can I put on myself so I feel even worse about my game. No, no no. Let’s objectify this. It’s your system that is not producing results.

I have found, over the years, introducing performance metrics can really take the pressure off because you defined “very specifically” your result and all you have to do is follow the recipe to produce the result. So it actually makes life (and your progress) easier.

Part of the reason measurement is so successful is that it introduces the game element. The process becomes fun and engaging. You have 12 days left to before the club championship – will you be ready and prepared for it? Can you score with only 2 minutes left in the game?

I remember one of the things that first helped me with introducing measurement was to get Quicken (the financial software by Intuit). It was a number of years ago but once I implemented it it was a snap to see exactly where I was financially. No more vague ideas of how much I had (or didn’t have) it was right there in clear, irrefutable numbers.

Hey, I figure if it’s good enough for my finances it must be good enough for my golf game!

Although I like the “on the course” tracking system (pad/pencil), really any system that makes sense for you will work. I don’t care if it’s a notebook, a journal, a voice recorder or any of the many apps out there — just whatever works best for you. (and sometimes you just have to try a few different ones – especially when just beginning)

So take a look. How can you introduce measurement into your golf game? (or even your life – i.e.; losing weight) What *precise* result am I looking for? What time frame do I want to achieve this result in? Then implement a measurement system that will produce the results you’re looking for. Easy-peazy!

*There is some great insight on “random” practice and other short game secrets in the: James Sieckmann Podcast.


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