How the Expectations of Mistake Free Golf Hurts Performance

Bad shots in Golf

How Pressure is Negatively Impacting Your Game

How many times have you played a mistake-free round of golf? Probably never. As a matter of fact, no golfer has ever played a mistake-free round.

Can you relate to the following scenario? You are moving along, playing spectacular golf, then you hit a couple of shots off target. You start feeling a little bit frustrated because you were playing so well. 

At this point, you have a decision. You can refocus your attention on the next shot. Or you can allow 2-3 past shots to interfere with your focus and ruin the rest of the round.

A few bad shots won’t hurt your round as much as a negative response.

A golfer who responded to our Golf Mental Game Survey asked the following question:

“How can I keep a good round going or rescue it from a poor start?”

This question covers two topics: 
1. How can I keep a good round going? 
2. How can I rescue my round after starting poorly?

These issues both revolve around expectations and focus.

You will focus on each shot’s outcome when you expect an excellent round to take a sudden turn for the worse. For example, if you notice halfway through the round that you are on target for scoring four strokes less than your best score, you may start thinking, “I’m playing so well. Something bad is bound to happen.”

The same thing is true about rescuing a round. When you expect not to recover from a bad round, you will not be able to focus. 

You will have several thought distractions that interfere with swinging the club freely, “I’m playing horribly. Today is just not my day. There is no coming back from this.”

If your expectations are unrealistic, your focus will be misplaced. Mistake-free golf is an illusion. Making no mistakes is another way to say “perfection,” which is impossible to achieve.

You may have played phenomenal rounds of golf in the past, but they weren’t perfect. You could probably point to a hole that you wish you had played differently or 2-3 shots you would have liked replayed.

However, golf is not a game of perfection. The mindset of perfection only increases the pressure of each shot.

When you are on top of your game, you are just lining up the shot and swinging away. Of course, there will be shots that you didn’t hit squarely or read the greens wrong. Mistakes are normal.

While you shouldn’t expect bad shots to happen, you should understand that perfection should not be the expectation.

For example, Stephanie Meadow shot a 4-under 68 at the 2022 LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship. Meadow’s play placed her in a tie for seventh place after day one. Meadow sank three birdies in her first nine holes. She added a birdie on the back nine before bogeying two holes.

After the round, Meadow put the round in perspective.

MEADOW: “I played really solid on the front and just got a few bad breaks on the back. You know, but it happens. It’s a 72-hole tournament. You’re going to have a rough stretch. I just kept it going. Wasn’t my best stuff, but happy to be moving on to the weekend and in good position.”

When you do not expect perfection, you will take a lot of pressure off your shoulders. With less pressure, you free up your mind to focus exclusively on playing each shot.

Tip for Overcoming the Expectation of Perfection:

The time to examine expectations is off the golf course. Write down some beliefs you have about playing golf, then challenge those beliefs to determine if they are realistic.

For example, “I should never miss 5-foot putts.” Is this true under all circumstances? Does missing a putt mean you are not a good golfer or will not shoot a low score?

Reality checking is an effective strategy for examining your beliefs and expectations.

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Golfer’s Mental Edge 2.0

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Do you suffer from fragile self-confidence after missed hitting shots or making mistakes, playing with strict or high expectations that undermine confidence, or the inability to play freely and relaxed on the course?

Successful golfers have learned how to perform with ultimate confidence in competition, so we’ve developed The Golfer’s Mental Edge 2.0 Workbook and Audio program to help you do this! 

The Golfer’s Mental Edge 2.0 program includes the top 11 mental training sessions I do with my personal students to help them boost their mental game and improve consistency on the course!

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