Project Par: Complete
The Year in Review
Welcome Players! In September of 2022 I started planning a goal. The goal to train and practice to the full extent of my abilities to try and shoot Par on a golf course in 2023. On Dec. 31st I published the Project Par framework, what would be the structural backbone of a year-long endeavor to commit all my energy and resources to the game of golf. And now, after 52 weeks, 365 days of consistent effort, that journey is now over.
This is my reflection on Project Par.
By the Numbers
Success & Failure
To read the introduction to the Project, see:
By the Numbers
“There’s lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
I set out on Project Par with an extremely in-depth framework of program design for both physical attributes and golf performance. I also had a detailed schedule, year long macro-cycle phase, and daily habit tracker. It was ambitious. A bit too ambitious.
I ended with just the habit tracker and a very loose form of workout tracker. I also didn’t keep up with my performance testing, but luckily the thing that matters, golf performance, is all well accounted for. Let’s take a look at the year by the numbers:
27 official rounds (and quite a few more unofficial)
Starting Handicap Index of 22.4
Final Handicap Index of 18.0
Final score avg. 101.3
Best score: 89 at Normandy Shores (9/8/23)
Worst score: 121 at Dunedin CC (1/7/23)
282 hours of combined practice + play
7603 range balls hit
4570 practice putts
2531 practice chips
2183 swings on air
50 bike rides
96 hours on the bike
1130 miles ridden
77 resistance training workouts
8 yoga sessions
And now let’s look at the same statistics visually. For the aesthetics, you know?
Wow. This is the first time I’ve looked at those numbers myself, and honestly a huge wave of gratitude just flowed over me. I was always taught not to count your chips at the table (poker, anyone?), and so I apply that to most things. Although I was tracking all of these things, I wasn’t tallying the running totals. I actually had no idea how many hours or sessions or anything really throughout the year.
I knew how hard I was working, and how much time and effort I was putting in. And not that I need any external validation, but it definitely feels good to see the objective numbers come out to demonstrate what the time investment really was. A few numbers that stand out to me:
282 hours of practice/play! Wow! To be honest, I thought it was going to be a bit higher than that. To think of the standard 10,000 hour rule, this year I only did 3% of that!
96 hours and 1100+ miles on the bike. I love that number. I was pretty disappointed that I lost 3 months of cycling due to my injury, but even so the effort I put in cycling was tangible. I enjoyed every minute of it and the improvement to my cardio definitely showed.
77 workouts. This number feels a little light, and it probably is considering I didn’t track this as closely as I could have. I average 2 workouts a week, sometimes 3 if I’m feeling good and sometimes 1 or less if I’m traveling. I’d probably estimate this number to be closer to 90 than 80.
Best score: 89. I am most proud of this. Although the goal was of course to shoot Par, one of the more realistic goals I had for this year was to break 90. I remember everything about this round, where I played, who I played with, what it felt like when I tallied up the score at the end (remember how I don’t count my chips at the table? Yup that applies to everything) and found out I shot an 89. What a rush. And I also birdied 18 without even knowing what was on the line!
And now: A year in Swings:
Successes and Failures
I wrote about this a lot along the way, but most people don’t have the correct definition of failure.
Failure isn’t when you set an arbitrary goal, and then are unable to achieve it. Well, I guess technically that is failure, but it really isn’t.
Failure to me, and how I use it, is when you have stopped making progress. Or stopped trying.
So although I didn’t shoot Par, which was the goal, I don’t view Project Par a failure.
Quite the opposite really. I think it was a smashing success. I achieved one of the things that I desperately wanted (to break 90), I challenged myself to an incredible task and rose to the occasion every single day to meet that challenge, through the ups and downs of life. I was hindered by an injury at the end of September, but I didn’t let that stop me. I overcame that adversity to continue to practice and train and eventually get back to playing in a short period of time.
I had rounds over 105, I had a 91 on the scorecard. My average was over 100, but I ended the year at a solid 95.
My golfing ability is night and day to what it was when it started. I played over 30 rounds (a few unofficial) with some great friends and even my Mom and Dad a few times. I met new people, even picked up some business opportunities because of my frequent (and improved) play.
I developed a proper golf swing, which is still a work in progress. I gained around 5mph of club-head speed, and can drive the ball 280 yards on a good day now, (290 with wind 😏). I can talk at the same level of golf athletes when I’m working with them in the gym, understanding intimately their needs and the difficulty in improving at the game. I can relate to the effect of small, incremental improvements over a long period of time.
I developed an extremely consistent workout habit, of 2 times a week no matter what. I found a great balance between exercise and life, using golf as the happy activity in between.
I got in great cardiovascular shape, riding over 1000 miles on a road bike, peaking at 55 miles in one ride. Had I not gotten injured I’d still be riding today (fret not! I’ll work my way back on the bike in due time).
I never really said this at the beginning, because in truth it needed to be a silent motivator, but Project Par was about so much more than just golf. It was more than just physical capability, and way more than the importance of developing a structured plan or framework.
Project Par was about challenging yourself. About committing wholeheartedly to one singular goal. To not accept failure, to not give up, and to give it your full effort. It was to not let inconveniences, either big or small, de-rail you from that purpose. To overcome adversity, obstacles, and negative circumstances.
It was about realizing that it really doesn’t matter what you want to do, or be great at. It doesn’t matter if you become great at all.
What Project Par is about is trying, and trying your hardest.
In that manner, I could not be any more successful. I am proud of the effort I put in, and I truly did give it my all.
Yes there were some bad days where my consistency wavered and my output was low, but through it all every day I got up with the intention to get better, and made good on that intention.
No one is perfect, because there is no perfect. There’s only your ability to move forward in the face of doubt, or to succumb to it. And I moved forward with progress.
There were quite a few things I learned along that way that I set out to learn, and just as many that I didn’t expect at all.
I learned how to swing a golf club, of course. But I also learned a lot about the mechanics of the golf club and how it interacts with the golf ball to produce flight. I learned way more than I thought about manipulating the club-face in order to produce the shot you want, and that every person creates shots and impacts differently.
I learned that the golf swing is very similar to exercise in the sense that there is an agreed upon “form”, but to that end because every individual is unique, there are limitless possibilities as to the best swing for every unique person.
I learned quite a bit about golf statistics and how it rules professional golf. I hate that the game is so predicated upon how far you can hit it, but there is ample data to back that up. I have my own differences in opinions in the value of distance for beginners, and especially juniors, but one special part about the game is that every style of play has the potential to win. See Brian Harman’s victory at the 2023 Open Championship.
I was pleasantly surprised by the impact of cardiovascular ability on my play. The more proficient I became on the bike the better my endurance became on the course, and in practice too. When I was at my peak of cycling I felt like I could play two full rounds back to back no problem.
And when I got hurt and had to stop cycling I noticed a very quick and significant drop off.
There was also a huge boost to my mental from cardio activity. Most of my life I had never liked endurance training, and always thought that ample resistance training would make up for it. But I had been wrong.
Cardiovascular health via endurance training is vital for complete wellness and performance. It had marked effects on how I felt mentally and physically with tangible results in my measures of resting heart rate and heart rate variability. Neither of which have fully recovered since being off the bike.
I also re-discovered how much I love learning new things. It was one of my original reasons for starting Project Par, but I’ve always loved learning. For much of my time in Miami I was learning how to be a great clinician, then how to run and manage a business, and my athletic and physical endeavors had taken a back seat ever since. But in the process of getting golf lessons, practicing on my own, getting out to the course to play and getting critiqued, I remembered how much I love being a student.
A very special thank you to my Coach, who all year has been the best resource I could ask for. He was patient, knowledgeable, and knew exactly how to communicate the things I needed in a way that I received it best. He would give me instruction in person when he was available, and was always willing to be on FaceTime at 10p at night with our shirts off figuring out if the feel matched the move or not. That may sound weird, but you golfers will understand.
One of the most unexpected lessons was in the benefits of having a singular goal. It’s not that it makes the time go by faster or that it makes the bad things better. But it gives a purpose to the negative events you go through.
Maybe an example is best. I’ve struggled with chronic back pain for almost 10 years now, on and off after having disc herniation surgery when I was in college. And many times when I would have an episode, or flare-up, that left me hobbling around (literally, hobbling), it would be quickly followed by a short term depressive bout. Put simply, it sucks to be injured and in pain all the time, even more so when I can’t do the one thing that brings me joy no matter what: movement.
Yet when I got hurt this year, as depressing as it was to think I had overcome the cyclical nature of re-injury, I found myself in a much better place mentally. I didn’t have time to be upset or said or wallow in self-pity. I thought of only one thing: I had a goal to reach. And I would not be letting this flare up stand in the way of that goal.
I immediately started on rehabilitation and recovery, doing everything in my toolbox to get back on my feet quickly. Luckily I’ve got a toolbox much larger than most people, and although it took me over a month to start to feel 80% better, I was back swinging a golf club in 2 weeks. I don’t think I would have had the mental fortitude to rehabilitate as quick as I did had I not had a singular purpose pushing me forward.
The power of goals is great. But that brings me to another unexpected lesson… that I’m starting to think goals are a little overrated. Ok hold on, let me explain.
I mentioned in the beginning that I had this big huge framework broken down into sections with objective markers to track every attribute and properly scheduled intervals to re-test them. It was a lot. It was supposed to be a lot.
I created my framework from goal-setting models used by massive corporations such as Intel, Google, Apple, etc. I thought if they used it, hell why wouldn’t I?
Well, I figured out the answer to that question is because it takes an incredible amount of time and resources to keep track of and organize all of that information. Huge corporations have in-depth systems and multiple people responsible for that data.
When you’re doing it all by yourself, it ends up being a lot of wasted time. Maybe not wasted, but certainly inefficient. And I realized this about half-way through the year when I stopped tracking most things except for golf statistics and daily habits.
As much as I had hoped to track all of these things for the ability to analyze them at the years end, I realized an analysis of information doesn’t help me reach my goal. It just helps me audit my performance when the Project is over. As just one person, I needed to be ruthless with my time and resources, and spending them on auditing, or preparing for an audit, was not a good use of time. So anything that didn’t directly contribute to me achieving that goal got cut.
That got me thinking about whether or not I set good goals? I used the SMART goal framework because I thought it was the best, and it certainly helped me clarify what exactly my goals were.
But I realized throughout this journey that if you are truly committed to progress, and I mean truly committed, then you don’t need a bullseye to aim for. You just need to point in the right direction, and start going. It’s not going to be a linear path anyway, so having failsafes and protocols in place don’t really do anything except take time away from getting closer towards the goal. In essence, too much planning; not enough action.
Now on the flip side of that is the idea that if you’re not 100% dedicated towards improvement, and if you don’t have extremely high levels of discipline, than having the framework and structure to fall back on can be the difference between moving forward and moving backwards.
I came to understand that I am more of the former and as long as I know I am directionally moving in the right direction, I am more than capable of putting in the effort to progress on willpower alone. That I have come to understand about myself, and I think everyone who develops their own Project needs to look at themselves in a similar manner and develop an honest reflection about their strengths and weaknesses.
The first thing that I want to say, is that yes, I am glad that this Project has reached it’s conclusion.
I was getting very close to being burnt out in the month of December. I knew it, and if you had been reading the weekly updates you probably knew it too. I wasn’t practicing at home, I wasn’t putting in a lot of range time, I was just a little worn out from all that Golf. Ironic to say, I know.
The reality is that 12 months of non-step effort is exhausting, no matter how well balanced you are. It wasn’t even the physical volume of training as much as it was the mental exhaustion and pressure of having a goal to reach. As motivating as it is to have that singular purpose, it’s also a little tiring to always have a strong urge to move forward, to progress.
By the end of the year I found that the pressure of constantly needing and wanting to improve was becoming a burden. Yes, I was disciplined enough to still practice when I could anyway, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. I am no longer bound to a singular purpose, and that’s a little freeing.
I guess it’s sort of a Yin and Yang relationship, where one cannot exist without the other.
To go through life with no goals or purpose is one of being lost and discontent, whereas to always have a purpose is narrow and can be overbearing. The reality is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, where you can balance periods of goal-setting and progress with times of enjoying the moment and presentness. I don’t think I’ve found that balance yet, but I have certainly come to respect its importance and am much closer than I was last year.
I’m selfishly looking forward to the next round of golf I get to play where I am free from any goals or expectations. I don’t care what I shoot, I don’t have to track every shot and I won’t be writing a detailed report after. I will be back in balance with the game, playing for fun and motivated by my own performance with no external validation in sight. That’s going to be a great round.
I’m looking forward to re-directing my time and energy towards other goals, even if their time-frame isn’t as long. Personal and business goals that have been in check with my physical pursuit will get the attention they deserve.
I’ve also started Proyecto Español, which is my Project for 2024. It’s going to be a less structured and much less intense, but no less demanding, version of Project Par. My goal is to become conversationally fluent in Spanish, and using all the lessons from 2023 will help me in this new endeavor. I won’t be writing about it, won’t be tracking it, and won’t be making a big framework to follow. I’m just going to work every day to make small improvements at the language, and figure it out as I go. I’m looking forward to the new style and different type of learning this will require. Vamos!
I also want to take a moment to thank you. If you’re reading this right now that means you’re probably interested in my journey. You’ve probably read some of my updates, or at least kept a loose track of how I was doing. For the very few of you that have been following closely, your support means everything to me. Many of times when I was not feeling motivated, it was the thought in the back of my head that I had an obligation to do my best if for no other reason than not to let you down. And to those of you who reached out in some form or another to show your support, I am sincerely grateful.
I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to chase this goal in public, providing insight into everything I do. I thought it would feel a lot more vulnerable than it did. Especially in the beginning. After a while though it felt like no one was watching at all. Hell, save for the people who have commented or messaged, for all I know no one was watching!
That was kind of nice though, to stop caring about what other people thought or might think. Being able to do what I thought was best without judgement or fear of judgement. I guess that was a huge win in of itself, is that I was able to get back to just doing me. Being me. Not basing my actions on what other people thought was right, but what I thought was right. So much of our society today is predicated on acceptance, and far too often the line is blurred between doing something because we want to and doing something because we think others want us to.
Knowing where to draw that line and truly accept yourself as an individual is important, at least I believe it is.
I cannot emphasize how happy and proud I am of how I undertook this Project and how I performed within it. I’ve accomplished a lot in my life I’m proud of, but very few things were as clearly defined as this one. I always believed in myself, but when you set a goal and work to achieve it, and then you complete it, well it just feels good.
I know I have so much potential for other things. And not just personal accomplishments either. I know that my future holds a great deal of bringing positivity and change to others. Hopefully my writings of Project Par has convinced at least a couple people to commit to their health and wellness. If nothing else, maybe it at least showed that with hard work, dedication, perseverance, and a whole lot of effort, anything is possible. That one’s from Jesse Owens.
I’d be happy to answer any questions or have a conversation about anything related to Project Par. If you have questions or just want to chat, even if its about your own Project, feel free to drop a comment or shoot me an e-mail.
Overall, it’s been an incredible 12 months. There are things I can remember every detail and there are entire months that I can’t recall. Guess that’s just how time works, consistent and distorted all at once.
I’ll look back with gratitude and profound thanks on 2023, for many reasons, but it will always hold a special place for me in that it was the year I took up Project Par.
2024 is for Proyecto Español, but make no mistake, I plan on playing and continuing to improve at golf for a long time. I didn’t work this hard just to stop now. One day I will shoot Par.
It may not be for another year, or 5 years, or even 10. But one day I will. And when I do, I’ll look back at where it all started, with a goal to dedicate everything in my power to be as good as I can be. I’ll remember all the good times and bad, the tough rounds and the injuries as well as the first time breaking each big marker (90, 80).
At the end, my ideals will always be the same.
Aim for progress, not perfection.
Never give up.
Failure is a state of mind, not an objective result.
If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
Always try your hardest, or do not try at all.