How To Keep Expectations In Check

I ran across a quote this morning from Lau Tzu that said, “Act without expectation.”  It hit me hard from a golf perspective and reminded me of a blog post I wrote a few years back.  That quote is going to become my own and my golfer’s mantra that I coach.  Below is the article that I wrote, enjoy!

I am really enjoying coaching junior golfers and helping them to understand the nuances of the game. When you are a young golfer there is a thought in your head (at least there was in mine) that one day when you get on the PGA TOUR your game will just be good and good all of the time. You think you will find some formula the best players have and poof you’ll be on tour and winning tournaments until you want to stop playing. Yes, the best players have a formula but it isn’t something you wake up with one day.

The formula is developed by practicing smart and learning how to trust your golf swing and game. The formula is keeping it simple and working extremely hard on those simple things and applying the coaching philosophy of Tony Dungy that in order to be great work on what you do well and perfect those things. We don’t want to neglect what we don’t do well, especially if we can improve our short game, wedge game and putting. But if you have a bad tournament or stretch it doesn’t mean to start over and change your philosophy, look for a new swing coach and think a new swing is the answer. Your focus should be on how can I make what I do and my strengths even stronger and put myself in position to maximize those skills.

As our golf games develop we invariably deal with expectations. Expectations to play well because of how we have been playing, what others think we should finish, or a great round the day before the tournament starts. Every golfer must keep their expectations in check. I have found the best way to accomplish that feat is for your goal to be anything but your score. Create simple goals within your round that are measurable but do not involve the outcome. Let them involve the process; your ability to pick out good targets, to walk and talk with confidence and to keep an even keel throughout the round regardless of where your shots end up.

The more attention you can pay to working on parts of your game that will impact your score the more confidence you will take with you into competition and the better you will be able to deal with adversity. Golf is a game of misses. We don’t hit many shots exactly how we pictured. Byron Nelson, one of the best ball strikers of all time used to say he would only hit about 5 shots just like he wanted in a round of golf. The great players manage their misses the best. They putt with great confidence and speed control. They have excellent distance control with their wedges and know how to flight the ball. Above all, they swing with abandonment and let it go. They trust themselves and know the more they can swing freely the better results they will get even if that means the occasional loose shot.

I urge all parents to be mindful of potential expectations you put on your golfers. Children want to please their parents and it is natural that they would want to shoot good scores to make mom and dad happy. What is important is that your expectations for them involve things other than score. I encourage you to watch your golfer and see how they handle themself throughout the round. Is he or she up-beat, smiling and walking with confidence? Are they staying focused and patient during the course of the round regardless of the outcome? These are a few things to start measuring or judging them on. If you can start to make these your goals for them, both golfer and parent will enjoy the journey more.

Remember, golf is a game, a game that mirrors life. In our professional endeavors we don’t have parents and loved ones looking over our shoulder at the office critiquing every presentation we give or judging us based on every phone call we make. Even in school, every project or test isn’t analyzed with a fine tooth comb. The teachers give us a grade and if we didn’t do well we are told to study harder for the next test. If we apply this type of behavior on the golf course the game will remain fun and the scores will be the best they could be for that day. Golf is great because it always starts over every day. We have another 18 holes to go play. We have a 1st tee shot to hit and a last putt to hole. If we can get a little better each time we go out, our games will be where we hope when it’s time to pick a college or make a decision about playing professionally. Remember to play the game and enjoy the walk!