What are your golf goals for 2019?
If they are lofty and include lower scores, longer drives or deeper analytics, more power to you.
I'm going in a slightly different direction this year. Sure, I'd like to lower my handicap to where I think it should be and post more rounds in the 70s, but ultimately there are ways you can have a successful golf season without going low. How can I both enjoy the game more and also make sure I'm leaving the course and game in a better place at the same time?
It might be possible by picking a handful of the following items to be mindful of. Check them out and give a couple a shot this year.
Introduce a new player to the game
We all have friends who don't play golf. It's quite possible they were introduced to the game in a poor way and are intimidated by it as a result. How about taking them to a driving range, pitch 'n putt, or a putting green? Topgolf is a no-brainer too. Focus on their enjoyment and not yours. (More: Etiquette and pace-of-play tips for beginners)
What are your goals for the 2019 golf season? Let us know in the comments below!
Thank the staff
Keeping the grass maintained on 100-plus acres while managing a busy tee sheet full of golfers with high expectations can be a heroic endeavor. The next time you play a round of golf and are pleasantly surprised with the conditions or the pace of play, pop your head into the shop and give your compliments to the staff. You could review the course here at Golf Advisor with kind, detailed remarks, or you could go old school and write a hand-written letter.
Return to a golf course you haven't played in awhile
On the flip side, sometimes we play a golf course and don't have the best experience. But over the years, a course could improve its operations drastically. If you've heard of a golf course in your neck of the woods that has put in some effort, give them another shot.
Play a new golf course
I've been living in central Texas for over 10 years now and there are still local courses and some privates in the area I've yet to weasel my way onto. We can't all travel around the world to play golf courses but for many of us, there is always a course within an easy drive we haven't seen yet.
Take better care of your gear
Do you have six worn-out gloves and a bunch of candy wrappers in your bag pockets, not to mention filthy irons? That sounds like me. I'm going to make a point of being more detail-oriented with everything that touches my golf game, and that goes for the tidiness and organization of my golf bag.
Consider 2019 The Year of No Forgotten Bananas.
Clean out your golf garage
It's Marie Kondo's world in 2019 and we're all just clutter in it.
But her and The Minimalists, etc. may be on to something. Truth is, we could all make some cuts to the golf gear and swag that's cluttering closets and the garage. It can be pretty easy to let all your old golf gear and tee gifts pile up.
Are you using all of it? Maybe it's time to give your golf closet (or garage or wing) a diet.
Practice with a game plan
Training is exponentially more worthwhile when you create and stick to a plan. Next time you carve out time for a practice session, pick a couple points of emphasis and stick to a routine on every shot.
Play in a charity outing
Golf is the ultimate sport when it comes to giving back and charity outings are a backbone. There is no shortage of charity events coast-to-coast, and sometimes they provide the chance to play a normally-exclusive private club. Corporate events can also be a worthy way to get out of the office for a day and get some sunshine with colleagues. (Club members: browse Golf Odyssey's list of charity outings at private clubs)
Use the new rules to your advantage
The rules of golf can be mystifying and there's sure to be a learning curve with the new rules (and especially figuring out how to awkwardly drop from knee height) released for 2019. But a few of the rules that had amateurs in mind can help you play faster (and possibly score better): Putting with the flagstick in, the ability to fix spike marks in your line (don't go overboard), reducing lost-ball searches to three minutes max, and the option for a local rule to eliminate stroke-and-distance on lost balls. (More: Gavrich analyzes the new rules for 2019)
Dig into a new golf book
There is always a new (or an old one new to you) book to read. I'm sitting on a compilation of Herbert Warren Wind essays I hope to finally dig into this year. (More: Essential golf books)
Volunteer at an event
Volunteering at a high-level pro, amateur or college tournament is a great way to get up close to some great golf swings. These events also heavily rely on volunteers. Consider donating your time to a local event of some kind, whether it's a PGA Tour or LPGA event or an amateur event that could use some extra hands.
Organize a buddies trip
If you've never done so, consider taking your golf game and your buddies on the road, even if it's for a one-night road trip or even a day trip to a course a little farther away than you typically go to. Done successfully, it could become a yearly tradition for your golf group.
Or, warm up healthier
Do you walk the course already? Consider putting an emphasis on pre-round warmup and range-of-motion exercises that will help you swing healthier. I'm not entirely sure if Patrick Reed's rapid-swinging before hitting a ceremonial tee shot is the way for us to go, but it's impressive nonetheless...Patrick Reed warmup at Horseshoe Bay
Get more exercise out of your golf
You may not always be happy with your score, but one stat you can totally control (if healthy enough) is how much exercise you get during the round. When I walk 18 holes, I typically hit 10,000 steps by the early back nine. You don't have to be a marathon runner or CrossFit extraordinaire to be fit. Walking in the outdoors, interrupted by 80-100 golf swings or so, is one of the healthiest things you can do.
Walking 18 holes is of course ideal. But if you can't ditch the golf cart, try and find little ways to add to your step count, like parking farther away from your shots and working in concert with your cart buddy to provide more walking between shots.
Keep a handicap
I recently decided to revive my USGA handicap after taking about five years off, and I realized something: It made me want to play more golf. It's never been easier to keep either an official GHIN handicap or find other USGA-compliant mobile apps that make tracking a breeze.
Try different game formats
Playing stroke play the majority of the time can be repetitive and grueling. Do your best to mix it up from time-to-time and play formats that allow for more camraderie and faster play. (More: 10 alternatives to stroke play.)
Play in more mixed groups
It's always baffled me that major tennis tournaments feature mixed doubles, while there are very few mixed tournaments in golf's pro and top amateur ranks. (How is this not a feature of the Olympics?)
Try and set up games with your spouse or other members of the opposite sex. You'll probably find it's a different but equally enjoyable experience than playing with all men. I find I often learn more about the course design and see the course from a different strategic point of view when playing with women.
Stay off your phone for a whole round
It's pretty easy to check your phone in between golf shots. I've also noticed more golfers live-tweeting their rounds (and they inevitably share their rounds falling apart, which isn't surprising). What if you tried turning off your phone completely and stuffing in the bottom of your golf bag for a full round? You may realize you play better and savor the round more.
Repair twice as many ball marks as you make
It doesn't matter if it's your home country club, a resort course or worn-out muni. Being a better golf course citizen is something we can all improve upon. One of the easiest ways to make an impact is to repair more ball marks than you make on every green.
Waiting between shots? Fill an extra divot or rake the trap a little extra.