Why Some Golfers Expect to Play Poorly

Golf Confidence

Have Confidence in Your Strengths

Have you played tournaments that you expected to play poorly? Maybe, statistically, you don’t play well on a particular course and you continue to expect the same result?

Or you melted down in the same tournament the previous year and you fear the same will happen this year?

Your level of play is shaped by your expectations. If you expect to play your worst, chances are you will.

A golfer from our Golf Mental Game Survey sent in a question regarding expectations:

“I seem to lose a lot of tournaments against golfers who out-drive me. When I go up against these golfers, I feel like I have lost before I even get to my first tee shot. How can I compete and win tournaments against golfers who hit the ball much further than me off the tee?”

Driving the ball is only one aspect of the game. It’s not your tee shots that are problematic, it’s your expectation of poor performance that is the issue. Expecting to play poorly puts you at a deficit from the very start of the round. Negative expectations are negative predictions of the outcome of your play.

When you focus on future scores, you become anxious. You question your ability and your chances of winning. When you are anxious, you grip the club tightly and attempt to overpower your shots. These shots tend to be off-target and it makes matters worse as you put more pressure upon yourself to try to make up strokes. Sound familiar?

On paper, the course may not fit your skillset or may favor the golfers with powerful tee shots, but you do not play the game on paper. When you challenge your negative expectations, you can improve your performance in the most challenging circumstances.

Kevin Na Has Proactive Confidence

Kevin Na is a 37-year-old pro golfer playing in an era where the younger players on the Tour are blasting their tee shots. Some tournaments, like the 2021 American Express tournament, favor the players with a strong long game, but that does not detract from Na’s confidence.

Even though Na was not one of the favorites heading into the tournament, he was confident because he was focused on the strengths of his game and his past successes.

NA: “I finished third here, so I had a chance to win here. In the correct conditions, in the right conditions for me, I have a chance here. There are some long golf courses where on paper, I don’t look good, but I’ve been successful, like Memorial. On paper, obviously, that’s a bomber’s course, but I’ve had success there. And I’ve lost in a playoff, I had top-10s, and I’ve been successful there.”

No matter the course or his numbers, Na believes in his ability to win tournaments. Na’s belief and confidence come from his focus on his strengths, his strategies for each hole and his ability to immerse himself in each shot.

When you keep the focus on yourself, you will keep yourself in the game mentally.

How to Overcome Negative Expectations:

Ask yourself, “What do I do well?” “What has worked for me in the past?” “How can I apply my strengths to play my best today?”

Also, keep in mind that every round and tournament is a new opportunity for success no matter how you played the same golf course or tournament in the past.

Avoid over-generalizations about past experiences that leave you feeling defeated before you step on the first tee.

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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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