Many golfers set goals for themselves at the start of a new season. And sports psychologists certainly recommend doing so. But the first thing we need to decide, according to Bobby Jones, is what sort of golfer we are. I'll let him explain from his book Bobby Jones on Golf. The Master wrote:
"It seems to me that there are two reasonable ways in which a man may take his golf. If he has the time and inclination to do so, he may set out to give the game a proper amount of serious study and effort, with a view towards elevating himself beyond the average-golfer class; or, if he has only a very limited amount of free time, as many have, he may be content to knock around with his regular companions who play about as he does, in search of a little fun. But it will not do to mix the two, especially to hang the ambitions of the first man upon the labors of the latter."
I think this is excellent advice. I think it's safe to say that there isn't a golfer around who doesn't want to play better. But we have to be realistic. Generally speaking, serious and lasting improvement in this game doesn't come without time and effort. If we don't have much time, and/or we aren't prepared to do some hard work, we should be content with our usual game.
But, regardless of our ambitions, we do want to enjoy our time on the links. So again, Bobby supplies some rules we should follow in order to get maximum enjoyment from our game. He wrote:
"When we come to the all-important matter of getting real enjoyment out of playing the game, I think we will find that all must employ the same set of rules. To find enjoyment, we must produce a round fairly close to our usual standard. To do this with a fair degree of consistency, no matter to which class (of golfer) we belong, we must avoid experiment, refuse to try anything new, and play the game instead of practicing it.
The best piece of advice I could give any man starting out for a round of golf would be 'take your time,' not in studying the ground, and lining up the shot, but in swinging the club. Strive for smoothness, strive for rhythm; but unless you are something of an expert, save 'monkeying' with your hip turn, your wrist action, and the like, until you can get on a practice tee where you can miss a shot without having to play the next one out of a bunker."
I think this is excellent advice that I will endeavour to follow as I start a new season, and as I start every round. If I could only resist "monkeying" with my swing, and remember to take my time swinging the club every time I tee it up, I know that alone would have me playing better golf.
In my next article I'll provide some more excellent advice from Bobby Jones on how to improve without making any swing changes, or practising more.