Expectations – Club Championship article #2
Expectations can ruin your score.
They take you out of the moment and encourage you to make up stories. Expectations are your conscious mind’s way of hijacking your game and fighting for control. It’s a hard lesson to learn and something every golfer will need constant reminding of.
By the morning of the second round I was feeling great. The shoulder had improved and with a relaxing week off work I was feeling energised and alive. I was looking forward to the round.
One area of the game I’ve improved is not getting too far ahead of myself. I try not to think too much about the round or possible consequences. I like to remind myself that it’s another game of golf and I know I can play the course and take control of my things thrown my way.
This mindset allows me to avoid distractions and possible expectations. I’m simply telling myself that I’ll turn up and play each shot as it comes.
The reason this is important is because I’m better able to deal with hiccups. If I had the expectation of playing the first three holes under par but then started badly, I’d be feeling down and more than likely try too hard to get it back.
Although it’s boring and become cliched, I really only try to play one shot at a time.
The second round started well for me. Some friendly ribbing on the first tee reminded me to stick to my routine. I almost always play the same shot from the first, I aim right and bring the ball back to the left with a fade (I’m left handed). I nailed the shot and instantly got a shot of confidence and a good feeling for the round.
A few birdies on the front nine and I turned one-under. The round was going well and I was looking forward to the back nine.
Then a distraction…
… a fellow member came up to the group and gave us a rundown of the morning scores. The first round leader had played another good round and everyone was keen to see how I was playing.
Instantly the group starting working out what I needed to shoot on the last nine holes to beat him. This was not a distraction that I wanted.
My carefree way of swinging had been hijacked with an expectation of a score. Certainly a distraction that could disrupt my game.
I took a moment away from the group. I relaxed my body and told myself to keep playing my automatic game. I reassured myself that if I wanted to win this game, the best way to do so was to stick to my “Modus Operandi”.
And this is what I did. I kept playing. I was free from expectations and distractions. Until…
… the last hole. I had just hit my longest drive of the day. Playing the 400 metre 18th I was left with 78 metres to the pin. The flag was in an easy spot and I was sitting at 2 under for the round. I then did something stupid. I started thinking about my score and how I was situated in relation to the clubhouse leader.
I needed a birdie to take the win. I started getting nervous. I could feel my body tighten and my mind racing. I took 20 practice swings (I hardly ever take any). I was thinking about how I would feel if I made a birdie, what the members would say and what it would do to my handicap. These are only stories which never help the situation. Stories are not reality.
I set up to the shot and then backed away (I was really nervous). I took more practice swings trying to find the right “feel”. Lost and now feeling like an idiot, I stepped up to the shot and hit a shank. The ball went straight left – missing the green by a mile!
From here I made bogey. I was furious at myself for being so stupid. I had ruined a great game of golf. I let the distraction of an expectation get in my way. The thought of “make birdie and win” disrupted my mindset and caused a “short circuit” in my system.
The game is never easy. Even basic shots (like a 80 metre pitch) can become impossible if you get in your own way, over analyse or expect too much from yourself.
The solution is to force these things from your mind. Choose a club and shot that you know you can hit and then go for it. Don’t let the situation dictate you. It makes the game harder than it needs to be.
In this case I would have been better to play quickly. Aim for the green and make my normal swing. I tried way too hard – looking to make the perfect swing and hit the perfect shot. I got in my own way and paid the penalty. It’s a tough lesson to learn but in this case it wasn’t the end of the world. I qualified second and could look forward to match play rounds. It was also a useful learning experience for the next time I get in a similar position.