Before you can go anywhere, whether it be drive to New York City or lower your golf scores, the first thing you need to know is where you are right now. In the case of driving to New York, your actions would be very different if you were starting in Boston than if you were starting in Miami. Similarly, if your goal is to lower your golf scores your plan is very different if the weakest part of your game is your driving versus you’re putting. But how can you be certain of what part of your game is holding you back from playing better?

Most players believe they know the answer to this question and answer it very quickly and positively when asked. I have found that often their answer is misguided. The players I have spoken to often put too much emphasis on being either more consistent or hitting the ball farther. On a deeper analysis, lower scores are rarely achieved with added distance, but sometimes can be accomplished with added ball control.

Even if controlling the ball better with your full swing would help, the real question still remains – will this give you the biggest reduction in scores?

Tracking your rounds and skills testing are the best way to find out exactly what needs the most attention. After each round you play simply go back over the round in your head and record your numbers in each of the following categories – fairways hit, greens hit, total putts, green saves and sand saves. Repeat this for a minimum of five rounds so as the patterns are more obvious. If you visit you can view the PGA Tour statistics across a wide variety of categories.

It is also extremely advantageous to complete a skills test on the range. Such a skills test would assess all areas of your game and there are some very good ones out there that can help you in this regard. The short game skill tests by Dave Pelz are exceptional and are the ones I use with my players. You can also use the one designed by Charlie King and Rob Akins in their book “Red Zone Challenge.” If you would like to further measure you ball striking skills, Trackman now has a skills test called the Trackman Combine which will allow you to measure your ball striking skills and benchmark them against other players around the world who have completed the test. If you don’t have access to these tests then talk to your Coach as they will be able to help you find them, or they may be already using them with other players.

Once you have collated all your assessment results it should be pretty obvious the area of your game that is holding you back the most. You and your Coach can then devise a Performance Plan that will target improving the weakness in your game. This plan will be detailed and outline the stages of learning you need to go through in order to perform your new skill on the course, under pressure.

As you work through your plan, you and your Coach should continue to track your statistics on the course and in specific skills tests, to track your improvement as you work through the drills and practice schedule you have put in place. When you have mastered the chosen skill, look at the next weakest component of your game and start the process all over again on that area.

If you continue with this process of assessment, set a plan, execute the plan and then reassess, the Performance Plan, then you all but guaranteed to see improvement in your golf game.