Great Expectations – Your Coming of Age as a Golfer
Let’s set the stage of your latest great expectation. The last time you played it was the round you had always hoped for. Everything went your way; you don’t know why but you’ll take it anyway. And today should not be any different. After all you are the same person, the same golfer, playing the same golf course in relatively the same conditions, with the same regular group of individuals who are wanting you to see a repeat performance today.
This is where the great novel called your golf game takes an unexpected turn. Your ball developed the dreaded disease of lipercy, your driver went searching for its ancestors in the tress, and your irons might as well have been made out of the park bench at one of the Par 3’s because no matter how you bent the club in frustration it was only good for sitting on. How can this be? How can you be the greatest thing since Sarazen invented the legal sand wedge and become the lowliest of hackers the next time out? Same person hitting the same clubs and doing the same thing. Or were you doing the same thing?
If this sounds familiar, chalk up the day to your great expectations of repeating a score from the past without understanding what the past included, nor having a plan or process in place to repeat any part of the past. I tell all my clients that expectations lead to one thing and one thing only; failure. It is similar to having a goal without a plan; a dream. Keep dreaming if you think you can shoot the same score twice if you do not know how you did it. Assuming you can do something can also be labeled an expectation. My parents, the great coaches I have been fortunate to be around, and all the smart people I have ever met have warned me, do not assume anything. You can never assume you have a score in you to shoot. The pro’s may say they need to shoot a certain score, but they have to have a something to base that prediction on. So why do we assume that we can shoot the same score, and expect everything to fall into place for us on the golf course?
Let’s first put this into perspective, Like Pip of the Dickens’ novel, we all have to start somewhere. When we begin to play golf, we have nothing to base out abilities on, no previous experiences to provide us a measurement of our potential. We have to explore ourselves as a golfer and the golfing world we surround ourselves with through multiple adventures on the golf course and at the practice facility. It is through these experiences that we gain a perception of who we think we should be as a golfer. However, the best players in the world do not “think” who they are; they know exactly who they are through the time they invest in reaching their potential. At some point in their development, they toss out the notion that they should expect to play at a level they had not earned. They drop any expectation of score and in its place they develop a plan they can realistically execute.
Plans are a general road map to how you want to play on any given day. Plans are flexible enough to deal with the elements at hand, the unexpected single that fills your tee time, the group ahead of you that will not get out of the way, and flexible enough to deal with you, should you not be firing on all cylinders. Plans are typically refined as you make your way to the course and take shape as you warm up, feeling how your tempo and how your body reacts to the club.
But plans are built based upon your current abilities and the practice you participate in. This is the most overlooked part of your maturation as a golfer. As I wrote in a previous blog post , practice does not make perfect, as an expectation assumes; practice makes permanent, which is why you should not expect to play better if you are not practicing, or better yet, practicing incorrectly. It is practice that shapes the plan each time you play, providing the outline from which you can expand your abilities on the course.
Plans tend to include smaller goals that along the course of an 18-hole round you can measure your progress within the overall plan. Sometimes goals are not score related. For my clients who are struggling to reach a certain handicap level, I always suggest that they may be so fixated on a score they forget what comprises their score, so we set a goal of hitting more fairways, or getting up and down more often. Winning the smaller battles of golf can sometimes add up to reduced scores, if you know not to expect the goals to occur miraculously through osmosis.
What this all adds up to is you forgetting about your last round, no matter how great it may have been, opting to leave your mind open to a new adventure on the course and how you are going to navigate your way through it using the skills and knowledge you possess. You also have to forgive yourself each time you execute poorly. If you can’t forgive, you can’t forget, which in turn can lead to expectations that you’ll need more specialized help with.
Leave assumptions and expectations at home. What you will find is each time you do this, the opportunities of great rounds of success increase. As these rounds increase, your great expectations of relying on things to fall delicately into place will disappear.