Are High Expectations Good or Bad for a Golfer?

Do You Expect To Win?

Expectations are a tricky subject.

Expect to lose, and you will likely lose. 

You may have played in a tournament or against a rival golfer where you weren’t up for the challenge. 

For whatever reason, you expected to place poorly. This pessimistic expectation undermines confidence and demotivates you.

Rather than being aggressive, you hold back. Instead of taking a calculated risk on a chip shot, you play it safe.

Every stroke over par fuels your belief that you will probably have a bad outing.

On the other hand, what happens if you expect to win a golf tournament and crush the competition? You think it would increase the likelihood of winning, but that’s not always true.

High expectations are often unrealistic. For example, unrealistic thoughts include: “I should win every tournament,” “I need to win or I will disappoint everyone,” or “If I lose, it will mean I am not a good or talented golfer.”

High expectations hurt golf performance by increasing competitive pressure.

You feel you must meet or exceed those expectations, or you will disappoint your coach, teammates, parents, etc. The added pressure can lead to anxiety, fatigue, muscle tension, and a fear of failure.

You can probably recall times when you were overwhelmed by expectations and felt tight and mentally fatigued midway through the round. The further you spiraled downward, the less you cared about competing.

The fear of falling short of high expectations causes you to be hyper-focused on avoiding failure.

Instead of focusing on your strategy for each hole, you try avoiding errant shots and hazards. This mentality often leads you to the exact place you try to avoid, such as a bunker.

On the other hand, positive expectations are the process of thinking and feeling you have a reasonable chance of success. This belief is based on confidence built from preparation, hard work, mental toughness, and dedication. 

When you have tempered expectations, you increase the likelihood of playing peak golf.

Aldrich Potgieter, 19 years old, became the youngest Korn Ferry Tour winner in history after winning the 2024 Bahamas Great Abaco Classic by two strokes.

Potgieter experienced a lot of success from an early age. At 17, Potgieter won the 2022 British Amateur Championship.

In 2023, Potgieter turned professional with the plan of gaining experience at the professional level, not with the expectation that he needed to win right away. 

After his first Tour victory, Potgieter commented on his expectations.

POTGIETER: “I was just trying to make the cut, trying to get that status, improve on the status. I didn’t expect this today.”

Managing expectations is an essential mental skill for pursuing peak performance and potential.

The key is to focus on improvement and growth and commit to building confidence through hard work and training. This athletic growth mindset helps you to approach challenges more healthily and productively.

Give yourself a reality check. Ask yourself, “Do I have a reasonable chance to succeed?” Remember, there is a difference between “I can win” and “I must win.”

Managing expectations eliminates one of the biggest distractions that golfers face.

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