How to manage your scoring expectations on the golf course

Have you ever played a round of golf without making a mistake?

Tour Pros who are the best golfers in the world, average hitting fairways only 60% of the time.  Amateur scratch golfers average 10.26 greens hit per round. However, their short games for getting the ball up and down make up for the misses. The average Tour Pro does not sink more than 20% of the balls from 9 feet with his first putt, and 12% from 12 feet. The best putters on Tour only make 2 out of 5 putts from 10-15 feet.

We are used to watching the final rounds of the Pro Tour and seeing these pro athletes perform at their highest potential levels. The above statistics are the average for all the pros over a four-day tournament. The percentages for amateur golfers is considerably less, but we often think we can perform like these pros who have the best equipment, technology, talent and put in the most hours seeking perfection.


Whether you are a new golfer or have been playing for a long time, a strong mental golf game requires letting go of your expectations. The quickest way to ruin a round of golf is by trying to match or improve a low front 9 score on the back 9. Performing well at any task requires total concentration on what you are doing and to not let your mind wander into future thoughts.

Having expectations is different from setting goals. It is necessary to set positive long term, intermediate and short term goals so you have a strategy for improvement. Having expectations on the other hand is actively anticipating 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 when you are focused on creating the shot/putt.

Managing expectations means managing your internal thoughts and emotions to keep them in balance with your abilities. You can expect too much from yourself, or even too little from yourself depending on your level of self-esteem. If you expect to play well on the opening holes and don’t score well, you will probably feel like a failure.

How good you are at 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.

Here are seven suggestions for managing your expectations on the golf course:

  1. Have realistic expectations. The USGA handicap system is a mathematical 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.
  2. Let go of impossible expectations that create pressure. If your expectations are too high you will be constantly disappointed. Unreachable expectations will cause tension in your mind and body putting pressure on yourself to perform.
  3. Concentrate on the process at all times. When you are playing well be aware of your thoughts moving you away from the process of preparing for the shot. Develop a mindset to focus on relaxation and on the steps of your pre-shot routine to stay in the present.
  4. Keep your emotions and expectations in check. . The more expectations you have, the more emotion you put into the result of your shots. When your mind wanders to thinking about your expectations, bring it back to the present time by taking several deep breaths.
  5. Let go of any thoughts of what you “should” score. Not making the “should” score leaves you with negative emotions such as guilt and frustration. This leads you to stop trusting your swing and a belief that you have a mechanical problem when it is your expectations that limit your progress.
  6. Don’t count the strokes, make the strokes count!
  7. Stay confident by believing in your abilities.  All golfers, including the Tour Pros make embarrassing mistakes due to their expectations of hitting the perfect shot. Let go of shots and putts that don’t meet your expectations and concentrate on accessing the abilities that you know you have.

Play “in the zone” with Joan

Entrain Your Heart & Mind for Peak Performances

To train your brain to play your best golf, listen to Positive Mental Imagery self-hypnosis guided imagery CDs in the privacy of your own home, available at

If you aren’t able to maintain trust and belief in yourself on the golf course, email Joan at or call 828.696.2547 for a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation about developing a new strategy. Learn what is missing in your golf game so you can achieve the success you desire.

“THE HEART OF GOLF, Access Your Supreme Intelligence for Peak Performances explores and explains negative emotions such as fear and performance anxiety, the four Cs of mind blockage, the four progressive stages of learning the supreme intelligence of the heart, and the way to access the zone in competition. It is a player’s guide for developing your true inner self by returning to the joy and love of self instead of seeking praise and rewards from the outside world.

This guide book for transforming your life and golf game is available now on

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