Something I think is vital to long-term improvement is sticking to a very actionable plan on a consistent basis for a long time.
Here's 5 golf habits I did consistently that helped me get to a +4 hcp and play in 6 USGA Championships 👇
1. Exaggerated practice swings
This might sound like an odd one to start with, but I think this was one of the things I'm most proud of that I did consistently.
I had a driving range drill that my instructor Robert Linville of Precision Golf School gave me where I would do 3 dramatically exaggerated practice swings before every shot, then hit a shot with the exaggerated move, then hit a shot with my normal, default swing.
I did the same drill for hours a day, 6 days a week, for over a year, and probably changed my arm movement by just a couple inches. It took an enormous amount of daily effort to make the slightest change. Which makes sticking to a consistent daily habit even more important if you expect to make big changes.
These practice swings were awkward and exhausting, and I believe most people wouldn't have put up with doing them for as long as I did. But pushing through the discomfort allowed me to make gains faster than most would've.
2. Tracking stats
Every shot of every round I would track these stats:
if I missed the fairway, was it a good lie, bad lie, no shot, penalty
length of approach shot
if I missed the green, was I in the sand?
did I hit the green with the short game shot?
first putt length
how many putts
score on the hole
This might seem like a lot, but it came out pretty simple. In the notebook I carried while playing it came out looking like this:
Stat tracking has obvious game improvement benefits, but what this encouraged was a process mentality, rather than needing results right now. Each shot was more of just a data point, rather than a life or death, be all and end all important event.
I had the mentality of "Hit the shot, track the stat, close the notebook, move on." Which kept things much less emotional and much more logical.
3. Practice Planning
I tend to practice emotionally. I show up to the practice facility and practice only what I feel like practicing. It could be the thing I'm worst at from a recent round. Maybe I hit one really bad shot and it was at a pivotal moment of the round and it sticks in my mind the most. Or maybe I practice what I'm best at, because it's always fun to do things well.
But always practicing what I feel like practicing is a great way to never really improve. It might be more fun in the moment, but it rarely leads to long-term improvment.
The habit that I institued into my routine was planning my practice ahead of time. This simply erased emotional practicing completely for me.
I would plan my time based on stats and feedback from coach, then when I get to the course I execute my plan. This would ensure that I'm working towards long-term improvement, not short-term results.
4. Post-round Evaluation
It's so easy to play a round of golf and overgeneralize it as "good" or "bad". But that doesn't provide nearly enough info to use for getting better.
The way I would use a round of golf to help my future golf game was by journaling and reflecting on my stats. This was huge for taking away specifics from the round, instead of overgeneralizing how the round went.
You might've doubled the last hole and you feel like the round was awful because of it, but if you reflect on the details, you can see past the emotional moments. You can draw out the details of specifically how the round went, what went well, what needs improvement.
The simple journaling exercise I would do is what my instructor Robert Linville and I called the 3&1 Journal. Every day you write:
3 things I did well
1 thing that needs improvement
Specifically how I plan on improving that 1 thing
This would help me have an abundance of positive things (which overrides my negativity bias) and allows me to draw out one simple thing to improve. But I wouldn't stop there. I planned for exactly how I was going to improve that one thing.
So many players overgeneralize based on a score. I do too. So taking myself out of that emotional mode and more into action was an essential daily habit for me.
5. Fitness, nutrition, and rest
This was probably the most difficult of these daily habits, but also the most underrated.
Improving at golf on a daily basis can be extremely taxing on the body and mind. So properly fueling yourself for the grind has to be an priority.
I kept it pretty simple: lots of protein and vegetables. I was burning a ton of calories, so I felt like I was eating constantly. Adjust accordingly for you. But as Mike Carroll of Fit for Golf says: a good general rule of thumb for everyone who wants to lose weight but also build muscle is to be at a calorie deficit but eat a lot of protein.
At the gym, I would do lots of heavy weight lifting and mobility work. I would also do a stair climber and treadmill to build endurance.
And not to be left behind is rest. It's really easy to forget ot rest when all you want to do is get better. But I always intentionally set aside days where I would completely turn off and purely rest. It was vital for me to show up to the course fresh and ready.
These daily habits are tiny in the moment, but combined and done systematically with discipline over a long period of time makes huge gains in the long-term.
And the magic thing that happens when you have your head down doing things well on a daily basis is your short-term results tend to get better. Because you've let go of the need for short-term results to be good.
Hopefully these 5 daily golf habits can be as beneficial to you as they were to me.