Golfers: Manage Your Mind, Manage Your Expectations

I played a round a few weeks ago on a day that was going to be pretty hot, so my playing partner and I teed off at 7:00 a.m. We had the course to ourselves. The range hadn’t opened by the time we started, so a few practice swings to get ready, and away we went. We played fairly well for the first three holes; we were both relaxed and loose.

On the fourth hole, a 174-yard par 3, I put my tee shot just off the back of the green, twenty-five feet from the pin. Beautiful shot. I chipped to 18”. Tour-quality chip. I missed the putt. Nice par, down the drain. My partner was more disappointed than I was. Since I wasn’t too upset about it, he asked me how I handle missing a short putt like that. I said that I might or might not miss the next one that short, but stressing over this one guarantees that I will miss it. The best way to make sure it doesn’t happen again is to chalk it up as a bad shot, forget about it, and play on.

This kind of thinking can be applied anywhere. The same golfer who can hit a pin-seeking missile from 160 yards on one hole can yank it 20 yards left on the next. We expect to hit our best shots all the time, but we don’t. Touring professionals don’t. No amount of practice will let any golfer do that. Realize that you’re as good as your best shots and worst shots put together, and they all even out. I’ve never had a score, good or bad, that I didn’t deserve. If you can make peace with that fact, golf becomes much more enjoyable. And you’ll score better, too.

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