I’m going to be Frank today: you and I, we expect too much on the golf course. Sometimes it can be brutal; miss-hitting shots that lead to a completely negative attitude. Managing golf expectations can go a long way to making for a more enjoyable experience.
I wrote the other day about managing stress on the course. That’s for when you’re already upset. Today, we’re going to work on putting ourselves in a position to deal with things before we even get close to that point.
Many of us go out thinking that we’re going to do really well… but the statistics don’t back that up. At best, we’re not going to beat our average. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about what we score, but we have to reign in our expectations.
It gets started when you post good scores on the first few holes. For example, you shoot par-par-par on the first three holes. The thought “maybe if I score <insert ideal scores> from here on out” or “If I can only score ‘X’ on the next holes” you’ll break a scoring barrier. You just set yourself up for a fall.
Why is that? You’re looking into the future; an uncertain one, at best. You aren’t going to par out the rest of the way. There might be some birdies, but for we mere mortals, there’s most likely going to be bogeys, double bogeys and the dreaded “other”. That’s the way it goes.
I have a saying: “Hope for the best, but expect the worst”. Sure, we can hope we do well (we want to do well!), but we have to expect that we’ll run into some roadblocks. If we know ahead of time that we’ll have to deal with crap, we can manage ourselves more efficiently.
Dealing With Poor Shots
Miss-hits are going to happen. They happen to everyone- even Tour pros. For an example, check this (courtesy of 1 Step to Better Golf) out:
Pretty brutal, right? While I know we shouldn’t like seeing people struggle, I take a different approach. These people are paid millions of dollars to play the game we all love. They’re the best of the best… but they’re human. They have off days, just like we do. But there’s a little… what’s the word…
That’s it. Even so, it is nice to know that we have some things in common with professional golfers.
What do we do when we shank one, or hit a slice three fairways over? Laugh it off. Realize that we aren’t getting paid to play. Make a game-within-the-game of the next shot. Can you get the ball on the green from your current position? Can you chip it close (if you’ve missed the green on your second shot)? That’s the game-within-the-game: how well can you recover from something you know is bound to happen? That’s how the Pros go about managing their golf expectations: they KNOW something bad will eventually happen, so they take the challenge head-on.
There’s going to be times where you just won’t be able to pull off the shot you want, the one that’s going to get you back on track to Par. You’re going to have to play safe. As Harvey Penick puts it in his Little Red Book: “you have to take your medicine”. As someone that enjoys trying to pull of the “hero shot”, I can tell you it isn’t always fun to take your medicine. But you have to look at the big picture… it’s just one hole. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the later holes, but for right now, we take our medicine and move on.
Managing golf expectations can be liberating. In my opinion, the sooner you realize that things will go astray at one point or another, the sooner you can deal with it. The sooner you can deal with it, the sooner you can rebound, refocus and get back to playing well.