Whether you are a new golfer or have been playing for a long time, a good mental golf game requires letting go of 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 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 five suggestions for managing your expectations on the golf course:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Focus on relaxation and your pre-shot routine to stay in the present.
- 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.
- 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.
Joan King, Peak Performance Strategist, NGH Board Certified Sports Hypnotist, is the founder of Positive Mental Imagery, a sports consulting firm specializing in the mental aspects of sports. She is dedicated to helping athletes realize their potential through balance of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual powers.
If this mental golf tip was helpful to you, and you want to learn more, call Joan for a complimentary 15-minute consultation about your mental game. She can be reached by phone at 828-696-2547, or through the Positive Mental Imagery website or blog. Other tips to improve your mental golf game are available on the website, where you can sign up for a free mental golf newsletter and purchase empowering self-hypnosis mental golf CDs.