Managing Expectations on the Golf Course


Have you ever been so excited to go to the golf course because your practice sessions have been going great?  You tee it up, and wham, OB. Uh oh, this could be a long day.

Expectations can lead to frustration on the course.  Managing them properly is the best way to play your best golf.

Golf is played one shot at a time.  Anything that takes you out of that is asking for trouble.  Coming to the course with expectations that you are going to play great because you were striping it at the range can lead to disappointment.  If you don’t manage your emotions properly, that disappointment can quickly escalate and throw your entire round off.

The hardest thing in golf is to maintain the one shot at time philosophy.  It’s so simple in concept, and yet so difficult in practice.  Why is that?

I think the heart of it is that we are emotional beings.  We aren’t robots who can turn off the emotion.  But we don’t need to be robots to be successful either.  We can use our emotions to help us.  After all playing from feel is essentially playing from emotion.  When you play from you feel, you are feeling the shot, and going with what feels good, right, etc.  It’s a positive emotion that you have chosen the right shot.  So it’s actually based on emotion, but it’s not reactive.  This is using emotion proactively to play well.

The opposite side of the spectrum is reacting to bad shots, reacting to pressure poorly, reacting to your range session.  Reacting emotionally takes away from being in the moment, seeing the shot, and feeling it.

The more technical we are, the more reactive we can be.  Bad shots, tend to drive us to analyze, what went wrong, what happened, I was hitting it so well before, where did my swing go.  These thoughts happen, and the response, well my stance, my grip, did come over the top, did I tuck in my elbow right, did I get the right wrist hinge, did I turn my back fully….etc.

I think a better response is to say “Did I see my target clearly before taking the shot?”, “Did I feel the shot before I hit it?”, “Did I factor wind, slope, lie and temperature into my calculations?”.

So how does this relate to managing expecations?  Simply, your expectations, good or bad, take you out of the moment if not managed.  Whether you were striping it on the practice tee or not, you need to treat each shot as a single event.  Step outside the boundaries of the expectation and say, what do I want to create here?  Visualize, feel, and swing.

I’ve heard stories of tour players playing a brand new course, sight unseen, who ended up with a great round.  When they talk about it, they say things like “Well, I didn’t really have any expectations.  I haven’t played the course before, and I didn’t know where the trouble was.  So I just went at it, one shot at a time.”

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