Archived Newsletters - Expectations:
Newsletter May 2004
Improve Your Golf Game
Vol. V, Edition 5
Easily & Quickly
By Joan King
One of the most important mental tools for moving into "the zone" is to manage
your expectations during your round of golf. Having expectations is different
from setting goals. It is necessary to set positive long term, intermediate and
short term goals so you have a plan to move toward success.
Expectations, on the other hand, mean to anticipate a desired outcome. In
"expecting" a certain outcome in golf, you have put your attention and energy
on the end result instead of in the moment. Your expectations should reflect the
reality of your ability. You can expect too much from yourself, or too little from
yourself depending on your level of self-esteem. If you expect to play well on
the opening holes and don't, you will feel like a failure.
Expectations are like icebergs. By staying focused on one outcome, you seldom
see the bigger picture and the many possibilities that may exist just under the
surface. Whether it is expecting to score to your handicap, or expecting to
miss-hit with your least favorite club, you don't know all that will eventually
emerge. You can save a tremendous amount of energy by accepting that there
is more than just the tip of the iceberg.
Managing expectations means managing your internal thoughts and emotions and
keeping them in balance with your abilities. How good you are in golf is determined
by how you react to the ever changing situations during the round, not about what
you expect will happen. The more flexible you are, the more control you have.
Expectations can be negative or positive. Here are some examples.
Taking it to the course from the range
A question often asked by amateurs and pros is, "Why can't I take my game from
the range to the course?" One answer is -- your expectations.
Fear of Success
The media has created an expectation for the general public that Tiger Woods will
win every tournament he enters. When he doesn't the fans are disappointed, and
the press then writes about him being in a "slump." When you win a tournament,
do you believe that people will "expect" you to repeat? This can create a lot of
mental and emotional pressure.
Some psychologists refer to this kind of thinking as a "fear of success." It is
the anticipation of having a negative outcome. To change this fear you have to
acknowledge and conquer it by turning it into a positive challenge. World class
pros such as Tiger take the negative perceptions of others as a personal challenge
to show them they are wrong.
I have worked with golfers who have experienced the "yips." This can happen not
only in putting and chipping, but on the full swing where the golfer gets the club
up on the backswing but isn't able to return it to the ball without considerable
physical effort. These golfers have a real fear of the anxiety that it will happen
again and they will look foolish in front of their friends. This phenomenon appears
to happen mostly to skilled players who know they can perform these seemingly
simple shots.They put so much pressure on themselves that their nervous system
reacts with a jerky movement, sweating hands, muscle tightness and stomach
As humans we are very creative and use our imagination to conjure up all kinds of
possible outcomes. Every golfer I have worked with has had at least one fear that
he imagined would happen in his golf rounds. Tournament players worry about seeing
their score up on the board where everyone can see what they did. They worry about
hitting someone in the gallery. Recreational players mostly worry about others
watching them and what they will think of them.
Fear of Failure
Almost everyone in their golf career worries about playing with someone with a
much lower handicap. A good example are the executives who play in Pro-Am
tournaments. They are out of their element and are nervous and worried about
failure.This can also happen to a club professional who plays in a Pro-Am with
his club members. He believes his worth as a pro is determined by how well he
scores and puts pressure on himself to perform in front of his members.
There are some golfers who want to become good players but are afraid that their
best effort will not be enough. So they expect to fail and reinforce that belief by
not taking lessons, not practicing. They don't play by the rules and don't learn
about themselves by the constant feedback that the game offers. They have
convinced themselves that it they don't try, then they won't fail.
What is your favorite club? It is probably your favorite club because you have
good memories of hitting it and positive expectations of doing it again.
What is your least favorite club? When you are forced to use this club on the course,
you probably have negative expectations of the outcome due to memories of missed
shots. The negative expectations will then produce a missed shot which then confirms
your original negative expectation.
Which club do you practice the most with? Probably the one you like the most.
Golfers seem to avoid practicing with the clubs with which they have low expectations
Low vs. High Expectations
The expectations you create will produce self-fulfilling prophesies. Expectations
that are too big or too small can produce problems. If your expectations are too
high, you might try too hard to make every shot perfect. If your expectations
are too low there will not be any motivation to improve. How often have you heard
someone say, "It's going to be that kind of (bad) day?" after scoring big numbers
on a couple of holes.
Comparison to your Best
The USGA handicap system is a complicated system that attempts to have an equitable
way for golfers of varying abilities to play games with each other. Your handicap is
based on your last lowest ten scores. In other words, it is your personal-best, not
necessarily your day-to day average scores. Expecting to shoot your best every time
you play is unrealistic.
Here are some mental keys to modify your expectations:
"Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster
and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better
when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance."
- Be aware of expectations that are affecting your self-esteem, motivation and
- Let go of all expectations of your performance. As the Nike ad says, "Just
- Stay "in the process" of creating every shot with a good preshot routine to
prepare your mind and body.
- Practice the clubs that you are least confident hitting. Remember the times
you hit those clubs well.
- Redefine your expectations. Change the labels you put on yourself that become
- "Acting as if" is a positive way to overcome negative expectations. When a
negative feeling begins to take over, make a conscious decision to "act as if"
you are a confident, in control, knowledgeable player. Acting as if is a positive
way to overcome fears, doubts, and low self-esteem.
- Look at life as an energy economy game. Each day, ask yourself, "Are my
energy expenditures (actions, reactions, thoughts, and feelings) productive
or nonproductive? During the course of my day, have I accumulated more
stress or more peace?"
- Letting go of expectations means viewing the world around us from a new and more
spontaneous perspective. By accepting the unpredictable nature of life, we can be
more flexible and ready to adapt and respond to whatever may come our way with
more intelligence, more creativity and more balance. Expect only the unexpected!
- Be patient and bring your mind back to the present.
-- Brian Tracy