Focusing on Your Strategy and Game Plan
Do you enter a tournament with high expectations or even have a winning target score? How do expectations affect your golf game?
You probably had times when you expected to place in the Top-10 or expected to shoot your best score, “I’ve been working my butt off and improved my short game. I will definitely finish in the Top-3. No problem.”
In addition, you played rounds when you expected to shoot a bad score, “I am not playing well lately. I’m not getting any distance on my drives. I’m probably going to play horribly again.”
Most likely, you may see these expectations as different. In other words, you classify high expectations (“I will win”) as “good” and negative expectations (“I will score poorly”) as bad.
If you think about it, all expectations limit your performance. Whether you EXPECT good results or bad results, you are still focused on outcomes.
In our Golf Mental Game Survey, a high school golfer sent us the following question:
“Every time I expect to play well or shoot my best score, I mess up. How can I play better and not concern myself with the score?”
When you focus on meeting expectations, you become distracted. You try to hit the perfect shot. You become obsessed with the score and the scores of the other golfers in your group.
You worry about mistakes and put extra pressure on yourself. Since outcomes are not entirely in your control, you become anxious. You fear negative results. What if’s become your predominant thoughts.
When you focus on scores or outcome, you can’t play golf in the present moment.
LPGA golfer Sandra Gal has focused on the process after taking a medical leave in 2019. Gal missed a significant amount of time after contracting Lyme Disease.
When Gal returned, she missed the cut in three of five starts in 2020 and missed three more cuts in 2021. Gal has slowly improved, recording her best finish in over a year at the 2021 Cognizant Founders Cup, but also knows the road will be a long haul.
When asked how she manages her expectations after her long layoff, Gal said she keeps things simple.
GAL: “I probably play better if I don’t have expectations and just kind of let it happen; enjoy each shot. I know it’s so cliché, but you want to kind of visualize winning or visualize playing great shots, but at the end of the day, you got to also be out here and enjoy the process. I play better that way if I just let it go a little bit and play for my own well being.”
You want to work hard on your game–but without the demands that come with expectations. You will improve by honing your mechanics, hitting more balls at the driving range, spending time on the putting greens, and improving your mental game.
However, when you play a competitive round of golf, focusing on the process brings desired results.
How to Manage High Expectations
The formula for success we teach golfers is to uncover and manage high expectations, so you can play freely with higher confidence. Instead of expectations, you want to (1) perform with high self-confidence and (2) focus on manageable objectives.
Thus, focusing on small objectives (called process goals) during the round helps you focus in the moment. Remember, you want to play each round without the pressure and judgments that come with strict expectations.
Note: This is an except from our new audio program: “The Golfer’s Mental Edge.”
- The Mindset of Staying on Top
- Improve Self-Talk for Golfers
- Why Some Golfers Expect to Play Poorly
- Subscribe to The Golf Psychology Podcast on iTunes
- Subscribe to The Golf Psychology Podcast on Spotify
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- Why your pre-shot routine should match your personality.
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- The top mental game strategies your pre-shot routine must include.
- Why indecision is your worst enemy in golf.
- Six ways your mental routine breaks down.