The Expectation Trap For Golfers

How Expectations Hurt Play

When you enter a golf tournament, do you EXPECT to win, place in the Top-10 or shoot your best score?

After all, if you are going to win, don’t you need to expect to win?

Expectations are a hard thing. If you go into a tournament expecting to lose, you probably will lose. Although the opposite is rarely true. In fact, EXPECTING to win or shoot a particular score often leads to feeling letdown.

Your expectations, to win or shoot a score, involve a heavy focus on the future. Your expectations create mental noise that distracts you from playing the current shot.

Imagine you are faced with a four-foot putt… Without 100 percent focus on that putt, your chances of missing increase. Now imagine trying to focus with that mental noise on every shot throughout the round. It would be tremendously difficult to play your best golf.

Your expectations create pressure or mental chatter that distracts you and makes it difficult to play your best golf. That is the reason expectations lead to disappointing results and under-performance.

Heading into the 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge, Jon Rahm was asked about his thoughts regarding resuming competitive golf following the coronavirus stay-at-home order, “What do you really expect from your first tournament in almost three months?”

Rahm’s answer highlighted the difference between playing to win and expecting to win.

RAHM: “What I expect from this week, expectations are a hard thing. I haven’t competed in three months, which is basically the longest break I’ve ever had since I started playing golf competitively. Obviously, every time I tee it up, the goal is to win, so I’m here to play and to win hopefully.”

“But expectations, who knows… I’m trying to perform my best. I’ve played really good golf in the past. I have a lot of good history on this golf course, just being the Ben Hogan Award champion twice, so hopefully all those great vibes keep coming through and put in a good performance again.”

Playing to win involves several aspects:

  1. Preparing to win — Preparing to win involves working on your physical, technical, and mental skills during practice sessions. These practice sessions sharpen your skills and contribute to peak performance. Preparing to win also includes consistent steps the day of the tournament to place you in the proper mindset to succeed.
  2. Immersing yourself in the moment — Immersing yourself in the moment is the singular focus on playing in the present moment. When you direct your focus on hitting the best shot you can, each and every shot, the results will take care of themselves.
  3. Letting go of the score — Stop focusing on score. Play one shot and move on to the next and stop doing the math in your head, “I need to score ___ on this hole, so I can have ____ as my final score.”

Letting Go of Outcome Expectations

Expectations equal pressure and judgement that interfere with your ability to play freely. They also cause you to get upset when not reaching your expectations.

Make a mental not to let go of expectations prior to stepping on the golf course, such as you must win. You do this by:

  1. Being aware of your expectations.
  2. Commit to not focusing on them during play.
  3. Replace your expectations with small objectives.

Make a goal to hit 10 fairways–think about hitting fairways. Make a goal to commit to your reads on the greens–focus on picking a line and sticking with it.

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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?

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