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  • Stephen Arnold

Understanding How to Measure Improvement The Start to Better Golf



While I have dabbled in writing articles in the past, this year I am going to be writing weekly content for the subscribers of my website. I want to focus on different aspects of the game, how to improve, and highlight some keys that I have found useful with students and in my own game. I hope you find the content helpful and always feel free to email me any time with questions. Improvement in golf is one of the most challenging things to measure. I believe it is what drives students the craziest and the frustration it causes is what prevents long term improvement where it matters, on the scorecard.

The most common way golfers judge progress is by their handicap and whether it is going up or down. It is incredibly important to remember that your handicap is only measuring your BEST 10 out of 20 rounds. If a player has 10 rounds of 70 and 10 rounds of 90 their handicap is going to be quite low. It would be an incredible improvement to limit the 10 rounds that didn’t count to 75, however, it would not affect their handicap. One of the ways I ask students to measure progress is to track their “throw-out” rounds. Improving your bad round is a great marker of improvement for any player, even if it isn’t showing up in your handicap.

When starting a program with a new student, the first thing I do is a complete assessment of where their game is currently. Some great questions you can ask yourself if you’re looking to improve this year are: how many penalty shots am I averaging per round, how many chances do I have to hit the green in regulation out of 18 holes, what percentage of the time do I chip it on the green if I miss the green in regulation and how many 3 putts am I averaging per round. Are there major differences between these questions on the good and bad rounds?

By asking these questions you can start to get a clear picture of where you can trim the most “fat” from your game. To me, the first thing that should be focused on in improvement is “trimming the fat.” Pick the lowest hanging fruit that will save you the most strokes and focus on that aspect to start. This will help create a practice plan and you will have data to compare it against to measure improvement. For anyone like me who has tried to lose a few pounds, the first thing to do is cut out the junk food and pay attention to what the scale is telling you. As long as it’s going in the right direction, no matter the pace, you’re doing good work.

Improvement is a process that takes time, and as I work on my own game, I can understand the frustrations that come with that. If you can find ways to measure and track the little gains along the way it will be much easier to keep working and keep getting better.

Next week I’ll focus on how to evaluate your game in more detail and ways to measure what you’re working on both on the course and in practice.

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