The danger of expectations

By Anthony Barkley
NZPGA Professional


Here is a situation I deal with a lot in the pro-shop when coaching or talking with golfers. It’s to do with the expectation we put on ourselves when we play golf and the negative influences it can play on our performance.
It manifests with all levels of golfers and is something that we find hard to realise we are doing and struggle to fix. I will cover several situations and try and remedy these by giving some techniques or drills to help.
1.    Age and the inability to cope with increasing handicap and scores
If you have been a good player in years gone by but start to struggle or just can’t quite get your game back can affect people’s motivation and enjoyment. These players have deep expectations of the level they expect themselves to play each time. When their games slip, being able to understand this and play to their new level can be frustrating. In fact I have seen some give the game away because of such feelings.
I myself struggle with not being able to play to what level I used to expect myself to play. Im 43 now and think I should play like I did when I was 20 even though I don’t practice and play maybe once a month. We have to realise that in golf if you don’t use it you lose it. As we age our body generally changes, flexibility reduces and without practice and lessons performance naturally lowers.
How can we fix this?
Acceptance that this is natural and get back to the roots of why we played the game in the first place should be first priority. Assess what you can do to help yourself including a practice plan, joining a gym and even look at new clubs. Not one fix will work by itself but creating a plan is what you need.
If you now play once a week give up trying to play like you are on the PGA. Take the good days with the bad and enjoy the beer after.
2.    In Tournament Expectations
No matter if its club champs or the NZ Masters or just a club day, controlling your level of emotions during all the rounds separates winners from losers.
One of the biggest dangers before a big tournament is that you play your best round of golf for a long time. This is great that you have achieved this but could be bad news for the tournament coming up. Its dependant on how far away it is and if you have followed the good round up with several others.  If it’s just a one off achievement close to your tournament, watch out for increased nerves and expectations to performance.
How to fix?
Don’t play a proper round in your practice round is suggested. Hit a couple of balls etc and pick up as you play. This I learnt at an early age playing tournaments.
Due to in round expectations also affecting our thoughts in games, set mini performance goals for every three holes. Then if you start badly after three holes you can start again on the next three holes. The reverse could also happen when you hit a gold patch in your round. Its easy to suddenly start thinking of the good round you are going to have but a bad shot will drop you like a sack of spuds. Breaking your round into three hole rounds is a good way to stop this happening.
So expectations sneak in without us knowing. The subconscious is so much stronger than the conscious so at tournaments and in rounds you need to become aware of any patterns happening. Many times you wont realise but when you reflect on a round you may see it more clearly. Then try some ways to stop it happening.
If you are frustrated and annoyed with the game because you can’t play like you used to put things in perspective. This is especially important if you have had an injury, accident or operation for example. The body just won’t work like it used to so take it as it comes and enjoy those extra shots you get. You are still on the course playing and that’s what matters.