Great Expectations?

Posted on 26. Apr, 2012 by in Psychology


What are do you expect when you step on to a golf course?

Do you expect to play well? Do you expect to play poorly? And what effect do these expectations have on your game?

Imagine, if you will, a situation. You’re playing a new course, one you’ve been looking forward to playing for ages. Tee times are hard to come by, but you’ve persuaded the starter to squeeze you in.

You’re expecting one of the best rounds of your life, but your heart sinks when you realise you’re paired with a golfer who can’t walk straight. He’s slurring his words, to the point where it can be a little difficult to make him out. His arms even seem to be a bit “jerky”.

Would you still be looking forward to your round, or would you be hoping he’d lose a ball, letting you skip on ahead?

You certainly wouldn’t be expecting much from the tee, would you?

Expectations can trip you up.

You watch as he stumbles up to the tee. After all, someone’s going to need to find this ball, aren’t they? Just as you’re idly wondering if it’s going to go left or right, he lets rip.

So much for that theory.

The ball flies 230 yards, fairly straight but with just a hint of a draw, to land in position ‘A’.

He turns, and smiles.

“Weren’t expecting that, were you? Sorry, should’ve warned you. I walk a bit funny, but I rope it straight. It’s kind of my thing. I’ve got cerebral palsy”.

Expectations can, and will, make a fool of you.

This may be an unusual example, but it’s one which is based in reality.*

Most of us have expectations when we step onto the course. Such expectations are usually more of a hindrance than a help.

Perhaps you’ve struck it poorly on the range, and you’re expecting to play poorly as a result. It doesn’t take a psychologist to realise this expectation might result in poor performance.

But what about more positive expectations? Maybe you’ve hit it well, and you’re expecting this continue on the course…only to be thrown into a downward spiral by a disappointing tee shot and an overambitious attempt to recover.

Our expectations are often unrealistic. Even crazily so.

Have you ever bemoaned your inconsistency? Most golfers have, at some point. And many let it get on top of them, seeing it as a damning slight of their abilities as a golfer and, by extension, as a person. And yet they’re just not doing their homework.

Just look at Rory McIlroy at The Open in 2010; there was nearly a 20-stroke difference between his first and second rounds. He’s the best golfing talent to come out of the UK since the golden generation of Lyle, Faldo and Woosnam. If that can happen to him from one round to the next, on consecutive days, is it really realistic for you to expect to score close to your best for every round?

Of course it’s not.

And yet that’s exactly what many amateur golfers expect.

And where does this lead?


To fed-up, irritable golfers asking themselves “why do I bother?” and not being able to find an answer. And this leads to their clubs being put in a cupboard and ignored, as their enthusiasm wanes.

And it’s all down to unrealistic expectations.

If only we were more like Arnold Palmer. And I don’t mean in skill, bank balance or even in having a drink named after us. I mean in our approach to expectation.

His attitude?

“When I come to a golf course, I expect one thing and one thing alone. I expect to be challenged.”

Now that’s an expectation worth having.




*(It’s based in reality, though. My Twitter buddy Jay has cerebral palsy  - but is an avid golfer and golf blogger. I haven’t had the chance to play golf with him yet, so my description might not be entirely accurate…he probably hits it further than 230. Check out his musings on golf and great golf deals while you’re there [not an affiliate link]) A big thank you to Jay too, for the topic suggestion.

 [image credit: Tee my Kangaroo down by Roland Tanglao under Creative Commons License]

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