How To Use a Golf Journal

Due to the various skill levels of my readers, I try to write about topics that apply to everyone.  Golf Journaling is certainly at the top of my list of topics, and for good reason.  If you are like most golfers, you probably don’t practice very effectively, you probably don’t know your tendencies, and you probably find yourself making the same mistakes over and over.  I am here today to show you how (regardless of your skill level) having a Golf Journal can drastically improve your golf game.

I’ve read a lot of golf books, and watched hundreds of short instructional videos about golf.  Over the years, I have picked up on several habits of PGA Tour golfers.  I can’t recall exactly what source it came from, but I remember Ben Crane talking about his golf journal.  The idea initially didn’t excite me, but for the next year, I thought journaling might be worth trying.  It took me until my sophomore year of college to get really serious about the idea.  Not only has journaling improved my golf game, but it has increased my awareness of my tendencies as a golfer, allowed me to practice more effectively, and has cleared up my understanding of the game.  Since I am so passionate about this, I wanted to create you with a clear guide to Golf Journaling.  In this post, you will learn what a golf journal is, benefits of having a golf journal, the tool I use for my journal, and finally, two effective templates for you to use while recording your thoughts.

What Is a Golf Journal?

Simply put, a golf journal is either a written or digitally recorded set of notes about all aspects of your golf game.  I write anything from swing thoughts to mental tendencies after every practice session or tournament round.

Benefits of Having a Golf Journal

  • Become aware of your major swing tendencies as a golfer– knowing your tendencies is huge for all skill levels of golfers. Tendencies can change over time as you improve your game, but in the end, there will always be a few things that will come back to haunt you.  For me, I have the tendency to lock my left knee out at impact, tense my shoulders at address, and get the ball too far back in my stance.  I constantly have to monitor these things, because if I don’t, my golf game falls apart fairly quickly.
  • Develop your winning and losing strategies- Take a moment before reading any further and write out a list of things you do while you are playing good, and things you do when you are playing bad. If I had to guess, most of you didn’t actually take the time to write anything down.  If I had to make another guess, the reason you didn’t write anything is because you don’t have anything to write down.  Before I started journaling consistently, I had no clue what caused a good or bad round of golf.  After about 3 months of competing and writing consistently, I started to realize a few things.  First, when I play good, I usually hum a song throughout the round.  I also think about the round in three hole increments.  Last, when I play good, I am fairly talkative with my playing partners.  When I am playing bad, I have my head down, and I often walk in circular patterns while on the tee-box (weird, but true).  Also, I stay quiet, and couldn’t get a word out of my mouth if I tried.
  • Get out of Slumps Quickly­- One of my favorite things about my golf journal is the ability to get out of a slump quicker than ever before. If my game goes south, after checking to make sure my fundamentals are intact, I will read through my golf journal and figure out what thoughts and swing thoughts I had during times I was playing good.  It is a quick and effective way to get focused on the right things again.
  • Begin to Eliminate Negative Thought Patterns- We’ve all had them. Even the best players get into a negative spiral of thoughts, and just can’t seem to kick them out.  I remember a stretch of my career where I would make a string of bogeys almost every round at the same time in the round.  When I got to holes 10-14, watch out, because the bogeys were coming.  I finally went and talked to a psychologist in hopes of eliminating the problem.  What the psychologist told me to do was essentially a form of journaling.  He had me write down my strengths as a golfer, and put four of them on a note card.  When I would get to the tenth hole during a tournament, I would read a note card of my strengths, and essentially replace my negative thoughts with positive ones.   Do you make a big number every round?  Do you find yourself anxious at certain times in a golf round?  You might need a journal.
  • Have More Focused Practice Sessions- As you will see in the templates at the end of this post, having a journal is a great way to determine the weak areas of your game, and can give you specific things to work on in practice. So many golfers show up at the course to practice, set a desired practice time, and then practice whatever is interesting that day.  Most of the time, going to the range sounds the best to me, and we all know where our games really need work (Hint: short game).

I really hope by now you are convinced that having a golf journal is important.  The next step is to actually start one.  This is the hardest part, because it requires your action!  My biggest downfall with journaling initially was the lack of a template.  I had no clue what to write about, so I would often not write at all.  I also didn’t have a tool that was always accessible to me to journal with!  Once you have a tool and a quick and simple template to follow, getting the motivation to start a golf journal becomes a lot easier.

What tool do I use?

I use the Day One journaling app offered for Android and I-phone users.  It is $5 in the app store, but has been the best thing I’ve done for my golf game… probably ever.  It is great because I always have my phone with me, and I can quickly jot things down while at the course.  I don’t ever have to remember to bring my bulky notebook with me.  If you are conventional, or don’t want to pay this fee, you could always just start a journal in a spiral notebook or something of the sort.  Figure something out that is easily accessible, and will give you the greatest motivation to consistently write.

My Template

I try to keep this simple, because if my template gets too complex, I become overwhelmed, and I end up not writing at all.  In Day One, I have a tag labeled “golf journal.”  I put this tag on every golf related note I make.  I have two templates that I use for these notes.  The first template is for regular practice, and the second one is for tournament rounds.

Practice Template (Note: in Day One, using a dash “-“ followed by a space will create a bullet point)

  • What I Did – What type of practice I did and how long I practiced
  • What I learned– This is where I note any insights that I had about anything during my practice session (Ex: “When I try and hit a draw, it helps me to think about making more of a full turn on the backswing).
  • What I could have improved/Areas to Improve- Here, I might mention that I spent too long on a certain area of my game, or make a note that I need to improve my bunker game.

Tournament Template

  • Stats- I keep basic stats for each tournament round (Up and down %, GIR, Fairways, and Putts), which helps me determine where I should devote practice time to
  • Today’s Swing Keys- Almost every round of golf I play, I have one or two keys that help me hit the ball where I want. Last round, I was thinking about keeping my hands low on my takeaway.  You may be a player who doesn’t think about much during a swing, and this is fine!  Just omit this section.  The reason I have this section is so that I can compile a list of swing keys that work for me in tournaments.
  • What I Learned- Just like the practice template, this is where I write down some things I learned. Depending on how I play that day, this list could be anywhere from one thing to ten things.  This section should NEVER be blank.  If Tiger Woods can learn something from every round of golf he plays even at this point in his career, so can you.
  • Positives- This section is really important, because as golfers, we are so critical on our games. What if we wrote down our best shots rather than bragging to our buddies about how terrible we played?  Sure, you won’t be as much of an entertainer at the 19th hole, but your golf game will surely appreciate it.
  • What I could have improved/Areas to improve- As above, this section keeps me clear on what areas of my game need work, and focuses my practice for the next few days.

So there you have it!  That is my complete guide to “Golf Journaling.”  You may not be a writer like I am, or you might not be as serious about golf as I am, but I would encourage you to adopt at least some sort of journaling habit.  It could be simply writing down some things you learned at the end of each week.  Whatever the case, I’ll leave you with this: Journaling=more focus=efficiency=less practice=better results.