Titleist Fittings

Improvement, Optimized

BTS member Doug Goettsch started the season with two new knees and a 17 index. After a year on the grind, he’s a 4.9. Here are his secrets.

Editor’s note: This year, more than 4,000 members participated in the inaugural Index Experiment, a year-long community initiative to get healthier and play better golf. Below is an edited conversation with Doug Goettsch from North Liberty, Iowa, whose 12-shot handicap improvement this season ranked among the very best. You can view the full 2023 Index Experiment Year in Review here.

The Golfer’s Journal: How did this season differ from any past attempts at game improvement?

Doug Goettsch: I put together a plan last November that started with a fitness program to help recover from foot reconstruction surgery and a double knee replacement. I knew as a 56-year-old man that I needed to focus on strength and flexibility to practice as much as I was physically able.

What were your goals for the season?

I wanted to be a single-digit handicap again. In my 30s I got as low as a 2.0, but between age, injuries, and starting a new business, I couldn’t focus on playing or practicing. Last year, I realized that I had a limited time to be competitive again, and I wanted to play in our local amateur tournaments and represent myself well. I also wanted to post three rounds in the 70s in our Iowa City Am. 

What was your plan for achieving these goals? What strategies did you use to guide your improvement?

Last summer, I started working with my local PGA teaching pro Jeff Schmid. I also hired a personal trainer who worked in tandem with my physical therapist, and joined an indoor league over the winter so that I could get some reps in over the cold Midwest months. February provided an escape in the form of a 15-day trip to Tucson, and in March I laid out a plan of lessons, fitness, and league play that would culminate in the Iowa City Am in August.  

What motivated you to keep progressing throughout the season?

Seeing improvement! I am a former college basketball player, so it felt good to have a goal and a plan to keep me motivated. When I came across the Index Experiment, it added an array of tools to my arsenal, including the ability to establish my handicap through the Broken Tee Society. 

What part of your game saw the most improvement?

I was still recovering from both foot and shoulder surgeries last year, and wasn’t allowed to practice full swings until August 2022. I spent my evenings on the chipping and putting greens. A friend of mine is a club builder, so he built me a putter and wedges that matched my new swing, and those produced immediate improvement around the green. After restarting full swing work with Jeff, I focused on flattening my swing plane and hitting a fade. I’ve always been long but wild off the tee, and now I’m much more accurate and the driver is one of my favorite clubs. 

What are your goals for 2024 and beyond?  

I’m following the same template that I did last year. We have a new PinSeekers golf center that just opened up in my area, which will allow me a lot more practice time this winter. I’ll continue my fitness journey, and am heading to Scottsdale for three weeks this coming winter. Best of all, a new fitting is on the horizon to update my 6-year-old TaylorMade M5 irons. The goal is to get my index down to a 2.0 and look for a top-25 finish in the Iowa City Am and a top-10 finish the Iowa City Senior Am. 

Any parting thoughts?

Make a plan and stick with it. Success is not a straight line but with discipline and accountability (plus the visual aid of the handicap line in the Index Experiment portal), I was able to see the bigger picture and the improvement along the way. The Mind Game podcasts helped me understand that even the best players hit bad shots, and that you cannot give up on a round.

To put a final point on this, I will share that my best round of the year was the second round of the Iowa City Am. I shot an 82, but I started out +7 after five. The weather was rough, but I told myself that I could still put up a respectable round if I could just grind. And I did. And that would not have been possible a year ago.

The Index Experiment helped me rediscover enjoyment in a game that is trying and taxing and sublimely rewarding. It allows the old athlete in me to compete, and at my age, there is no other sport where I can still scratch that itch. 

driving range practice divots