Managing Expectations

If most golfers took a step back, and really thought about what they can reasonably expect out of their games it will benefit them in the long run.

I have come across so many different kinds of golfers over the past 20 years, and often I find that people are looking to get something out of the game that is unrealistic. It’s almost impossible to find someone who is at peace with the kind of player they are.

I see golfers who play 8-10 times a year who are expecting to hit it like the pros without even practicing much. At the first sign of a bad shot they lose their temper, and the round is likely going downhill from there. If more golfers learned to manage their expectations they would enjoy the game more, and probably play much better.

Golf is by far and away the hardest sport I’ve ever played (yes it can be a game and sport at the same time!). Have you ever seen Lebron James trip and fall on his face on a play where he should have had a breakaway dunk? No you haven’t. But you’ve seen pro golfers do the equivalent of that all the time on TV.

They chunk chips, miss 3 foot putts, and snap hook drivers out of bounds. The game can be absolutely brutal, and often we are just looking for a way not to look foolish in front of our playing partners.

So if the best players in the world who spend 8 hours a day practicing can have terrible shots, why does the average weekend warrior go nuts every time they hit a bad shot? The answer is because their expectations are not reasonable. Shooting in the 90s, or even the 80s does not have to look pretty. You are not striping your drives down the center of every fairway and firing wedges at pins with regularity. However, most of us feel like we can because maybe we’ve done it on the practice range.


There is no pressure on the range, and you often forget about the 6-7 bad shots you hit before you nailed that perfect drive. Taking your good shots from the range to the golf course is one of the hardest things to do. Don’t be the golfer who always says, “I don’t get why I played so badly, I was hitting perfectly on the range before.” That’s the most common phrase I hear spoken on a golf course, and I've said it myself quite a few times.

So what can we do about this expectation gap? The first step is to really think long and hard about what kind of practice you’re willing to put in. If you don’t have the time or the desire to really work on your game, then don’t expect to go out there and light it up. You get exactly what you put in with golf.

I remember a few years back when I wasn’t playing much, but still expected to be shooting in the 70s. I was absolutely miserable when I played. My temper got the best of me, and almost every round ended with disappointment. Then it dawned on me, why should I expect to be shooting those numbers when I’m not practicing or playing consistently?

At that point I knew I wasn’t in a position to practice more, so when I did play I almost forgot about the score, and just tried to enjoy myself. There is no need to torture ourselves when we do get the opportunity to play. So my advice would be to leave your expectations behind if you are not consistently working on your game.

Now if you are in a position to hit the range a few times a week, and maybe get out to play 3-5 times a month then we can set some different expectations. I’ll discuss specific goals in other articles for various handicap levels, but my main piece of advice would be not to expect any sudden jump in your scoring level.

If you’re a 25 handicap, it is likely you are not moving to a 10 within a couple of months. You might be chasing that 85 every time you’re out there, but it is not going to happen until you address the parts of your game that require you to get to that level. Improving your scoring is a gradual process that requires many mental and physical breakthroughs. The one thing that can kill that process is expecting too much of yourself. You need to really focus on what is holding you back, and try to work more on your weaknesses.

The best rounds I have ever played are the ones where I almost let go of all expectations, and calmly went about my business.

So in an attempt to wrap this up I’ll summarize for you:

  • Enjoy your rounds! Golf is a great time to get away from everything, and spend time outdoors.
  • Take a hard look at your game, and really think about if you are willing to put in the work to get better.
  • Every round is a chance to evaluate your game, don’t expect greatness each time you play.
  • Unrealistic expectations are a golfer’s worst enemy

Other articles you might like:

The best kind of practice

Stop aiming at the pin!

Get out of jail

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