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January 7 2014

12:53 PM

Mental Game: Focus on wedges

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Zach Johnson showed that a superb wedge game is better than 350-yard drives.

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

Is your New Year’s resolution to lower your handicap?

Do you have a resolution to beat your best score this year?

Did you make the same goals last year but failed to keep them?

One of the best ways to lower your scores is to work on your wedge game. As Zach Johnson proved to us in Hawaii by winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, your wedge play can beat out the long game.

Johnson has a magical wedge game and his wedge ability has taken him to the top echelon of the golfing world.

In this new year, make it your goal to work on your wedge play. However, we have all discovered that setting goals is the easy part — adherence to the goals is the glue that never seems to stick.

If you continually set goals (as we all have been told to do) but have little follow-through, then the culprit could be your lack of an effective goal-setting program. Here are four key steps to help you adhere to your goals and attain your resolutions this year:

• Discover your baseline. To understand your current level of performance, record how far you hit your favorite wedge (e.g. your 54 degree) from the pin. Record how far you hit it when you are 30 yards, 50 yards away, 70 yards. Do this for 10 rounds to get an accurate measurement. (Yes this takes work to record this, but it is worth the time.)

• Set realistic but challenging goals. A goal should be about a 10-percent change in order to be realistic, yet challenging. Thus, if you hit your wedge an average of 20 feet from the pin from 50 yards, your goal should be to decrease that to 18 feet. If your goal was to hit it the ball to 10 feet, this may not be realistic for you ability level, and can cause frustration.

• Create strategies to attain your goals. To improve your wedge play from these distances, a simple strategy is to practice your wedge from these distances once a week. Get a feel for each shot should also be a strategy when you practice your wedge play.

• Assess your improvement. If you see improvement, then stick with your plan. If not, then you will need to change your strategies. Perhaps you need to develop a system for each distance.

Set new goals. Once you reach your goals, set harder goals to get better. Continual goal setting will keep you motivated to improve!

In this new year, just don’t set goals. Make your goals stick with an effective goal-setting program and see your golf scores improve.

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. He is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players.  Dr. Gregg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf, and you can information about mental game coaching as well as get your autographed copy at www.drgreggsteinberg.com.

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